Early on a steamy morning, Dr. Joy Tica and her team loaded vehicles with equipment and medicine and began the long journey to the mountain. The rutted, dusty road crossed eight rivers before it ended.
This journey carried a deep significance for Joy. Fifty years earlier, her grandfather took the gospel to the Dumagat tribe in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the Philippines. Now Joy was taking the very first medical team to these same people.
Joy watched two generations of missionaries in her family give love, hope and care to hundreds of people, and she continues that legacy as a doctor. Her NGO, Health Education Medical Ministry, provides medical, dental, and humanitarian care in remote locations in the Philippines.
Serving the marginalized
After a three-hour walk, the team arrived in the isolated village where smiling dark-faced, curly-haired Dumagats welcomed them.
“Of all the marginalized groups in our country, I have a soft spot for the tribals,” Joy said. “In medical school, I would share that I wanted to go to the mountains, swing with the monkeys, and serve those who need everything.”
The team set up their equipment and some tables and chairs while the villagers watched. Then they started medical exams. While Joy examined each patient, other team members shared the gospel and prayed with the large crowd.
“The beauty of medical missions in the Philippines is its openness to all people,” Joy said. “Their need for medical assistance, free consultation, and medicines supersedes their religion, so it is a perfect time to share the gospel.”
“You must leave.”
As afternoon approached, the numbers began to dwindle. At 2:30, the team heard what sounded like firecrackers. Joy wondered if a festival was beginning nearby.
Suddenly a frantic woman rushed into the clinic, screaming her daughter’s name as she searched for her among the patients. When she was asked what was wrong she replied, “Don’t you know that is gunfire and the rebels and the army are having a fight? You must leave. No one else is coming because they fear for their lives.”
For nearly 50 years, fighters from the National Peoples’ Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, have waged an insurgency against the Philippine Army. Another firefight had just broken out.
Joy and her team packed up and took shelter in a nearby building. They prayed that no one would come and ask for help — either the rebels or the government soldiers.
God did not answer that prayer in the way they hoped. The local pastor knocked on the door at 10:00 p.m. He had brought four government soldiers. Two were dead, one was seriously injured, and one had a gunshot wound in his leg.
The badly wounded soldier kept asking, “I will still be able to see my family, won’t I?” Joy could barely get vital signs and was not hopeful. She told him to pray and trust God. A pastor and nurse attended to the other soldier, praying loudly. Both men then repeated the sinner’s prayer. The next day, the men were taken away and the team made the long trip back home.
Two weeks later, one of Joy’s nurses went to the veterans hospital to see if the soldiers were recovering. They were. She gave them Bibles and prayed for them.
“I saw my family! They came here to be with me!” God had answered the critical patient’s prayer. Two weeks later he went to be with his Savior.