Applying the Word of God to the needs of the Philippines

Joy Pring-Faraz is a Langham Scholar from the Philippines who has done her PhD in Transformational Development. The context of her country and community is one that has great poverty and disparity between people’s situations.

In the Philippines, Christianity is the only dominant religion and 90% of the population would call themselves Christian. The biggest problem comes from a culture that is full of nominal Christianity. 

Joy shares, “You have a population who claims to be Christian and a good portion of our population go to church every Sunday. But the work of compassion and the work of sharing the gospel and the work of thinking through what is Filipino Christianity and what is Filipino theology, very few would do that.” 

The challenge therefore for Christians in the Philippines is how to stay active and really live out what the title of ‘Christian’ means! 

Barriers to further study

Doing postgraduate study as a Filipino is a great luxury, especially for the purpose of the church and Christians. There is a great need for thought from their context, but not the structure or resources.

Joy reflects, “We need the training and the know-how on how to gather data from the ground and turn them into studies that will speak to not only policies but also to the very important work of the gospel.” 

Working towards higher study like a PhD is also often not valued or understood by congregations or communities. This makes an extra challenge for pastors pursuing more study to be better equipped or skilled. 

Joy shares, “My dream is that one day churches will have the heart to support their pastors for further studies, for the benefit of not just the congregation, but for the benefit of the Filipino church and the church in general. So to me, that’s the hurdle.”

Research in action

Joy uses her skills, research and training not only in the church but also in salt and light ministry for women and children in poverty. 

She explains, “What I found out is that if you work with women in poor communities, you inevitably affect the children. For me, this is also a ministry of justice because what I do in the research is centre on their voice. Their voice is primary and focal. And so they get to tell the story. They get to tell about their existence through the research that I help lead.”

This practical and important work has helped to show how a PhD is beneficial for those on the ground, at the grassroots, who need Jesus and need the love and compassion of his people. 

In her studies, Joy looked at the phenomenon of the lived experience of these women and children through the lens of scripture and considered what the Bible speaks to their situation. 

More than just a scholarship

It was a struggle at some points to continue due to all the challenging external and intrinsic factors. However, Langham Partnership connected with Joy at that pivotal moment, thanks to the providence of God, and enabled her to continue.

Joy reflects, “In May 2020, I almost gave up on my studies. I was almost done with the coursework and my grades were doing fine. But I was thinking, could I manage to still study considering my finances? And also morally, I felt so down. Like, what are my studies for?”

Around this time when she was considering stopping, Joy received a letter from Rev. Dr Riad Kassis, then Director of Langham Scholars and now the International Director of Langham Partnership. This letter said she had been chosen as a Langham Scholar! Being a Langham Scholar involves financial assistance and also mentorship and support from others who are doing their PhD or have done it in similar contexts.

Joy shares, “In my heart I was so reassured to continue my PhD journey because of that sponsorship. It’s not just getting through the financial hurdles of doing graduate study, but also, very importantly, it’s the moral support that Langham provided for me.”

Joy reflects on her experience as a Scholar while completing her PhD with thankfulness. She says, “I’m so grateful for Lanham. It’s not only the financial help that they provide, but really how they journey alongside the scholars so that they can fulfil what God has called them to do. And not just for them, not just for our own good, but [for the] communities and churches [behind us], who are blessed with the scholarship.”

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