Mountain tribes in the northern Philippines are collectively called Igorots.(2) During the four-centuries of the Spanish rule, the Igorots were exempted from "Christianization" by the Spanish Catholic missionaries, due to the effective military resistance of the Igorots against the Spaniards. They have maintained their animistic religion and culture to this day. Kankana-ey is one of fourteen Igorot tribes with its own dialect, religious practices and lifestyle. Although the Kankana-eys share many cultural practices with other Igorot tribes, each tribe has substantially unique practices.
In the early stage of the Assemblies of God mission movement in the U.S.A., around 1914, the participation of female leadership was well established. In fact, it is considered to be one of important factors to bring the revival and to advance mission work further.(3) Both single and married women were called, and responded to various ministries such as church planting, evangelization, nursing, and teaching, in the far-flung corners of the world. They were anointed for specific tasks, and that was more important than human authorization.
The Assemblies of God started its ministry among the Kankana-ey tribal people in 1947. The ministry was initiated by a single woman missionary from America together with a few national leaders. The missionary, Elva Vanderbout, was commissioned by the Foreign Missions Department in Springfield, Missouri in 1946.(4) Until she launched her work in the mountains, neither missionaries nor national workers of the Assemblies of God had attempted mountain ministry.
Vanderbout approached this tribal people with a unique Christian message:
God's power. Through the message of divine power and its manifestation, churches
were established and the mountain ministry of the Assemblies of God was
successfully carried on. The goal of this study is to describe her mission work
in various contexts and to analyze and evaluate her ministry.
I. The Life and Ministry of Vanderbout
The Call of God to Elva Vanderbout
In 1944, a mission convention was held at Bethel Temple of Los Angeles, where Vanderbout regularly attended. One of the speakers was Howard Osgood, a missionary to China.(5) The second morning of the convention, Vanderbout took a seat in the very front of the church auditorium. When the song service started, she felt a great sense of brooding of the Holy Spirit in her heart. Mission songs seemed to speak to her more personally and directly than she had ever experienced. When the speaker shared a message of millions of people who were idol worshipers walking in the darkness of paganism, the message pointedly reached her. At the end of the preaching, the speaker invited members to give their lives for the lost. Her heart was broken as she sensed the presence of God. Vanderbout was one of the first to respond. She almost ran to the alter, put her hands up in a gesture of total surrender and prayed, "I give myself to You! I will do what You ask me to do! I will go where You ask me to go! Oh God." Then she heard the voice of God, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?" From the depths of her heart, she was answering, "Here am I. Send me...."(6)
In the meantime, Vanderbout's husband was terribly ill, due to a cerebral hemorrhage. The disease paralyzed the left half of his body, rendering him bed ridden and in need of full attention. When her husband died, Vanderbout's heart was indeed broken.(7) A few months after the funeral, Vanderbout turned her thought to where she should go. One day the pastor's wife asked her if she had decided which country she wanted to go to for her mission work. Mrs. Turnbull, the pastor's wife, mentioned the Philippines. Upon hearing the name of the country, she loved thinking of going to the Philippines.
Some time later, a chance came for Vanderbout to make contact with a missionary couple in the Philippines. Vanderbout obtained necessary information about the country from them. She was then all the more excited about thinking of going to the Philippines as a missionary.(8) She was officially ordained to be a missionary in the year 1946, by the Foreign Missions Department in Springfield, MO.(9)
On December 15, 1946, Vanderbout left her own land to take up residence in the Philippines. She traveled by ship, which went to the Philippines via different countries. The ship was jammed with adults and children, so that she could hardly find a space to lean her body. Vanderbout felt unutterable weariness with the situation. She managed to find a tiny space on the third deck, which was the worst place.(10) However, she attempted to get through long days and nights with prayer. After twenty-three days of a long and tedious journey, the islands of the Philippines began to loom near. Vanderbout sparkled with joy to reach the destination that she was longing for.
On January 7, 1947, Vanderbout finally trod the soil of the Philippine Islands to begin her mission work. After a twelve day stay in Manila, she left for Baguio City where she would eventually begin her ministry among Igorot people.(11) The road was extremely rough. Most of the bridges had been bombed during the war and had not yet been rebuilt, so the bus had to ford streams and gullies. At that time the population in Baguio City was about 30,000. Much of the city had been demolished during the war.(12) However, Vanderbout was warmly welcomed by members of the Assemblies of God church.
