I spent two days this week at “MBRLC” (Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center). I was blown away by what they do with “the insurgents.” The Philippine Army has captured terrorists either from radical Islamic groups or from insurgent Communists. These are the worst of the worst; they’re armed, dangerous, and they prey upon and exploit people in rural communities. And the government has found that no rehabilitation processes are as effective as what they do here at MBRLC. Astonishing.
Most of the insurgents come from mountain tribes who live in mind numbing poverty. As of the 2015 census, the average per capita income in the communities near MBRLC was just over $44 per person PER YEAR! The plight of these people is grim; just surviving is tough. They typically farm 1-3 hectares (a hectare = just under 2.5 acres) of land, most of it on mountainsides or hilly slopes. After years and decades of over-plowing and constant rainfall, topsoil is lost and the health of the soil depleted. Food security is a constant threat, even in an area that looks like it should be fertile and productive. Because they have limited access to education, the people are simply unaware of some of what we’d call “best practices” for agriculture in these areas.
Here’s where the MBRLC comes in. The captured insurgents arrive 25 at a time. They live in a fenced-in yard, in a dormitory that looks a little like barracks. The government pays for all their housing, food, and for the armed guards arranged inside with the insurgents and entirely surrounding the the compound, which are absolutely necessary, since the Farm is completely enclosed by jungle and the insurgent groups don’t want to lose their members – and so seek opportunities to rescue their comrades! MBRLC provides all the training at no cost to the government or the participants.
The training goes by the acronym BOOST, which stands for Baptist Out Of School Training. The insurgents receive the same training as the young “gap year” students. In their 3-month program, they learn:
- SALT 1 – Sloping Agricultural Land Technology that includes training in sustainable farming that combines annual and permanent crops and nitrogen-fixing legume hedgerows that are planted following the natural contour of the land.
- SALT 2 – Simple Agro-Livestock Technology, which is an integrated system of half-hectare farming that includes SALT 1 hedgerows and the “cut and carry” (cut the forage and carry it to the goat’s pens) system of goat raising.
- SALT 3 – Sustainable Agro-Forest Land Technology. This is a 2-hectare integrated system combining trees (1 hectare) and crops (1 hectare).
- SALT 4 – Small Agro-fruit Livelihood Technology. This is a half hectare system combining SALT 1 hedgerows with fruit tree production.
The above photos are but a sample of what these individuals (both men and women) learn. In addition, they’ll gain new skills in Crop Production, Livestock, Fish and Poultry, Vermiculture (worm farms), and appropriate feed formulations. While all this sounds fantastic, the Director, Jethro Adang says no one ever comes to the Farm without hearing the story of how the creation they’re studying is a gift from the Creator Who loves them and is calling them to Himself. No one leaves without an opportunity to follow Jesus, the One Who loves them enough to give Himself for them! By the way, some of the people above live in very dangerous places, so we’ve blurred their faces to protect them!
Some of the stories of “complete rehabilitation” include a dramatically changed life and baptism into a faith that changes their worldview, their own identities and their outlook for the future. It isn’t unusual for Army officers and insurgents – former vitriolic enemies – to be baptized in the same pool at the same time with one another!
Let me know if you’d like more info on keeping MBRLC healthy and increasing their reach!