MINDINAO, Philippines -- For decades, Mindinao in the southern Philippines has been marked by armed conflict between Christians and Muslims.
A rebel army seeking an independent Muslim state is waging war with the government there, and residents are caught in the middle.
Despite these dangers, foreign missionaries from Eternal Life International are working with local churches to bring the gospel to even the most militant of Muslims.
The group has held a series of peace and healing crusades in the southern Philippines.
During one event, militants set off three bombs in the region. One exploded near the school where a peace concert was being held.
Howard Ferris, founder of Eternal Life International, is confident God will keep the missionaries safe.
"The Lord protects us. We have the mandate from God to go to areas that are troubled and have unrest," he said. "There's even more reason to preach the gospel in this region because the greater the darkness, the light stands out more."
Howard and his wife Leslie first traveled from America to Mindanao in 2008 to participate in missions work.
On that trip they visited a camp of Mujahideen fighters. They were the first Christians to make such a visit.
"Outside it looked scary to see all kinds of guns, but one of the things that was amazing is that five days before we came, the general had a dream that Allah appeared to him, and saw white people coming to his camp to bring a blessing," Howard recalled.
"We preached Jesus Christ the Son of God, the one who died on the cross for our sins. And when we gave the invitation the general stood up, the Mujahideen warrior stood up, and they prayed confessing Isa Almasih, Jesus Christ, as savior and Lord," he added.
Since then, Howard has returned to Mindanao several times to spread the good news of salvation and healing to the people. At one peace concert, Howard and local Christians united with former Mujahideen warriors.
Pastor Paul Abraham's church has partnered with Howard. He said God is the reason Muslim rebels are attending Christian gatherings in the area.
"When the perfect time of God comes, nothing is impossible," Abraham said. "The unity we have with these Muslims is the fruit of many years of prayers and tears."
"What good will it do for the church if we are all celebrating and around us are people mourning, dying in the war, and children are hungry?" he continued. "This is the reason why we hold the peace concerts because we believe that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is the only one who can bring true peace in the land."
Abdullah Omar is the commanding general who welcomed the Christians to their camp in 2008. He says the unity between Muslims and Christians will unite more people in the area.
"We are no longer fighters. We want to promote peace, and we can only achieve this when Christians, Muslims and the tribal people unite," he said.
"I learned from the Bible that it is a sin to kill. We should not kill each other because we were all created by God," Omar continued. "I am very happy for the support of our Christian brothers and for bringing God's message to us."
Ferris said many converts remain Muslim in culture, but they believe in Isa Almasih, Jesus Christ.
"Americans may think they're Christian because of culture. I see the same parallelism [here], Howard explained. "They are Muslims culturally, but they believe in Jesus Christ."
"Even if a Muslim will not receive Christ, they come and ask for prayer," he added. "And so we will pray for them because the Bible says the goodness of God will lead people to repent."