Vanderbout's clear call of God eventually directed her to the Philippines. It
was apparent that God's hand was upon the specific path of decision. The burden
that Vanderbout had for the mountain people was endowed by God. God's divine
intervention in her life was vivid and vital. Her desire to reach out to the
mountain people was thus slowly coming to realization.
Vanderbout's Initial Ministry
In 1947, Vanderbout began her ministry in Tuding,(13) Itogo, Benguet Province. The place was well known as a notorious nest of criminal elements and the most wicked and sinful town in the mountain province after World War II. Robberies, assaults, knifings, and police raids were part of everyday life there. About 2,000 people lived in Tuding and 21,000 inhabitants in its surrounding areas.(14)
One night, Vanderbout visited Tuding to observe what sort of place it was. When she returned home that night, she could not erase from her mind the picture of the Tuding Barrio. She became deeply burdened for the people. Filipino leaders advised her not to begin her ministry in such an evil place; it might endanger her own life. But Vanderbout persisted and started her ministry in Tuding. In spite of the peril she would encounter, she was assured that God had called her to these people.(15) Vanderbout thus sincerely responded to the call of God and her commitment paralleled the call.
For a few months, Vanderbout wrestled with how to begin her ministry among these people. Of course, she spoke in churches in Baguio, the nearby summer capitol of the Philippines. She also started Bible study classes and conducted prayer meetings. But she wanted a stable ministry in Tuding to win souls in darkness. With much prayer, and understanding that a woman would find it difficult to approach pagan people with a new religion, Vanderbout thought of children in a public elementary school in Tuding. That ministry became for Vanderbout a stepping stone to spread the gospel among the mountain people.
She visited Tuding Elementary School to meet the principal and to introduce her idea. To her amazement, the principal granted her permission to open a Bible class.(16) It was marvelous for a single woman to get permission to do ministry in any local public school in the male-dominant mountain world. It was another apparent work of the Holy Spirit.
July 26, 1947 was her first day at the Tuding school. Vanderbout presented the gospel through the interpretation of a national Christian worker. She supplemented her words with interesting visual materials which fascinated the children; they had never seen such objects. The visual aids drew their rapt attention to the message of the gospel.(17)
Vanderbout continued her ministry among the children. Distinctively the fifth and sixth grades were the most interested in the gospel. The children comprehended the message quite well and responded with a warm heart.(18) Vanderbout's initial ministry among children was thus successful. The ministry became the foundation to spread the gospel further to the parents of the children.
As Vanderbout continued her ministry among these school children, some girls and boys wanted her to visit their parents. She prayed earnestly for her visitation to their homes. The Holy Spirit spoke to her that this was the very door that God had opened for her through which to reach these people. She made up her mind to accept the invitations to visit the homes. She and the national workers who assisted her in interpretation hiked twelve miles to visit the children's homes. The parents, indeed, positively responded to the gospel message; and this was the first time for them to hear the Word of God.(19)
One particular experience of Vanderbout's with the sick father of her "students" became a turning point of her ministry. When she visited the girl's home, the father was paralyzed on his entire left half body and had been on the floor for six months. Their living condition was so poor that there was not even a blanket or pillow needed for the patient. This scene broke Vanderbout's heart, especially in retrospect of her husband's death. A burden to share the gospel welled up in Vanderbout's heart. She regularly and faithfully visited the paralyzed man and shared the living Word of God. Through her ministry to the sick man and earnest sharing of the message, the whole family found the Lord as their Savior.(20) After many such conversions, many of these parents became the pillars of what was later to comprise the Tuding church.(21)
Even though she was a female, single missionary, Vanderbout was well accepted
by native Kankana-ey people because of her passion and love for them. One
advantage for Vanderbout, in spite of being a female, was that she was a white
woman, as the mountain people tended to respect white people. Above of all, the
Holy Spirit intervened in her ministry to bring effectiveness.
