SULADS Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Morgan Fowler stared out of the van’s window watching the scenery pass as they drove down the winding mountain pass through the lush Philippine rainforest. It was raining, not the heavy downpour it did the day before but still enough to drench the surrounding trees and lush shrubs causing the vibrant hues of greens to sparkle in the afternoon sun. He smiled as his mind wandered to the many activities he had participated in during his 10 days in the Philippines: speaking at the rural church, meeting people from many native tribes, talking with tribal leaders, playing basketball with fellow sulads, hearing reports of the SULADS work around the world, visiting the SULADS orphanage, swimming underneath a large waterfall, the cultural exchange, eating tropical fruits, praying with new friends. He sighed as he realized his visit to the Philippines was coming to a close. Will he ever get to visit the Philippines again? Will he ever see his new friends again? How will he disseminate to his tribe all the information he has learned while at the SULADS Reunion? Will he remember everything?
His thoughts drifted to home. Home in the Arizona desert. Home inside the Navajo reservation. Water is very scarce there; his family drives 21 miles (33.8 km) one way to get to the nearest source of water for drinking and for use around the house. Because of the severe drought, some water wells had stoppedproducing water which had caused many deaths among their livestock.
Morgan, 16, and his 20-year-old brother Allen are some of Arizona’s top athletes for their age groups. Their goal is to one day be in the track and field team representing the United States in the Olympic Games. But for two weeks this summer, both were taking time off their training to visit the Philippines. The purpose of their visit was to participate in the SULADS 50thAnniversary Reunion in the Philippines, to observe sulads in the sulads’ home turf, and to see the long-term results of sulads’ presence in a tribe. Morgan and Allen are Native American Indians. As the older sons of a Navajo chief, both are performing youth leadership roles in their communities. Their parents were the first to encounter sulads and invite sulads to work among the Native American people in the United States.
It all started when their parents went to an ASI Convention (asiministries.org) and met Canadian Pastor Charles Ed Aguilar. Their conversation touched on the problems faced by Native Americans in reservations.
Pastor Aguilar acknowledged that these same problems also existed among the Native American tribes in Canada. He disclosed that in the Canadian communities with SULADS presence, the Canadian government has seen a significant change for the better. For example, youth who were previously delinquent in school were now enjoying school. They were exceling in their grades, enjoying improved interpersonal relationships with members of the community, and some were actively leading in community projects. Alcoholism, substance abuse, domestic violence and high rates of suicide had also significantly decreased. The tribe seemed happier.
Intrigued, the Fowlers went to Canada to see this phenomenon for themselves. Morgan and Allen accompanied their parents. After meeting the Native Americans in Kitwanga, British Columbia, the Fowlers decided they needed sulads. Immediately they asked for sulads to be sent to the Navajos. But who could be sent? The nearest sulads where in California and were senior citizens! Who would answer the call?
The call was answered by the unlikeliest group. Southern California Adventist teens between the ages of 10 to 17 answered the call to serve. Because of their age, they could only go during summer and Christmas breaks. Referred to as junior sulads, these God-sent teens are the front line sulads for SULADS USA. For two years now, they have led the SULADS work in Navajo land while utilizing their parents and adult friends as designated drivers, cooks and chaperones!
For the Philippine trip the Navajos boys traveled deep into the island of Mindanao where Mountain View College is at. The 10 junior sulads were accompanied by SULADS USA President Asher Himbing, Dr. Marjorie Ladion, and 91-year-old SULADS pioneer Jean Zachary.
The SULADS work began in 1969 among the Manobo tribe of Mindanao. The word sulad is the Manobo word for brother or sister. SULADS is also an acronym for Socio-economic Uplift, Literacy, Anthropological, and Developmental Services. It is a community-based non-government organization involved in various development projects for native tribes in remote areas who may not have access to education and healthcare. SULADS also provides non-formal education, agriculture and health programs designed to alleviate illiteracy, poverty, and disease, while also promoting social awareness and giving due respect to local traditions, beliefs, customs, aspirations, and interests. SULADS (in all caps) refers to the organization and the work. Sulads (in mixed case) refers to the wonderful volunteers to these otherwise unreached territories.
More than 400 sulads from around the world convened at Mountain View College last June 24-July1, 2018 for the week-long celebration. Elder Samuel Saw, President of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) and Dr. Vicmon Louis Arreola III, Director forAsian-Pacific Ministries for both Pacific Union Conference (PUC) and North American Division (NAD) were among the attendees.
The activities included a parade of tribes, medical-dental mission (free clinic) in tribal lands, reporting of how the SULADS work is doing around the world, cultural presentations by the various tribes, SULADS Fair and recruitment, plenary sessions focusing on revival, foot washing and communion service, a concert by the sulads kids, prayer room, visits to the SULADS mission schools and SULADS orphanage, and many others.
When asked about his experiences at the SULADS Reunion Morgan stated, “I am so glad I got to come. I had so much fun. I learned so much. I would definitely want to come back to Mountain View College someday.” His brother Allen piped in, “I learned so much. Now, I know what I need to do. There is much work to be done.”
Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are meant to permeate your whole life. Growing out of scriptures that paint a compelling portrait of God, you are invited to explore, experience and know the One who desires to make us whole.