Bantayan is a small atoll just off the coast of Cebu, about 7 by 10 miles in size with approximately 120,000 people. The island is largely unspoiled by the rest of the world. When you step foot off the ferry that brings you from Hagnaya Cebu to the port at Santa Fe on Bantayan, you feel as if you have stepped back in time at least 50-60 years.
As a boy my parents took me to Hawaii in 1965 and I remember the island looking somewhat similar to parts of Bantayan Island. Coconut woven nipa huts line the fishing villages along powdery white sand beaches, glistening with crystal clear aquamarine waters.
The clear water is so shallow around the area beaches of Santa Fe that you can walk out onto the soft sand bottomed coast at least 100 yards and not have water come up past your waste.
Walking along the pristine beaches, talking to the native fishermen who still make their living by the sea, you have a sense that you are among a very unique people. Although they are extremely poor and lack even the most basic necessities of western culture, they have a wonderful joy and a smile that never departs their beautiful tanned faces.
Narrow concrete roads traverse the island near the coast displaying a deep green canopy of coconut palms as tall as I have ever seen. Three wheel “Trisikad’s” meander slowly under human power up and down the curving roads of the island carrying natives to the wet market in Bantayan Town, the port of Santa Fe, or to the other side of the island town of Madridejos.
Every once in a while the striking contrast of a white face breaks the pattern of hundreds of beautiful brown ones as an Amerikano or European foreigner zooms past on their scooter or bicycle. There are only a few foreigners who live permanently on Bantayan Island, but when you see one it strikes you as odd amongst so many who seem to belong here perfectly.
On one particular morning last week, my wife and I walked amongst the nipa huts of a seaside fishing village and began to talk to the humble people who live there. My wife is a native Cebuana from the nearby island of Cebu. She speaks the local language of Bantayan and easily converses with the willing souls who step out of their shanties to welcome us as friends.
As I stood there listening to a language that I know very little of, I gazed into the home of the precious lady who stood with a bright smile speaking to my wife as if she were a long lost friend. What I saw stunned me. Barely a standing structure at all. A home small and thrown together from miscellaneous native island materials. A dirt floor, no running water, hand made palm frawn beds. Cooking utensils laid outside upon open wood fires, heating the days meal. The nutty smell of the smoldering coconut shells used for fuel carried me back a hundred years in my mind to an imagination of what it was like here before any white man had walked these shores. Yet I was standing there today. It was 2010, not 1910, yet nothing has changed much from the way that the people of Bantayan live their daily lives. Except today it is much more difficult to live life on Bantayan Island than it was in 1910.
The fish are not as plentiful, there is little money to buy rice, none for a medical need. Yet the incredibly beautiful children frolic in the blue waters, jump for joy in the green jungle, without a care and always with the biggest smile I think I have ever seen on a child.
I stood in my flip flops trembling and weeping uncontrollably. How is it that such beautiful people exist in this place and no one comes to their aid? I handed three ladies standing now in front of us, all not more than 5 feet tall, 100 pesos each, or about 2 dollars. They lit up with joy as if they had in their hands the winning lottery ticket for a million dollars. 100 pesos would buy their family enough rice for days, they felt instant relief. No worries for their small children for at least awhile. There would be rice and perhaps a few scraps of fish, and that was enough to be thankful for. This is the miracle of Bantayan Island, the people are so very thankful for even the smallest measure of human help or kindness.
As we walked slowly away from our new friends, I continued to cry for several minutes until it hit me that we had the power to change their lives with very little effort. We had been praying about where the Lord would next have us minister after being the pastor of a two small churches in Arizona for the past 14 years.
My wife has always had a heart for her own people, though she came alone to America many years ago and made a hard earned life for herself and the money she sent home to her family. Now just as much an American as I, we both felt a burden to go somewhere that help was needed, but often fleeting.
This is our island now. We decided during those seven days of revelation that it would be our turn to come to this tiny island and give as much as we could to make Jesus known and show His love to a people who are in need of so much.
I am writing to you now about 15 hours ahead of your day. It is 5:15 pm on Monday afternoon in Cebu, about 12:15 am Monday morning in Arizona. While you sleep 120,000 precious people dream of a better life. Not the kind that an American dreams of where they hope to own a nice four bedroom house and at least two paid for cars. These dear ones dream of a home that has a door, windows and a floor. Not made from wood or concrete, but the raw materials of the local coconut tree, woven together into walls complete with a palm woven roof. They dream of a little meat with their rice, and that they would not have to travel to the local well for water to wash their dishes. Perhaps someday someone will help them, their hope springs eternal and joy never departs their face.
This is the first edition of an ongoing story that I hope to be able to tell you right up until Jesus comes for us all.
I will continue to publish articles on Bible Prophecy Update and my other Bible Teaching web sites, but from this moment on, my words will originate from an island in the Philippine sea.
Bantayan Island is a place out of time where ministry really means meeting the basic needs of people’s lives. I suspect that reaching these precious people with the message of Jesus will be relatively easy. I foresee that just spending time here making new friends and telling them of the Saviors sacrifice will cause hundreds or thousands to turn to the Lord with willing hearts.
Just as importantly, when we love these people in Jesus name, we will truly be loving Jesus. When we feed them and cloth them, build new homes and provide medical supplies for their families, we will be doing it to the least of these to whom Jesus loves so very much.
If reading about these wonderful people stirs your heart to action, you may also know the joy of participating in a work that has such far reaching and eternal consequences. Paul wrote that although one might do the planting, as we will be doing on Bantayan Island, others will come along such as you, to help water that seed, insuring it’s growth. Both those who plant and those who water the seed will participate in the same reward when Jesus comes for us and gives out to each laborer His reward.
You may live in New York City, Miami Beach, or Winslow Arizona, but if you help us water the seed planted here and it growns into a crop of human souls, you will share in the reward of seeing Jesus delight when He comes and finds us serving the least of these…
For information on helping us with this new ministry to the people of Bantayan Island you can follow the link at the end of this article to see a short seven minute video on youtube showing what the island and the people of Bantayan are like and how you can co-labor with us in this important ministry.
Watch for future updates here on BPU as we share with you what the Lord is doing on Bantayan Island and the amazing stories that will come from ministering to these wonderful people.
For information and a short video on this mission assist opportunity follow this link:
For our online readers, here is the embeded YouTube video of the People of Bantayan Island:
If your heart is moved to help us provide the need for food, shelter, clothing and medical supplies for the precious poor of Bantayan Island, 100% of your gift goes towards helping the people of the Island. My wife Marissa and I are already fully self supported. We need only your help to bring the Love of Jesus Christ in practical ways to the people of Bantayan Island. Thank you for your generosity. As we give your gifts to these dear ones, we will tell them your name and that you cared enough about them to send this gift for them personally.
Rob and Marissa Robinson, Teach The Word Ministries Inc.