Return to Ifugao
Thirty years ago my family and I left the States as pioneer missionaries with a newly formed mission agency called Adventist Frontier Missions. We had little training in church planting and frontier mission work, and we had no idea what lay ahead of us as a family. We were certain of only four things: 1) God had called us. 2) The task was far bigger than we could ever handle. 3) His promises could not fail. 4) The future was secure in His hands.
As we landed in the Philippines in April 1987, we didn’t even know what people group we were going to try to reach. However, like Abraham, we journeyed forward in faith, and God led us to the Cordillera Mountains of northern Luzon, the home of a people group known as the Ifugao. Back then, the Ifugao were an animistic group with lots of strange practices and customs. They had learned to terrace the steep mountain slopes and use gravity to water their rice crops. They were also famous for their beautiful wood carvings and weaving that were sold throughout the country. At one time they had been notorious headhunters. Though civilization had changed their way of life, they still maintained many traditions that were uniquely their own.
This year we returned to Luzon and the Ifugao people. No longer strangers, these people are our family. People we had come to love and embrace over the years who had taught us so much about living and loving in another culture. It had been 12 years since our previous visit, and so much had changed. The population had boomed, and we saw many new housing developments and businesses. However, the culture was still distinctly Ifugao.
We met so many of our spiritual children and grandchildren that we could only praise God for the great things He has done. The Adventist movement has grown into nine churches in Ifugao, with several companies also meeting. There are more than 900 baptized members, and many of the youth we worked with years ago are now serving the church as teachers, nurses and pastors. One of our Ifugao daughters who was born during our time there was getting married, and many of the town people came to her wedding at which our daughter Cheris was the maid of honor. We spent our two weeks in Ifugao in fellowship and renewing old friendships. So many came to see us whom we once thought we would never meet again on this earth. Even some who had fallen away came to tell us how they missed us and loved us. With tears in his eyes, one man said, “I never thought this day would come on earth!”
The Ifugao churches are organized for service and ready to launch into new areas. For that we praise God and say, “Thank you Lord for leading us to Ifugao 30 years ago. We praise Your name as we see You guiding Your church through perilous times and leading it on to its final victory in this part of your harvest field.”
Perhaps some of you reading this article were among our supporters back in 1987 when we launched to the Philippines as AFM’s first missionaries. Back then, this magazine was just two black-and-white pages. We want you to know that your sacrifice in sending us was not in vain! Thank you for venturing out with us in faith, and we just praise God that the work is His and not our own!
May God bless each of the current AFM projects that are sowing for Christ, that their fruit may be unto eternal life.
Marc & Aunie Scalzi were Career Missionaries from 1987-1993, serving the Ifugao people of the Philippines. Following their service, the Scalzis were Asia Field Directors from 1993-1998.