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Southern Baptist named VFW National Chaplain of the Year

Retired Southern Baptist Navy chaplain Manuel “Don” Biadog Jr., was named the Chaplain of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) during a July 20 ceremony at Post 7907 in Poway, Calif., where he is a member. Biadog also is a Chaplain Ambassador for the North American Mission Board and missions/executive pastor at Old Town Community Church in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Don Biadog

POWAY, Calif. – When Manuel “Don” Biadog Jr., looks back on his 30-year ministry as a Navy chaplain and then five more years since as a civilian, many highlights come to mind: accompanying a Marine on his final trip home after he was killed in Afghanistan; sharing his cell phone number with some of the 2,100 Americans rescued by the military after a tsunami in Japan; giving a teddy bear to a 6-year-old boy and encouragement to his family who lost everything during the East Coast’s Hurricane Sandy.

There are many more. 

Most recently, Biadog was named the Chaplain of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) during a July 20 ceremony at Post 7907 in Poway, Calif., where he is a member. Biadog also is a chaplain ambassador for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and missions/executive pastor at Old Town Community Church in San Diego.

Timothy Borland, commander in chief of the nearly 6,000-post VFW, authorized the award: “In spirited recognition and sincere appreciation of his unwavering commitment to the ministry and duties of the VFW chaplain as evidenced by his service to the veterans, service members, and their families.”

Southern Baptist leaders highlighted Biadog’s pastoral heart for ministry.

“Chaplain Biadog is known by his Filipino-American friends as ‘Pastor Don’ for his shepherding spirit and compassion ministry here and abroad,” Peter Yanes, SBC Executive Committee’s associate vice president of Asian Relations and Mobilization, told Baptist Press. “I have witnessed his ministry in San Diego through partnering in food distribution with local communities and his annual drive for backpacks and school supplies for children in the Philippines. Pastor Don is a longtime friend and a constant advocate for mission partnership among all Asian and ethnic churches with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).” 

Doug Carver, a 2-star Army general (retired) and executive director of chaplaincy at NAMB, also counts Biadog as a longtime friend.

“Regardless of the institutional setting, community ministry request, or local church need, Don continues to faithfully show up with his infectious smile and compassionate heart to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with others,” Carver told Baptist Press. “This prestigious award is the culmination of Don’s lifetime of ministry excellence. After a successful 30-year ministry as a military chaplain, Don continues to actively support the religious and pastoral needs of our veterans, Southern Baptist chaplains, and their families.”[i]

Alex Achacoso, founding pastor of Old Town Community Church in San Diego, spoke of Biadog’s commitment to serve God by serving others.

“Pastor Don has a very compassionate heart, always finding ways to share God’s love through acts of kindness and service,” Achacoso told Baptist Press. “He coordinates the weekly food distribution in Old Town Community Church, which serves around 400 families in San Diego. He leads mission trips – distributing Bibles, food, clothing, school supplies, books for Christian workers – to poor villages in the Philippines.”

Biadog, a graduate of William Carey University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, served on 12 military bases and had five tours overseas including one during combat, in addition to deploying for various disasters, including 9/11. He and his wife Kathy have two grown children and one grandchild.

Though he retired from the Navy in 2019, he remains active in local ministry through VFW Post 7907, other military-related opportunities, SBC chaplaincy and Old Town Community Church.

“Pastor Don brings so much hope and comfort to many,” Achacoso said. “His sacrifice and dedication to proclaim and minister in the name of our Savior has led many to receive Jesus in their lives.” 

Last year, Biadog took more than 500 backpacks with him on a mission trip to the Philippines, which the church gathered with help from the community.

Earlier this year, he visited Talisay High School where he accepted Jesus as his savior in 1976. He brought food and school supplies to share with the students there and then shared the Gospel. Many pledged their commitment to Jesus.

William Morrison III, a commander and judge advocate at Post 7907, wrote the application letter for the VFW Chaplain of the Year award for Biadog, which enhanced his chances to win, but Biadog still seemed to be a longshot for the award.

“We all were shocked that he was selected,” Morrison said. “Not that he was not deserving, but the odds …. He is all over the place – he could beat the Energizer Bunny in a race.”

In his remarks during the awards ceremony, VFW Post Commander John Carson also spoke warmly of Biadog.

“VFW Post 7907 has been truly blessed by the presence and the ministry of Chaplain Biadog since the summer of 2016,” Carson said. “He makes himself available any time of the day, trying to help and meet the needs of the veterans and their families. In times of a veteran’s experiencing ‘stormy weather,’ he makes himself available by visiting the sick, delivering food and consoling and comforting the bereaved shipmate.”

Chaplain Biadog expressed surprise and gratitude for the recognition.

“I am totally humbled to receive this award,” Biadog said. “I am so grateful to Southern Baptists who are praying for their chaplains like me as we continue to serve outside the arena of the local church. I am honored to be one of the 3,300 chaplains endorsed by Southern Baptists.”