Pentecost in Tuding
Vanderbout did not confine herself to children's ministry. She wanted to expand her work in Tuding, Itogon. She and her ministry team thus started evangelism in Tuding. She soon found that each time they preached the gospel, more and more people were coming to hear the message of God. Vanderbout eventually decided to hold open-air services to accommodate the crowd. As she frequently met these people, she noticed that many were afflicted by diseases. She also learned that, during the war, most of the mountain people lost all of their possessions, and this left them poverty stricken and devastated. Poor living conditions caused them to lose bodily resistance to disease.(22)
Before Vanderbout's ministry, there were some Christians in town, and Paran Bukayan and a few of his relatives were some of them. Bukayan opened his house for Sunday morning and evening services.(23) When Bukayan heard about the ministry and compassion of Vanderbout among the mountain people, he invited her to speak in his worship service. By this time, she became well known among the villagers of Tuding. News of Vanderbout's preaching in this service spread among them through Bukayan's relatives. Pagan people came to the service with interest in what a white woman had to say.(24) The message had a powerful impact on the people gathered, and many turned to Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit was manifested among them. The good news of Christ began to change people's hearts. The congregation of the house church grew larger.
In 1948, Vanderbout and national ministers held revival meetings in Tuding week after week, besides having regular services on Sunday nights. The Holy Spirit moved among gathered people. Many non-believers were saved, and at one time more than 150 were baptized in water. Old, young adults, and children shared wonderful testimonies of the power of God which saved their lives from darkness and the bondage of sin. They rejoiced with salvation and became new creatures.(25)
In every Sunday evening service, many were baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, according to Acts 2:4. It was like old time Pentecost. As the place for service was packed full every Sunday evening, Vanderbout came to realize an urgent need for a church building. What attracted the animists to her ministry? It was apparently God's power revealed so vividly through the message and prayer. The power they experienced was something different from the power of ancestor spirits mediated by a pagan priest. Many received visions from the Lord and many were called to God's service.
A remarkable Pentecost was found in Vanderbout's newsletter sent to the
Department Foreign Missions of the Assemblies of God, U.S.A. It reads:
Two weeks ago, after a wonderful time of prayer, we were
dismiss and go home, when the power began to fall again, and a message
in tongues came forth and the Lord gave the interpretation. Everybody fell
to their knees again and began to cry out to God. There were many sinners
present who had just come in to see what was going on, and they too began
to call on the Lord. Praise God for His mighty convicting power!(26)
Building Tuding Church
As more people came to God every week, Vanderbout felt the need for a church building where all the people might comfortably worship God. She began to pray with strong faith to be able to build a church within Tuding. But it was not an easy job to do, because the first materials purchased cost $2,000. For several months, Vanderbout wrote to her former pastor, Turnbull, regarding this project and her needs. To her surprise, Pastor Turnbull sent a check of $2,000. Later the Foreign Missions Department sent a sizeable amount toward the church building. Vanderbout set about purchasing a property to build a new church right away.(27)
At last the building was sufficiently finished for dedication, even though the ceiling and the interior were not complete. The dedication service was held December 9, 1949. Vanderbout invited Reverend Howard Osgood, the former missionary to China who was also the speaker at the missionary convention in Bethel Temple Church where Vanderbout had received her call. A mass of people flooded into the service.(28)
Juan Soriano, a mountain ministry team member, was chosen to pastor this
Why was Soriano selected as the pastor for Tuding Church? Was Vanderbout not
qualified to be the pastor herself? First of all, Soriano was enthusiastic and
dedicated to evangelism ministry. He was thus well suited to pastor this newly
established church. In Kankana-ey culture, men are dominant in every part of
social activities. That probably influenced the selection of this leader over
Vanderbout, although she had endeavored to build the church building. A native
pastor was also preferred to the foreigner, to effectively lead the
congregation. Later, the Tuding church became a ministry center conducting
seminars, short term training of church leaders, revival meetings, and various
Evangelism and Power Encounter in Tuding
Vanderbout conducted weekly open-air services in Tuding during the year 1954. Frequently, she proclaimed the healing power of God during the service, based on Mark 16:15-18: "They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." She also saw the need of the people, and with simple faith in the Word of God, called on her ministry team to pray for the sick.(30)
A fourteen-year old boy had ulcers on his leg. When this boy was seven years old, he had fallen down and his leg was broken right at the knee. The next five years of his life were very difficult years, because as the leg healed the bones grew together bent. His leg was stiff and he could not straighten it. He could not touch the ground, which meant he could not walk. He struggled to walk, hopping along with the help of a stick or by just crawling along on the ground, and he certainly lived a miserable life.(31) He had been somewhat treated by witchdoctors, but he could not be cured.
