ABHMS, IM, regional executives participate in historic joint trip to Philippines

ABHMS' Victoria Goff with Fe Kole and Editha Abelarde, both CPBC leaders who attended roundtable discussions

ABHMS’ Victoria Goff with Fe Kole and Editha Abelarde, both CPBC leaders who attended roundtable discussions

As part of a delegation of American Baptist leaders engaging for the first time in a cooperative 10-day visit to the Philippines, Victoria Goff, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) national coordinator of Volunteer and Disaster Response Ministries, shared her disaster-response expertise with the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC), an American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) sister organization.

During roundtable discussions held at Central Philippines University (CPU), Iloilo City, Goff explained the process by which ABHMS’ Volunteer and Disaster Response Ministries office coordinates volunteers for disaster-recovery efforts and distributes One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) disaster-relief funds. In addition, she discussed ABHMS’ response to Hurricane Sandy, which hit the U.S. East Coast in 2012, damaging American Baptist churches in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

A Philippines street scene

A Philippines street scene

“I shared ABHMS’ and ABCUSA’s policies on disaster response,” she says, “and how we work together with regions and partners to provide a timely and comprehensive response.

“Throughout the trip, persons in the Philippines were impressed to learn of the full breadth and depth of ABCUSA and its many partners,” Goff continues. “Seeing the working partnerships of the national and regional partners was encouraging, and many commented that they were not aware of the total resources and expertise available within the wider American Baptist family.”

In addition to representatives of ABHMS, the group included International Ministries (IM) and ABCUSA regional executives.

Denise Gratzel, American Baptist Churches of New Jersey (ABCNJ) Disaster Response Ministry coordinator, discussed “Coming Together for New Jersey,” the ongoing joint ABHMS/ABCNJ-coordinated volunteer clean-up and rebuilding effort initiated after Hurricane Sandy, while the Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, ABCNJ executive minister, presented about damage assessment at and financial assistance to ABCNJ churches.

In the days following the roundtable discussions that also included topics such as “Pastoral Search and Call” and “Models for New Church Planting,” delegates visited, preached and worshipped at a variety of sites, including CPBC churches, schools and parsonages in Northern Iloilo and Capiz provinces as well as ABCUSA-founded Filamer Christian University, Roxas City, all of which received OGHS funds after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. They were hosted for lunch at Roxas City’s Capiz Emmanuel Memorial Hospital, a CPBC institution that had been founded by American Baptist missionaries who were later executed during World War II while hiding at what they called “Hopevale” in the mountainous village of Tapaz, Capiz.

The group met with the dean and faculty of CPU’s College of Theology as well as the Luzon Convention Baptist Fellowship (LCBF). Similar to what American Baptists would refer to as a “region,” LCBF is responsible for congregations in the Philippines’ contiguous southern Tagalog area; its primary focus is urban ministries. Delegates were housed at Samaritana Transformation Ministries (STM), an IM partner and Quezon City, Metro Manila-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to rescuing women from human trafficking. Each morning, delegates joined meditative liturgies with prostitution survivors in STM’s program. LCBF leaders took delegates to visit three church plants in economically depressed districts of Metro Manila.

Goff notes that, throughout the trip, she was impressed by the manner in which the Filipinos whom she met identified themselves. “They were proud to say that they were American Baptists,” she says.

In addition to Goff, Gratzel and Spitzer, members of the delegation were the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chan, IM area director for East Asia and India; the Rev Dr. Samuel Chetti, executive minister, American Baptist Churches (ABC) of Los Angeles, Southwest and Hawaii; the Rev. Dr. Elmo Familiaran, ABCNJ associate regional pastor; the Rev. Dr. Frank Frischkorn, executive minister, ABC of Pennsylvania and Delaware; the Rev. Dr. Luciano Marquez, ABCNJ associate regional pastor for Latino Ministries and former director of ABCNJ New Church Development; the Rev. Dr. Carla Romarate-Knipel, IM volunteer liaison for the Philippines and pastor of Central Baptist Church, Woodbury, N.J.; the Rev. Dr. Dwight Stinnett, recently retired executive minister of ABC of the Great Rivers Region; and the Rev. Dr. Steven Van Ostran, executive minister, ABC of the Rocky Mountains.