It’s no longer surprising to see Asians in North Carolina; people come here from every Asian country in the world.
But church planter/missionary Ed Tablazon is looking mostly for people from his home country of the Philippines as he works to start Filipino churches in Lewisville and Greensboro.
“There are probably 3,000 Filipinos in the Triad area,” he said, “but the biggest concentration is in the Winston-Salem area.”
“Many of the Filipinos here in the Triad work in the medical field, such as nursing. Many are trained physical therapists. Many of them are not coming here directly from the Philippines, but come here after settling first in other parts of the United States, such as New York or New Jersey,” he said.
Being Baptist is nothing new for Tablazon. He became a Christian at age 10, not surprising because his grandparents and parents were Baptists and his father was a Baptist pastor on the island of Palawan, one of some 4,000 inhabited islands that make up the Philippines.
Tablazon also became a Baptist pastor before he came with his wife, Leah, and their three children to the United States in 1999. They settled first in New Jersey and lived there seven years before they relocated to the Winston-Salem area.
He began to meet people and learn the area and he launched the Triad Journey Church in 2008.
So far about 30 people attend the Triad Journey Church for Filipinos Tablazon started with financial help and guidance from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina through the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering.
The Convention’s Church Planting Team also provided training on church planting and encouragement and guidance through Ralph Garay, church planting consultant and Filipino native who works to start new Asian churches across North Carolina.
“Ralph is a very encouraging minister to work with,” Tablazon said.
Triad Journey Church meets in the fellowship hall of Lewisville Baptist Church in Lewisville, though total attendance at home groups is larger. In January this year Tablazon started a second Filipino church in Greensboro, the Triad Community Church, which has reached four families so far.
Triad Journey Church services are conducted in English, because English is usually the second language spoken by Filipinos after one of their native languages.
Because friendship and relationships are important for Filipinos, Tablazon said small groups usually are more effective for outreach than other approaches.
“Some Filipinos are already Christians when they arrive in the United States, but non-Christians are often responsive to the gospel. They’re looking for connections, relationships,” Tablazon said.
Jun Farnaso, one of Triad Journey Church’s main lay leaders, is typical in some ways of Filipinos. He grew up on the main island of Luzon, south of Manila, the capital city.
Trained as a computer analyst, he moved to Saudi Arabia to work. Many Filipinos leave their homeland to seek work in other countries, including other parts of Asia or the Middle East.
Working at a military hospital in Saudi Arabia, he met his future wife, also from the Philippines, who worked as a nurse.
They were married and continued work in Saudi Arabia for five more years.
They found life hard in Saudi Arabia, despite having jobs.
“It’s hard if you’re a Christian. You have no freedom to worship,” Farnaso said.
“The most important thing is your personal relationship with God,” he said of those days.
He and his wife came to the United States in 1991 and once in North Carolina they first joined a large Baptist church in Winston-Salem.
“It’s a great church and the fellowship was good, but we were looking for fellow Filipinos. It’s different to have your own countrymen,” he said.
“We were happy when we found the Triad Journey Church. We really like the pastor and we want to help this church grow,” he said.
On a recent Sunday the fellowship hall still had decorations from several high school students who just graduated from high school.
Farnaso’s son was one of them. It was a nice picture: An American dream coming true in a Christian context.
North Carolina Baptists are reaching people in some three dozen language/culture groups across the state as they support the starting of new churches through their giving.
To learn more about how your church can help sponsor a new church plant, go to www.ncbaptist.org.
To learn more about how NCMO supports church planting, go to www.ncmissionsoffering.org .
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