The boy's mother became a Christian because of the sickness of her son and because she believed in God. The boy's parents gave up their pagan worship, determined to follow Christ. Vanderbout and her ministry team came to the boy's home to visit. She laid her hand upon him and prayed, believing in Christ to heal. This boy threw away his stick, believing in the healing of God.(32) From that time on he did not use his stick any more, and little by little his leg straightened out. The ulcers disappeared by God's power. Many souls were saved by healing experience through God's power manifested in the ministry of Vanderbout and her team members.
There was a little girl who had not been able to walk for a couple of years.
She began to walk by a miracle of God. Her parents turned to Christ through
their daughter's healing, and they attended the services regularly.(33)
Such testimonies of healing caused the revival to grow and added to the number
of believers. The crowd attending her services normally comprised the whole
barrio population. The revival in Tuding was to shake the whole of Benguet
Province, and this news was spread far and wide to sow the seed for the work to
be done throughout the mountains.
Salvation-Healing Ministry in Baguio City
Baguio City is only about 15 minutes drive from Tuding, and is an access point to different provinces. In fact within a thirty minute drive from Baguio City, people can reach places where tribal people still maintain their traditional lifestyle. In 1955, Vanderbout drew a plan to conduct a revival meeting for salvation and healing in Baguio City, located 6,000 feet above the sea level. She first went to the mayor to obtain a permit for Burnham Park, the most eminent and largest spot in the city. The mayor's response was somewhat negative due to a time conflict. A carnival had been planned to use the same place. Vanderbout again asked the mayor to reconsider her request. When the mayor checked with his clerk to confirm the dates, the clerk told him that the carnival had been rescheduled for a later date. Vanderbout thus got permission from Mayor to use that place. She almost shrieked for joy because it was the first time that this place was ever given for a religious aggregation.(34) Vanderbout finally set the date, March 1, 1955, for the revival meeting. The speaker was Mrs. Ralph Byrd from America. About 1,500 came to the morning meetings. Through those services, hundreds of people accepted Christ as their personal Savior.
God performed miracles of healing in different services. One girl of eighteen
years of age, who suffered as a deaf-mute for twelve years, was instantly
healed. During each morning and night service, the sick lined up to be prayed
God healed deaf-mutes by scores. The blind received their sight and paralytics
were healed. People suffering from tuberculosis and many other sicknesses were
healed. One famous woman in the city was healed of a very large goiter. It
partly diminished when she was prayed for on Saturday night, and when she
returned to Sunday morning service, it had completely disappeared. A man of
twenty-eight years of age, who had been a deaf-mute all his life, was cured
instantly one morning.(36)
The eight day salvation and healing revival was marvelous that countless people
came to the Lord and myriad sick people were healed. During the meeting, there
was a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Nearly forty were baptized in the
Holy Spirit. There were several outstanding conversions of distinguished
government officials, including the deputy-governor of the sub-province, his
wife and daughter. The mayor of a nearby town was saved and healed from
sickness. He gave a resounding testimony. These phenomena were recognized as the
work of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation-Healing Ministry in Mountain Province
Vanderbout wanted to hold consecutive salvation and healing meetings in Mountain Province. Since the missionary already had empirical experience with the power of healing in previous meetings, she expected to repeat the effect in Mountain Province, not fully understanding the true empowerment of the Holy Spirit.(37) She loaded into her car camping equipment, a public address system, and an electric light system. The missionary and national workers drove nearly all day over rugged, mountain roads into head-hunter's territory. Almost the whole community came out to the meetings.(38) In the place where they held a service, hearts of people were stirred by God's power. The Holy Spirit moved among people and many miracles of healing took place. Many of the new converts took a clear stand for Christ, even before persecution and the raving of the heathen priests and witchdoctors.
In another large mountain town, with many surrounding villages, God gave Vanderbout and local workers a marvelous meeting-series of six days. Hundreds came from all different directions and filled the town market place to hear the gospel. For most of them, it was the first time in their lives that they heard the gospel. As Vanderbout recognized, this was exactly what Christ came to the world to do: to minister with power, to save the lost and to heal the sick.(39)
Miracles continually took place. An old man was carried by his friends from another village to attend the meeting. He was all bent over, and could walk only on his hands and feet like an animal. The man instantly stood up and walked. He gave his life to Christ, and began to preach to the people with excitement. He did not go back to his home, but stayed at the meeting place, telling everybody what God had done for him. He almost joined the evangelistic team to share his testimony.(40)
Many sick people experienced the healing power of God. An old man who had
been deaf in both ears since he was a young man was instantly healed in the
service. There was an old woman who had been blind in both eyes since 1942. She
was also healed, with complete recovery of sight in both eyes. One paralyzed
woman spent most of Sunday morning crawling to attend the service. God instantly
healed her, and she stood and walked across the ground to the platform to
testify of God's healing power. A blind old woman attended one meeting, by her
granddaughter's encouragement. God instantly opened both of her eyes, and she
pointed out the lights and different objects. People in the meeting were amazed
by such incidents and glorified the name of Jesus Christ.(41)
As a result of these meetings, believers in a community with 12,000 people
wanted to build a church. In another village, known for their head-hunting
practice, men had already started to build their church. Vanderbout opened a
short-term Bible school as well as special classes for the new converts.
