John is considered a pastor and conducts leadership trainings and leadership mentoring in the lowlands.
“His target is the highlands,” Dawn said. “Part (of the tribe) have separated to maintain spiritual and cultural integrity, to maintain their nature worship, Satan worship and voodoo. It’s very much voodoo, picking up hairs and casting spells. They very rarely come out of the mountains. He has been treating medical problems that have been brought to him, but he hasn’t had an invitation” to go into the highlands.
Many of the villagers stay in the highlands, choosing to die rather than leave to be treated. Only the “braver men” venture out to see John, Dawn said. John has been taking missionary medical courses, but also began helping Dawn treat villagers when he was 12.
“He has a strong aptitude for medicine,” she said. Villagers experience a lot of problems with malaria and pneumonia. Highlanders have the chance to go to the lowlands for vaccinations including malaria, measles, whooping cough, tetanus and rabies.
Dawn says John’s mission isn’t just about introducing the Batangan to God. It is about helping them preserve their culture and language and teaching them about healthy living.
“The 21st century is encroaching on their life even though they don’t like it,” she said. “We don’t want to eliminate their culture. We want to preserve it. We’re encouraging them to preserve it. ... Otherwise, they will not survive. There is a huge prejudice and they’re likely to be eliminated by starvation and having their lands taken.”
John has been working to interact with the chiefs of the Batangan village.
“He’s really praying,” Dawn said. “God has to create a need that only (John) can fill.”
Dawn said that people in such rural areas experience God in a different way.
“In that typhoon they had no one but God, nothing but God,” she said. “When something happens there’s not a shelter underground nearby. There’s no mountain top shelter. There’s not a mechanic to fix things. There’s not a carpenter to build. There’s not a doctor to go to to have surgery. When you give God that kind of opportunity he comes through. He does it here too, we just ask less.
“I know the world doesn’t have faith in God. That’s their choice, but we’ve experienced it, and he’s always come through. We’ve seen God come through for us and our people.”