Growing up in a big family, cooperation was vital to efficiently accomplish chores and maintain harmony in our home. Cooperation requires a deep sense of purpose and responsibility in order to foster stability. It encompasses trust, generosity, sincerity and the recognition that whatever we face, we’re better together. This trait is ingrained and exemplified in my Asian culture.
Nothing was easy about my migration years ago to Philadelphia from the Philippines. Not only were we expecting our first child, but I was also in the midst of starting a ministry. Despite many exciting opportunities, I felt isolated and overwhelmed.
My initial excitement for American culture and a diversified community slowly transitioned to disorientation, confusion and frustration. But I quickly found security through new familial relationships and a strengthened connection with my sending church, Crosspoint Baptist Church of Souderton, Pa. Built on love, the relationship made me feel at home. Ultimately, it nourished my church planting experience.
Crosspoint shared resources and encouraged joint ministerial events until our church plant became healthy, self-supporting and reproducing. The partnership was made possible because churches of all sizes responded to the mandate of biblical missions by giving to the Cooperative Program. The cooperating churches of the Southern Baptist Convention understood that we are better together.
I was so blessed to experience this culture of ‘coming together.’ Through the partnership of the Cooperative Program, churches of the Baptist Convention in Pennsylvania/South Jersey were able to reach various ethnicities of Asians, Haitians, Arabs, Slavic people, Hispanic people and others with the gospel. This collaborative spirit of giving resulted in new conversions and church plants throughout the region.
It’s an example of humble submission and wholehearted obedience to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 to “go and preach the gospel to all nations.” This is why we give to the Cooperative Program – to do missions together for the sake of the gospel.
Now, God has brought me to a new city – Nashville – for a new ministry with the SBC Executive Committee. My family was excited in part because of our love of music. But Irene and I could not wait to witness great and transforming works of God in unfamiliar terrain. Even as we left the comfort of Pennsylvania, He has continued to provide and sustain us.
But after an initially smooth transition, we quickly faced a new challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic. My children’s college lives were suddenly disrupted. They flew to our new city and settled into our new apartment for a long stay with us.
There was fear, nervousness and apprehension for an unknown future, but God is always sovereign, and everything works out according to His will.
As weeks passed, Christian and Shekinah quickly adjusted to virtual education. With the social distancing order in effect, I am working at home and connecting more than ever with all our Asian leaders, partners, pastors and planters. Through Zoom, we are able to fellowship together for frequent encouragement and prayers.
Irene, a registered nurse, works at Vanderbilt Medical Center, where she has to report every week amidst the threat of the pandemic. She continues to pour out love at work and is vigilant with measures to safeguard our family every time she returns to our home. God has a plan, and we will continue to follow His lead.
Our entire Southern Baptist Convention family is experiencing the effects of the pandemic in all forms. Even amid different and difficult times, with our families and churches coming together like never before, we will witness deliverance from fear and pain. Our faith will grow, and our love, generosity and hospitality will be extraordinary. Our spirit of cooperation will never be shaken. God will be glorified when His people respond and act sacrificially.
We are better together. We just need to be constantly reminded of Psalm 23:1, 4 (CSB): “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me.“
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Peter Yanes is executive director for Asian American relations and mobilization with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. April 26 was Cooperative Program Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.)