Establishing an Orphanage
In the course of her ministry, Vanderbout noted that there were many babies suffering from sickness and malnutrition. Opening an orphanage was not part of her original plan, but she did it out of necessity. As Vanderbout became known as a white missionary who had a loving and caring heart for the mountain people, believers and even non-believers sought her help for their needs, including problems with their children's sicknesses.(42) There was a baby who was badly crippled and needed an operation almost immediately, without which he would die. The mother of this baby desperately searched for a way to save her baby's life. The only person in whom the mother put her trust was the missionary. The mother pleaded with Vanderbout for help. The next morning Vanderbout took the baby to Baguio City to her doctor. After carefully examining the baby, the doctor said that the baby's foot would be all right after five weeks of treatment. As the doctor had estimated, the baby's foot indeed recovered exactly in five weeks of treatment. Even though he had a slight limp, it was hardly noticed.(43) Vanderbout's sacrificial love for a little soul touched the hearts of many people, who then turned to the Lord.
The news spread through the villages that such supernatural work of the Lord frequently took place. Vanderbout tended to meet more sick children. Children who did not have places to live were also brought to Vanderbout. Many orphans were crying for help. A number of children who would certainly have died were kept alive, because the missionary took them in and nursed them back to health.
Vanderbout began to feel the pressing need of erecting a building to accommodate the children continually coming to her, and she began to pray. Her prayer was answered through the Rotary Club of Baguio City. They gave a generous offering for the building of an orphanage. In 1953, the new building was quickly finished to allow children to live in it. The orphanage was named Bethesda Children's Home.(44)
Undoubtedly, more children were added after the opening of the orphanage. The orphanage also brought many more works as well as exotic experiences to her. An unwanted young girl was put in a cage in the village of Bua by her father and stepmother. She was in there for many days. In fact no one could tell how long. Her body was deformed and her hair covered her face like a jungle creature. The child also had an oversized chest, a clubfoot, a paralyzed right hand, and very big eyes. The child was brought to Vanderbout. The missionary's compassion and love saved the life of this little child.
Another of Vanderbout's testimonies was about twin boys who were abandoned by
their parents. People in the mountains believed that twins were bad luck, so
these were left on the floor of a hut with a thin blanket. Two of Vanderbout's
workers found the twin boys and carried them out. When they reached Tuding, the
children were already blue and near death. However, their lives were saved.
Vanderbout then had twenty two children in her orphanage.(45)
An unusual story was how a twelve-year-old boy from the city jail of Baguio became a family member of the Bethesda Children's Home. After a short period of his release, he went astray by outside influences. He was repeatedly in and out of the city jail several times. At one time he spent five years in Muntinlupa National Prison, a maximum-security facility near Manila. While this boy was there, he indeed met the Lord and was transformed. This boy was probably touched by a transforming message of Jesus by someone there. When he came back to Bethesda Children's Home, he was a new person and he even sought to go to Luzon Bible Institute out of his own desire. This boy grew to become a wonderful minister for God's Kingdom.(46)
The first child who entered the Bethesda Children's Home was Gervacio Tavera, Jr., and he later became an ordained minister. He also served as one of the ablest interpreters in the Philippines. Many of the children in the orphanage became marvelous Christians and Christian workers.(47)
For Vanderbout, opening Bethesda Children's Home was not just to establish an
institution for social work as other people did. Nor was it merely a place for
homeless, sick and poor children to live together. Vanderbout's intention for
the Children's Home was to make children grow in the living Word of God, so that
they would become messengers of Christ.
