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Pastor Magtoto leads a church of 30 families in a devout Muslim area on the Filipino island of Mindanao. Her congregation faces frequent threats from Muslims who want to drive Christians from the area. Find out why Pastor Magtoto chooses to stay despite persecution.

Always Ready for Persecution

Daily life is a constant battle for these believers. The congregation is frequently harassed, threatened and persecuted by militant Muslims who want to drive Christians away from the area.

The militants use tactics such as land grabs to claim animals, crops and farming land owned by Christians. The thieves pelt stones at anyone who tries to stop them or chase them away. Without their livelihood, it’s increasingly difficult for the Christians to survive.

“We have to be prepared for the worst,” Pastor Magtoto said. “We have our evacuation plan. We have an emergency bag always packed and ready.”

“There are days that I have heard gunfire which is alarming… We have plans in place for such emergencies, and there are times the security officer for our village says, ‘Pastor, you need to move out now!’ But I don’t want to [go] … until I am sure that all the people are safe.”

Two years ago, there was an emergency and the women and children had to evacuate and flee to the safety of another village. The men stayed behind to defend their village from being robbed and burnt down.

We asked Pastor Magtoto why she chooses to stay there.

“Because I know that the Lord put me in this place,” she replied. She has an unshakeable conviction in her calling to serve God in this dangerous place and trusts God for her safety and for the congregation in her care.

“I love my little church even though it only has a roof, no walls, but we are working on getting some funds to build the walls soon.”

Persecuted But Not Abandoned

Pastor Magtoto is receiving support for her ministry through VOM USA.

In addition, one of the ways Voice of the Martyrs supports persecuted Christians is by asking believers to write letters of encouragement to prisoners and those who have been persecuted for their faith. A VOM worker gave Pastor Magtoto a postcard with a message written by a Christian sister in Canada.

Although Pastor Magtoto didn’t know the woman who wrote on the card, the message seemed to be written especially for her.

“I want to thank you for this card. Even now as I hold it, I am still crying. This is from my sister… my dear sister. When I received this card, it spoke to my heart … It encouraged me.”

A simple postcard with a thoughtful word of encouragement and Scripture verse was a precious gift to this Christian leader, a tangible reminder of the support and prayers of Christians around the world who are standing with her in ministry.

Christians in Mindanao can identify with the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.

They value your prayers.

Please pray for Pastor Magtoto, her congregation and other Christians in Mindanao as they continue to follow the Lord and proclaim the Gospel.