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Filipinos celebrate God’s faithfulness

Dan Santiago, director of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America (FSBFNA), speaks during the FSBFNA annual fellowship June 13 at the Anaheim Marriott. The theme of the meeting was “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness.” Photo by Luc Stringer

ANAHEIM, California (BP) – A well-known singing group in the Philippines that regrouped after members all (separately) moved to Southern California brought their musical talents June 13 to the annual meeting of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America at the Anaheim Marriott.

The gathering took place in conjunction with the 2022 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center.

PAPURI! USA performs June 12 during the Asian Collective Kick-Off Gathering in a ballroom at the Anaheim Marriott. The word PAPURI translates to praise. The group is the official Filipino music ministry of Far East Broadcasting Company located in La Mirada, Calif. Photo by Luc Stringer

Known as “Papuri,” a Tagalog word that means “praise,” the six-person group sang, in traditional Tagalog, Christian songs many of the nearly 130 present remembered from their pre-immigrant days.

“This is a very famous group, very well-known among Filipinos,” Dan Santiago told Baptist Press Santiago is executive director of the Filipino Fellowship. “We have a double blessing with them. They represent the Far East Broadcasting Company, which we have known about for more than 50 years.”

Far East Broadcasting, founded in 1946 to minister via radio in the Far East, strategically moved two years later to Manila. Today it broadcasts in 145 languages to people living in at least 50 nations. It was a sponsor of the Filipino Fellowship’s annual meeting.

“Consider us your ‘air force,’” Jonathan Mortiz told the Filipino Fellowship. “The ground force is you guys.” Mortiz, Far East Broadcasting’s liaison for international ministries, also is a worship leader in Irvine, Calif. He led Papuri and the fellowship’s attendees to turn a sparkling chandeliered ballroom into a worship center where God was praised through Scripture and song.

Samaritan’s Purse was another sponsor of this year’s Filipino Fellowship. This subset of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gathers “Operation Christmas Child” shoeboxes stuffed with child-centric items by individuals, churches and other groups, which then are sent around the world.

Attendees ended the 2022 annual meeting of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America (FSBFNA) June 13 at the Anaheim Marriott with prayer for one another. The theme of the meeting was “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness.” Photo by Luc Stringer

“This is not just a gift,” Samaritan’s Purse Representative Jonatan Alarcon told Fellowship attendees as he held up an OCC shoebox-size container. “It’s an evangelistic opportunity.”

In addition to the shoeboxes, OCC provides “The Greatest Journey,” a short discipleship course for children, Alarcon said. To date, 26.9 million children have completed the 72-hour study course; 1.3 million teachers have been trained to lead the study; and 12.6 million have put their faith in Christ as a result of studying The Greatest Journey.

Several churches provided a sit-down dinner for those who had pre-registered.

The Filipino Fellowship opened with words of welcome from Santiago, pastor of Covenant Christian Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Despite the stresses and uncertainties all pastors and churches feel these days, because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed. Great is His faithfulness,” Santiago said.

Last year the Fellowship sent out its first church planter – Victor Delacruz – to Mesquite, Texas, a city of about 150,000 people that has become one of the largest enclaves of Filipinos in Texas.

Also funded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Biblical Community Church of Richardson, Texas, Biblical Community Church East – as in, east of Dallas – has already added an associate pastor to help Delacruz and a volunteer children’s minister who is a professional educator.

“Our mission is to join God in winning people for Christ,” Delacruz said. To that end, he combined various evangelism/discipleship materials into a nine-month course for eight male members of the church, whom he taught, and eight women members, who were taught by a Dallas Seminary student. A second group is to start this fall.

In his executive director’s report, Santiago reiterated the four purposes of the Fellowship:

  1. To unite Filipino churches and pastors for fellowship and encouragement;
  2. To provide ministry training for pastors who are continually toggling between two cultures, even in their own home;
  3. To engage in church-planting efforts across the nation, in places outside the regions where Filipino churches are concentrated and already working together in local church planting; and
  4. To help churches recover from stress, such as floods, tornadoes or other crises.

“We will be able to do more with more financial support from our churches,” Santiago said. He asked churches to send financial support to help in the growth and health of the nation’s Filipino churches. As of last June, 27 churches were supporting the ministries of the Filipino Fellowship. This year more than 50 churches participate.

“We are now entering the happiest time of the service,” announced Jessie Arce, Vice President for East Coast and pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Bear, Del. He grinned. “It’s the happiest part because the Bible says God loves a cheerful giver!”

The Papuri singing group sang as an offertory.

Guest speaker Darius Nable, pastor of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Cherry Hills, N.J., preached from Psalm 89 to the Fellowship’s theme, Celebrating God’s Faithfulness.

He had only two points, Nable said. First: Show off, in an external celebration of God, to encourage others. Second: Sit in the presence of the Lord, rather than continually striving to do more and more and more.

“Sit in the presence of the Lord, and see what He does,” Nable preached. “Let our agenda die. Let God’s agenda happen.”

No business took place during this year’s Filipino Fellowship gathering. Last year, each officer was elected to a second, two-year term: President Felix Sermon, pastor of Grace International Christian Church in Springfield, Va.; East Coast Vice President Jessie Arce, pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist in Bear, Del.; West Coast Vice President Henry Amarilla, pastor of Filipino Ministry at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.; Secretary Melvin Guerrero, pastor of Christ Centered International Fellowship of Jacksonville, Fla., and Treasurer Robert “Bert” Del Castillo, pastor of Harmony International Baptist Church in San Diego, Calif.