Missionary Spotlight: Brandon vonDorpowski
Class Standing: Senior
Major: Explore Andrews
Give us some background on what you did and why you went to serve over in the Philippines.
I was serving as a math teacher for third through sixth grades at the mission school we have there. I was working with the native Filipino people group called the Palawans. Many people would call their lifestyle primitive; they are very un-Westernized but it is slowly coming in. I went because at the time I was an education major and I thought, “What could be a better way to practice my skills?” Later, I realized that wasn’t a good reason for going; it should be about sharing Jesus and bringing them the gospel.
Did you make any friendships with kids or adults that impacted you and how so?
Yeah, each one of my kids. Where I was, the missionaries have lived in the mountains for 25 years, so most people in my area know about Jesus. After a while, though, a lot of it became a question of “Do I know how to take this gospel and implement it into my life?” I learned that I wasn't necessarily bringing them the gospel for the first time, but rather I was helping them figure out how to implement it. The culture there is incredibly slow paced as opposed to America. For example, when you go to someone's house you sit on the porch, which is a made of a few slabs of bamboo, then you sit there and have moments of complete silence for what feels like hours; it was one of the most awkward experiences in my life. Nevertheless, I really started to learn how to be in a conversation with someone and enjoy someone's presence without constantly talking to them.
Was there a specific situation where you saw God more clear than any other time?
Man, so many, but one time they were having this thing called the Siguran. Over there you ask anyone if they worship God and they say, “Of course I worship him,” but when it came to the difference of God and Jesus, not many know who the latter is. They believe in the god of rice, so they have “get-togethers” every five months where they have a bottle of rice water that they let ferment and later take to the local witch doctor. They get together and have these drums, drink the rice wine and invite the spirits to come into them. They were doing that one night so all of us Student Missionaries (SMs) thought we should pray about this. It was tough because I would see some of my old students who dropped out maybe a month before heading up that land; it just breaks your heart to know they’re going up there. So we were praying and started hearing the drum beats. While here when you hear drums it’s no big deal, hearing those drums played in the area meant people were invoking spirits to enter them—that was kind of freaky. We prayed for about an hour and finally the drums stopped. By then it was like 10:30 p.m. when we were getting into a really deep prayer session.
That was probably the hardest I have ever prayed in my life. It was just like “Wow, this is like one of those mission stories you hear in Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories!” When the drums stopped we thought that meant something happened, you know, but as we were leaving the high school—it was the craziest thing and I will never forget this—I was the last person to leave and the moment I stepped on the ground the drums started again. I was like, “This is ridiculous!” So we all went back into the school and we prayed a lot more. After a while it stops again so we get up to leave and this time the drums don’t start again. But later they restarted once more so we went back and forth like that for a number of hours that night. I learned that night that prayer is really powerful; it makes a difference.
Was it difficult being away from home, even as a college student?
Yea, just going to a completely different culture like that which was very different than I had ever known. It was hard but being in that sort of circumstance I feel like I was forced to grow in a way that I couldn’t have if I was still here at Andrews University.
What is one thing that you missed more than anything else while you were away?
Giving my mom hugs. And I really missed Big Franks as well; they don't have anything close to that stuff.