The Lost Instrument- How God Reached a Forgotten Tribe in the Philippines

Dear Friends,

Many believers have recently told us they are struggling, with Covid lockdowns and economic stress causing them to feel confused and fearful of the future. In this newsletter we want to share a remarkable testimony of how the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to a young missionary, Caleb Byerly, who comes from a small town in North Carolina. Through a series of incredible events, God used him to reach a previously unknown tribe, the Tinananon, who dwell deep in the mountains of the southern Philippines.

We hope you will be greatly encouraged, and God will remine you of His matchless power and grace. If He put together such a loving and detailed plan to reach this small tribe, He certainly has not forgotten you, your family or your community! Keep trusting the Lord and study His Word each day. He has everything under control!

After reading our brief summary, please scroll down and watch the links to two videos, which show Caleb personally telling the remarkable testimony.

In 2013, Caleb Byerly woke up from a vivid God-given dream and began to furiously write everything he saw in his journal.

In the dream, Caleb was looking out across a mountain and he saw a tribe he had never seen before. In the dream he asked who they were, and the people replied: “We are the Tinananon!” Then a chief walked toward him carrying a strange musical instrument. Caleb happens to make instruments, so he carefully studied the designs of the instrument he saw in the dream, which was unlike anything he had seen before. He said:

“It had 30 strings going all the way around the top of a golden bowl, from the outside, crisscrossing in the middle of the instrument. I suddenly got a full download of everything about this instrument, its dimensions, what material it was made of, and even how it was tuned and played. The tribal chief took two small sticks and began to play it, and the whole tribe rejoiced and worshipped the Living God. It was as if heaven and earth collided. After that I woke up from the dream.”

Caleb wrote down all the details he had seen, and the name of the Tinananon tribe. He then made detailed drawings of the bowl and its dimensions and materials. He then searched online for any reference to the Tinananon people but found nothing. They still do not feature on any mission or Bible translation lists of people groups.

As a professional instrument maker, he was intrigued by the idea of recreating the instrument he had seen in the dream, but the task proved too complicated. In frustration he put the whole thing aside and gave up on the dream.

About six months later, Caleb took a mission trip to the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. As he was traveling in the back of a jeepney (a kind of open van widely used in the Philippines), a man sitting opposite Caleb and couldn’t stop staring at him.

Caleb engaged the man in polite conversation, and discovered he was a Christian, and his name was Manigos. Caleb felt the Holy Spirit impress on his heart: “Ask him about the Tinananon tribe.”

After initially resisting, Caleb finally mustered the courage and asked the man, “Do you know the Tinananon?”

The man’s eyes immediately grew large and his mouth fell open. He leaned forward and said, “Hey, they are my tribe! I am a Tinananon! How do you know about my people?”

Manigos explained that his tribe lives in a dangerous and remote mountainous region of Mindanao that people from the outside world rarely enter. Caleb invited Manigos to come to the place where he was staying, and he showed him his journal entry with the word Tinananon.

Manigos began shaking his head, and tears streamed down his face. He said, “Remember earlier on the bus when I kept staring at you? I knew I had seen you before, and now I know where. I also saw you in a dream!” He explained that he left the Tinananon area as a young man, and later met Jesus Christ while living in the large city of Davao. Some time later, God called him back to his tribe through a dream where he saw himself returning to evangelize his people–with Caleb!

Both men were filled with awe at the way God brought them together, and they worshipped and prayed together for several days. Manigos invited Caleb to visit his tribe, but he first had to return to the United States. While there, Caleb went into his workshop and cried out to God, asking Him to give him wisdom and insight so he could make the instrument. The Lord helped him, and when he put the strings on it for the first time he said: “I tuned it the way I heard it in the dream. I got the two little sticks and I started to play it. It was the same sound that I heard in the dream, and I was really excited.”

Caleb bought a plane ticket and left the next day for the Philippines, taking the instrument with him. Along with a friend, Caleb met Manigos and the three of them rode on one motorcycle into the mountains, heading for the Tinananon area. After many trials and dangers, they finally arrived at the edge of a Tinananon village, and Caleb again sensed the Holy Spirit prod him, “I want you to take the instrument to the chief.”

They asked how to find the chief’s house, and learned he lived another three and a half hours away, on the other side of the mountain. By the time they reached the chief’s house it was almost dark. Mud covered their clothing as they approached a small wooden hut and knocked on the door.

The chief opened the door and was shocked to see a white man. Caleb told him: “I have come here to give you a gift,” and he held the instrument in his outstretched arms, covered by a blanket.

When Chief Suhat took the blanket off he was speechless and kept asking, “Where did you get this instrument?”

“Well, I made it,” Caleb replied.

“No, no, I’m serious. Where did you get it from?” the chief repeated.

“Well, if you really want to know, last year I had a vivid dream, in which I heard the name of your tribe, the Tinananon, for the first time. I also saw this musical instrument, and I felt like my God showed me how to design it.

The chief shook his head in disbelief as he carefully examined the instrument, asking questions about it. He summoned other tribal leaders and they walked around it incredulously, pointing at it and saying the word: “Salimbaa.”

Finally, the chief motioned to them and said, “I need to show you something.” They walked down a small pathway to a structure called a Paluvaran, which means ‘house of prayer’ in their language.

This was the place where the Tinananon people worship, and it also served as a storehouse where pottery, metalwork, weaving, and other artefacts are retained as evidence that their tribe has been in existence for many centuries.

The chief said they had different musical instruments for each of their gods. They had a god of trees, a god of stones, and a god of the river. Caleb noticed that one spot was empty on the wall between the other instruments. The chief said that between 100 and 150 years ago there was a tribal war, and their most valuable musical instrument that worshiped the God of all gods had been taken away from them.

In response, the Tinananon people created a lament which they had sung ever since, which says: “The Salimbaa was taken away from us, but the God of all Gods is going to return it one day so we can worship Him.”

They excitedly said, ‘Today, you have returned the lost Salimbaa to us!’”

A gathering of tribal leaders was arranged, and when they saw the instrument and heard it being played they all cried out, “This is it! This is the Salimbaa!”

They told Caleb of a legend they had long held. In the last days, the God above all gods, who they call Manama, would come down from heaven, and would gather all righteous people to Himself. The leaders began praying to Manama, and they dedicated the instrument back to God.

Caleb with the Tinananon chief and the Salimbaa.

As a sign of special honor, the chief placed a headpiece on Caleb’s shoulder. “We now consider you a chief of the Tinananon tribe,” he said. “Whatever you believe God is calling us to do, we will follow you.”

Caleb was humbled by the gesture, but he had to leave the village after spending three days praying for the chief. He returned a few months later to find the chief had an encounter with the Lord Jesus, and he had given his life to serve the true God.

On the second visit, the chief asked if Caleb could help translate the Bible into their language. A team of translators met with all 50 chiefs and elders of the Tinananon people, and the process began.

Chief Suhat passed away in 2015, shortly after the translation began. Since then, four churches have been planted among the Tinananon, with Manigos being used by God to help his own people come to know the Lord.

Caleb adds, “It’s amazing how the chiefs have opened the door for the Gospel among their tribe. In 2019 we again visited the Tinananon and found that Manigos had led the small group of believers well, and now it has grown to hundreds of Christians!”

To view the videos of Caleb’s testimony and a video where he plays the instrument, click this link: The Lost Instrument – the Amazing Story of How God Reached a Forgotten Tribe in the Philippines – Asia Harvest. Videos will be at bottom of article.

Source: Asia Harvest