Development of Children's Ministry
Vanderbout continued to develop her ministry for children. She envisioned children as future workers for the mountain ministry. She organized various activities with this in her mind. One of them was the first kid's camp in 1961. Since the concept of a kid's camp was unfamiliar to local churches in the country, her kid's camp became the very first one in the Philippines. In this camp, about seventy children came, and thirty-five of them received Christ as their personal Savior. About ten were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Unusual experiences of children included seeing visions of the Lord, feeling the sweet presence of God during the time of prayer, and so on. God mightily poured out His Spirit upon these precious boys and girls. Kid's camp served as an evangelistic avenue.(48)
She also organized the first Missionette Club at the Tuding church, another first in the Philippines. Its purpose was to train children and teenagers to be missionaries in the future. Vanderbout initiated these programs for all children. Children were intensively trained to memorize Bible verses to prepare themselves to be soldiers of Christ. In the opening ceremony, an impressive candlelight and pledge signing service was conducted for twenty-two Missionettes and thirteen Junior Missionettes. District officers of the Philippine Assemblies of God and a number of sectional presbyters attended the service.(49) Each girl proudly wore her Missionette uniform, consisting of a navy blue skirt, white blouse, and light blue vest. The Missionette emblem was embroidered on the left side of the vest.
Occasionally Vanderbout had special prayer meetings in which children and
teenagers were spiritually saturated or bathed in prayer. A number of children
were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Later, many children became beautiful
Training Young People
In 1962, Vanderbout began to train young people who had a burden for serving the Lord. They were recruited and sent to a Bible School. As Vanderbout continued the mountain ministry, she came to feel the need for more helps in reaching out to more with the gospel. She also felt a need for training native young Christians to reach their own people. What was the result of her work among the young people? Four from mountain provinces who graduated from a Bible School became pioneer workers. Others graduated and became evangelists in remote and deep areas of the mountains where no Assemblies of God workers had ever penetrated. These young people were enthusiastic to hike through dense forests to preach the gospel, in spite of difficulties and danger.(50)
When Vanderbout started the mountain work, there were only two national
ministers for the mountain ministry. But ten years later, twenty-two full-time
national workers were involved in the mountain ministry, and fifteen young
people were ready to go to the Bible school to prepare themselves for future
ministry. The mountain ministry through the young ministers continued with
vitality and abundant fruits.
II. Analysis of Vanderbout's Ministry
In the preceding discussion, I have presented narrative accounts of
Vanderbout's ministry among the mountain tribes of the northern Philippines.
Next, it will be appropriate to analyze her ministry and highlight a few
approaches and elements, which made her ministry successful and in turn made it
possible for her to spread the gospel among the Kankana-ey tribe. They may also
exemplify the uniqueness of Pentecostal approaches of mission.
As a Pentecostal, she approached the animistic people with the message and demonstration of God's power. As delineated above, God's power was revealed in various forms such as healing, casting out demons, and others. This approach was indeed efficacious to bring animists to Christ, because there are similarities in the world views of Pentecostals and animistic people. For instance, the animists believe that their gods and the spirits of the deceased obtain power to heal the sick, bless their lives or bring curses. Thus, when any one is sick, people implore the spirit to cure the sick through the help of a mediator (priest). The people perceive that common people are not able to communicate with the gods or spirits, but only the priest can.
Therefore, when the power of God was demonstrated among them, they
immediately recognized that the power of the Christian God was greater than that
of their gods. This provided a turning point in their religious understanding.
Soon their allegiance shifted from their traditional deities to Christ. This
change of allegiance also resulted in an economic benefit. Often they offered
many sacrifices until the sick got healed. Due to high cost of sacrificial
animals such as native pigs, they had to borrow money from their relatives or
friends to prepare a sacrifice. Receiving healing from God without offering
material sacrifice was something new to them. In my own later observations, the
spiritual power encounter was the key to the winning of souls to Christ.
Recognition of Woman Leadership
In a tribal culture, it is difficult to accept a woman to be a leader of the village or community. Men's authority has been prevalent. When there are special occasions such as a funeral, a wedding ceremony or a ritual practice, male leaders are expected to lead. Throughout my experience in close association with them, males dominate in every leadership position.
In such a cultural setting, it is radical that a woman missionary became an
accepted and effective leading figure. Circumstances were not favorable for her.
