by Ronnie P. Dela Cruz
The students had a surprise for us—an unexpected gift from the heart. But through their generosity, we found a way to recognize and reward the character they were developing.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I heard a soft knock at the door. Three female students unloaded three sacks full of firewood. My wife and I couldn’t remember asking them to get firewood for us. Looking at the heavy load they brought, I really admired the gift of strength that God gave to these people.
In the Manobo culture, the females work hard to find food and do the household chores, which includes gathering firewood. They always seem to have extra strength to carry stuff like that.
When I asked the students why they brought firewood, they said they just wanted to give it to us—a random act of kindness and thoughtfulness. But, of course, my wife and I couldn’t dare let them leave without anything given, and we knew they were in need of something. I asked them if they could use anything in exchange for the firewood, but they said no. They just wanted to give what they could give.
Still, we insisted on sharing at least a little to compensate for their hard work, so I inquired again, “Do you prefer food, shampoo or soap?”
“Shampoo,” they said in unison, smiling bashfully.
These students don’t have financial support from their parents. Their personal needs are mostly covered by visitors who give items to the students. This time, it had been weeks since the last visitors came, so the students had been taking baths without shampoo. That’s what they needed most this time. My wife got some shampoo, soap and a little food to share with the students as an expression of our gratitude for their kindness.
One of the practical lessons the students learn here in the SULADS school is to work for something they need instead of just asking. Their tribe has been viewed as people who go to the city to beg alms, especially every December and January. Since the students began to learn to work for the things they need instead of asking, they have realized that begging for alms in the city is not the best way to obtain the things they need. Our school’s goal is to train them to face life equipped with comprehensive skills, with dignity to work, and to prepare them for higher education.
With this firewood-and-shampoo experience, I know the school hasn’t failed its goal. I’m happy to be part of teaching missionaries how to make a difference in changing the life of students so they can have a brighter future now and for eternity.
In their own simple ways and from the gift of strength, these students are sustained.
SULADS: Taking education to remote areas
The word sulad is the Manobo word for brother or sister. SULADS is also an acronym for Socio-economic Uplift, Literacy, Anthropological, and Developmental Services.
The work of SULADS began in 1969 among the Manobo tribe of Mindanao in the Philippines. SULADS International is a nongovernmental organization that works with native tribes in remote areas, where there may not be easy access to education and health care.
Over the years, Gospel Outreach has helped sponsor numerous SULADS student missionaries from Mountain View College.