The Stargrass Coalition (SGC) sees every Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) as a reproducing disciple in countries they go to. House or simple churches are the ideal expression of church in many of the countries where a large number of our OFWs work. In this regard SGC is involved through working with partners in equipping OFWs in tentmaking and as marketplace missionaries.
For some time now the Philippine Church has been aware of the tremendous potential of the OFW as a natural witness for Jesus Christ in many of the most unreached countries and people groups of the world. Several denominations and mission agencies, such as the Philippine Missions Association and the Filipino International Network, have been mobilizing and equipping overseas workers as tentmaking missionaries and marketplace missionaries for several years now.
There are several reasons and advantages for this approach. Many of the unreached or “creative access” countries will not even allow Christian “full-time” missionaries, pastors and ministers into their borders. However they not only welcome Filipino workers, they also pay them handsomely! Each Filipino overseas worker can be a bi-vocational missionary who is capable of supporting himself or herself through his/her job and is also able to support colleagues and help the poor (Acts 20:34-35).
The SGC believes every Christian OFW should be making disciples and they have advantages over the “full-time” clergy. Discipleship happens best and grows faster through a natural web of relationships. A pastor or “full-time” missionary coming into a cross-cultural setting will encounter difficulties in cultivating natural relationships. An OFW – a tentmaker/bi-vocational missionary, however, is rubbing elbows with people – locals, fellow Filipino workers and other expatriates – everyday in his workplace. Relationships are a given in that kind of environment and it is relatively easy for him to develop natural relationships with co-workers of different nationalities. We believe that every Christian OFW should be able to disciple a few co-workers – “faithful people who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim.2:2). These co-workers in turn would be able to disciple many more in their own web of relationships resulting in a multiplier effect that might be slow initially but will be faster exponentially and be more effective in the long run.
Associated with disciple-making OFWs is the nature and expression of the church that they will be proliferating. The visible traditional, institutional church with its religious edifice, formal organization and complex arrangement is restricted and even banned in many nations and localities populated by unreached people groups. Furthermore most forms of the traditional church brought in by expatriate workers or “full-time missionaries” are usually non-contextualized or foreign-looking and needs continued external support (including finances) to keep it going. On the other hand, the house, simple or organic church is characterized by its basic, simple structure and simple practices (making disciples). It lies “below the radar” or is low-key and not so visible to restrictive authorities. Because it is simple it is also easily replicable – any disciple can start a simple church simply by making more disciples. It can easily be contextualized and propagated within the local culture and does not really need finances to replicate.
Equipping OFWs therefore should be simple – train them to become disciple makers through friendships and natural relationships in the workplace and community, encourage them to reach out to others through acts of love and service, especially to the host locals and help them become the best workers they can be in their profession as a witness for Christ. Some members of SGC are presently involved in equipping OFWs to become disciple makers and house or simple church multipliers this way.
Our desire is to also see OFW Care Centers set up in partnership with the OFW Care Program of the Philippine government, particularly DILG and POEA locally as well as DFA globally. We envision an OFW Care Center that would offer para-legal services and financial literacy programs for our OFWs in each barangay and municipality or city as well as in the cities where OFWs reside worldwide. We are working in partnership with the Global OFW Advance Movement (GOAM).