Vanderbout had settled in a notorious place (Tuding) where even national
ministers were reluctant to live among and associate with the people there. Her
determination to live in such place perhaps showed to native leaders her
potential capability to work for their people. Probably this attitude and
determination drew the attention of native pastors and led them to assist her
ministry. Secondly, the presence of spiritual gifts also attracted many to
follow her. As described above, what happened in Vanderbout's ministry reflected
the Pentecostal ministry in the west and, furthermore, the early church as
depicted in the book of Acts. When the apostles were empowered, they performed
diverse miracles. Those who witnessed such extraordinary works of the Lord
naturally accepted the apostles' preaching. Some even followed the apostles and
they, themselves, became instruments of God's mission. The apostles naturally
were to become leading figures. In this sense, the presence of the spiritual
gifts enhanced their leadership, although the gifts might not have served to
bring them into leadership positions. Thirdly, I assume that Vanderbout's zeal
and great ambition to spread the gospel among the mountain villages moved the
hearts of national pastors to support and follow her. She was bold enough to
invade pagan territories where the people had never known Christ. It was
tremendously difficult for a foreign religion or gospel to break into the
air-tightened traditions. Her adamant will to fulfill the divine task made her a
Assistance of National Ministry Team
Throughout her ministry, the assistance she received from a national ministry
team was vital. There were sincere and committed pastors to assist her work.
Certainly, she was not able to perfectly speak a native dialect, and this means
that she needed someone who could interpret her preaching, counseling and
serious conversations with church members. Furthermore, she was not familiar
with geography and trails in the mountain. This presumes that someone had to
accompany her wherever she went. The role of the ministry team might not have
been significant, but it was essential. A few national pastors who were trained
under her spiritual leadership experienced the empowerment of the Holy Spirit
and were able to exercise spiritual gifts in their own ministries.
Vanderbout, in the midst of busy activities, did not neglect to train local
leaders. She sent prominent and ambitious young Christians to the Bible school
for future ministry in the mountains. As indicated above, she saw the need of
having national ministers to join her ministry. She alone could not hike many
communities of the mountain region. Besides, she was an outsider who always
lived in the Philippines with a possibility of having to leave the country when
it would become necessary. It is also plausible to assume that the national
pastors were far more effective in their ministry among their own people with
their vernacular language. Needless to say, the training of national leadership
was a marvelous investment for the tribal ministry. What would have happened,
had not there been trained leaders? Would there have been successful church
planting and evangelism by Vanderbout alone?
Many villages were entirely transformed, because of Vanderbout's dedicated work. She fearlessly entered pagan villages and head-hunters'(51) communities. She preached the message of Christ straightforwardly. She trusted that God would protect her from harm.(52) Her ministry among the Kankana-ey tribe and other tribes impacted many communities and individuals. Memories and records of her life and ministry were not properly collected, and her powerful ministry would deserve many serious studies.
The desire of her heart to live and minister in the mountains was fulfilled, and with it came satisfaction in knowing that her work was not in vain. Surely she would receive her crown in heaven, and her work would not go unnoticed by the Lord.
From the beginning of Vanderbout's ministry in 1947 to 1959, eight churches were constructed under her direction. There were over one hundred preaching points throughout various mountain areas. She reached more than one hundred villages with the gospel. In 1955, she started to work in villages of the head-hunting mountain people. This is considered as a singular accomplishment of her thirteen years of ministry in the mountains.(53) In addition to the ministry of evangelism and church planting, Vanderbout did not neglect training devoted young people. As a result of her labor, approximately one hundred young people from the mountains went to Bible schools, and a majority of them became ministers to reach their own people. Vanderbout, out of necessity, opened an orphanage to care for poor, neglected, and abandoned children. She took care of fifteen of the original children of the orphanage.(54)
However, after thirteen years of mountain ministry as an Assemblies of God missionary, she left the denomination, and began a new ministry, but still in the same mountain region. She married the national pastor, Juan Soriano, who had accompanied her to assist her ministry. After departing from the Assemblies of God, she and her husband continued to work on evangelism, church planting and training mountain leaders in a new setting, without associating any denomination.
That marriage was not acceptable to the Department of Foreign Missions of the Assemblies of God, U.S.A. The policy was held for all female missionaries. As a consequence, in 1966 Vanderbout resigned her missionary position both from the Department of Foreign Missions and the Philippines General Council of the Assemblies of God.(55)
It was impossible to present a complete picture of Vanderbout's life in one short study. From the day of her arrival in the Philippines, the Lord directed her life, and she ceaselessly labored to fulfill His will. I assume that there was much more accomplished by Vanderbout prior to her leaving the Assemblies of God than what is known through written records which have survived today. The ministry that Vanderbout established among the mountain people has been continuing through dedicated young people who were trained by her.
