My Ministry and Personal Experience with the Negritos
Pastor Numeriano de Gracia
This article was written by Pastor Numeriano de Gracia in 1988 describing the early ministry of Pastor Numeriano and Mrs. Eugenia de Gracia among the Negritos.
Just after our marriage, December 26, 1956, we applied to the T.L.Osborn Pioneering Program for support. Without waiting for the approval of our application we proceeded to the place where the Lord was leading us, a remote mountain area called Sawang, San Marcelina, in the province of Zambales. The people here were Negritos, the aborigines of the Philippines. These people are short, black, have kinky hair, and at this time they still practiced many kinds of superstitious beliefs. They were treacherous and dangerous people; they were headhunters. They had a superstitious belief that every full moon they had to get one head to offer to their god, and held a feast for the whole day. They put the head on a pointed bamboo, and stood it in the middle of the village. Then they danced around it with their bow and arrows, and spears.
We had only been there one week and they got two heads.
My wife was so scared. “We had better go home,” she told me, “we might be next!”
I asked their chief, “Why those heads?”
He told me they were bad, lawless people, who were wanted by the authorities “dead or alive”. When he saw my wife was scared, he told us not to be afraid, as they would protect us.
At first the Negritos were afraid of us. But I embraced them even though they were odorous and dirty with runny noses. Then they loved us as well. They gave us bananas, papaya, sweet potatoes, wild pig meat, and deer meat. I got clothing, rice, and different kinds of tools for them, and also soap for washing clothes, and bath soap. They had never used soap before, so they would take up to eight baths a day. I gave them instructions then they just took a bath once or twice a day, and changed their clothes every day. They asked me why we had gone to them. I told them we wanted them to know how to become a Christian. I read to them from John’s Gospel chapter 1 verse 12, that as soon as we receive Christ as Lord we become His sons and His daughters. This really made them happy, and they received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I baptised almost the whole village. Then we built a big church. I put a bell there so that when they heard the bell they all came for the service.
Another belief which thy held was that when someone was sick they would send for the witch doctor, who would play the guitar and dance to call up the evil spirit called “the Anito”. Then they would pay whatever the witch doctor said “the Anito” required. Sometimes they paid one chicken with yellow feet, two hard boiled eggs, one bottle of gin, or even a pig, depending upon how serious was the sickness. But one time I went to find out what was happening. The witch doctor got tired dancing, yet still “the Anito” had not come. When they saw me they said, “The reason is because of Pastor de Gracia.” Then I told them that what they are doing is of the devil. I explained to them that “the Lord is greater than the devil, and even right now if you will believe with me I will pray for your loved one, and God will heal him.” So they believed, and I prayed, and praise the Lord that brother was healed instantly. That really excited them, and they came to realise that what I was telling them was true. From that time on they always call me to pray for their sick relatives.
After several months with them, we transferred to another village, Baliwaet, just five miles away from Sawang. Someone else came to continue the work in Sawang but still they cried, “Pastor, don’t go away from us. Why are you not loving us anymore?” So I told them, “I do love you, but there are others who also need Jesus as their personal Savior. I have to go and tell them so that they can become Christians like you.” We encountered the same things in Baliwaet as we did in Sawang. But when the Negritos in Baliwaet saw the working power of God, they really believed!
These people worshipped different things that looked strange or wonderful to them. They worshipped fat cows, fat pigs, and even big trees with many leaves. When I told them about the Lord, that He could change their lives, and save them, they are so excited and glad to receive the Lord. Now they are so happy because they have made heaven their home. We also built a church there.
From Baliwaet we moved 25 miles away to Maporac, Cabangan. Here the Negritos were a bit more civilised than those in Sawang and Baliwaet. The first Sunday I preached there was one who came, the second Sunday, two, the third Sunday, four, then more and more came each week. I went from house to house, or if people were gathered under a tree I would take the opportunity to tell them about the Lord. With much prayer we had a group of believers who I baptised in water. One day a man came to me asking me to pray for his niece who was demon possessed. I went, and the Lord delivered her. Then her mother and all her children began to come to the meetings. Also the girl’s uncle received Christ as his Savior, now he is pasturing a church in Paite, San Felipe, Zambales.
The “Iglesia ni Cristo”, a false cult in the Philippines who do not believe in the deity of Christ, challenged me to a public debate in the plaza. This debate was the talk of the town, and the turning point of my ministry here in Cabangan. I was able to show from the scriptures that Jesus Christ is God, and from that time many came to our church. It was then that we moved across the river from Maporac to San Juan. I saw the great need for Gospel workers, some came from Bible School in Manila, but they didn’t endure, and went home. So I told my wife that we must pray that God will give us a Bible school here to train young people, then they could endure the hardship because they are familiar with the life-style. In 1984, Stephen and Josa Dulwich came to see us, while we were talking together they mentioned their desire to start a Bible school. I told them this is our great desire so we can train young people to help us spread the “good news”. We agreed that we would begin in June that year. So I went around announcing that we were going to begin a Bible school in Cabangan.