1. An earlier version of the paper was presented in the Pentecostal-WCC meeting at Bossey, Switzerland, Nov 11, 1997.
2. According to Albert E. Jenks, The Bontoc-Igorot (Manila, Philippines: Bureau of Printing, 1905), p. 27 Igorot in English is "mountaineer" (i.e., "one who dwells in the mountain"). W. Scott, On the Cordillera (Manila, Philippines: MCS Enterprises, Inc., 1969), p. 155,_ further elaborates that from the archaic term golot (mountain chain) and the prefix "I" (dweller in or people from), Igorot carries the meaning "mountaineer".
3. Gary B. McGee, This Gospel Shall Be Preached (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986), p. 46.
4. Elva Vanderbout's Application for Appointment to Department of Foreign Missions, Springfield, MO (1946).
5. Inex Sturgeon, Give Me This Mountain (Oakland, CA: Hunter Advertising Co., 1960), p. 28.
6. Ibid., p. 30.
7. Ibid., pp. 36-47.
8. Ibid., p. 54.
9. Vanderbout (1946)
10. Sturgeon, pp. 69-75.
11. Ibid., pp. 76-80.
12. Elva Vanderbout, "A Westward Move," Our Missionary, August, 1962, p. 1.
13. Tuding is located in Itogon, Benguet Province in Northern Luzon in the Philippines.
14. Ibid., p. 1.
15. Leoraldo Caput, A Personal Letter to Author (Mankayan, Benguet, Philippines, March 15, 1993).
17. Sturgeon, p. 87.
19. Caput, 1993.
20. Sturgeon, pp. 88, 89, 92.
21. Caput, 1993.
22. Sturgeon, p. 93.
23. Juan B. Soriano, "Pentecost in the Philippines," Pentecostal Evangel (August 7, 1948), p.1.
24. Caput (1993).
25. Soriano, p. 1.
26. Ibid., p. 2.
27. Sturgeon, pp. 111.
28. Elva Vanderbout, A Personal Letter to the Foreign Missions Department (August, 1961).
29. Evla Vanderbout, "Talubin Christians Re-Enact Conversion," Missionary Challenge, March 1958, p.1.
30. Sturgeon, p. 95.
31. Elva Vanderbout, "Report on Trip to the Alsados," Missionary Challenge, April 1954, p. 3.
32. Elva Vanderbout, "A Work of Mercy in the Philippines," Foreign Field Report, July 1954, p. 3.
33. Elva Vanderbout, A Personal News Letter (May 1957).
34. Elva Vanderbout, "Salvation-Healing Revival in Baguio City, Philippines," Pentecostal Evangel, June, 1955, p. 2.
35. Vanderbout, "Salvation-Healing Revival in Baguio City, Philippines," 1955, p. 4.
37. Vanderbout, "Talubin Christians Re-Enact Conversion," p. 2.
38. Elva Vanderbout, "Here and There," Midland Courier, Jan 26, 1958, p. 3.
39. Elva Vanderbout, "Salvation-Healing Meetings in Mountain Province," Missionary Challenge, Feb, 1958, p. 2.
40. Ibid., p. 3.
42. Sturgeon, pp. 121-122.
44. Ibid., pp. 130-131.
45. Vanderbout, "A Work of Mercy in the Philippines," Foreign Field Report, July 1954, p.3.
46. Vanderbout, A Personal Letter to the Foreign Missions Department (Aug, 1961).
47. Vanderbout, "Report on Trip to the Alsados," Missionary Challenge, April 1954, p. 1.
48. Vanderbout, A Personal Letter To the Foreign Missions Department (Aug, 1961).
49. Charlotte Schumitsch, "Missionettes in the Philippines," Pentecostal Evangel, March 25, 1962, p. 1.
50. Vanderbout, A Personal News Letter (May, 1957)
51. Head-hunting was prevalent among the mountain tribal people during those days. Particularly Bontok tribe, practice it exceedingly. It had two purposes: one was to take revenge and another to show men's bravery to the one whom they love.
52. Vanderbout, "A Westward Move," Our Missionary, Aug, 1962, p. 3.
53. Vanderbout, A Personal Letter to the Foreign Missions Department (Aug, 1959).
55. Elva Vanderbout, A Personal Letter to the Foreign Missions Department (Feb. 17, 1966).