The National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists has launched a global movement to assist churches in diaspora in organizing Filipino United Methodist ministries, revitalizing existing programs and developing new leaders.
The Global Filipino United Methodists Movement was launched Feb. 22 before the start of the special session of General Conference 2019 in St. Louis. More than 125 Filipino-Americans attended the event.
The Rev. Nelson L. Castorillo, senior pastor of Wilmington First United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, called the experience “reinvigorating and inspiring.”
He serves as the chairperson of the Filipino Vitality Commission, which is the missional arm of NAFAUM to start new faith communities and train Filipino church members in the United States and Canada.
Part of the movement’s program involves networking and pooling resources with other United Methodist leaders involved with diaspora churches around the globe, Castorillo said.
He said the group will collaborate with the Asian American Language Ministry, an initiative of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, Discipleship Ministries and other related agencies to provide manpower, materials and other resources to help Filipino people in their ministries.
Castorillo said it was a conversation with the Rev. Edgar De Jesus that led to the movement.
“Prior to BalikBayanihan in 2018, we discussed how we can develop and train our Filipino people who are in ministry around the world,” Castorillo said.
“We heard the plight of our fellow workers in the vineyard all over the globe. They felt alone and no one is truly helping them. We listened to their unique stories of struggles and challenges,” Castorillo said.
De Jesus, the current president of the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists, explained how the movement strengthens their collective efforts in doing mission.
“This movement is God’s movement for the people on the move. We are partnering with the mission of God in reaching out to Filipinos in diaspora. They are congregating mainly in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, Italy and, lately, in the Middle East, where Christians are the minority,” De Jesus said.
Approximately 10.2 million Filipino people live or work in more than 200 countries, he said.
“Every hour, around 950 migrant workers leave the Philippines searching for better job opportunities. Migrant workers are remitting $30 billion every year, the third highest in the world,” De Jesus said. “Filipino migration comes with a heavy cost — broken families, human rights abuses, racial prejudice, sexual exploitation, imprisonment and, worse, death.”
De Jesus said that in partnership with local congregations and annual conferences in the Philippines, missionaries and pioneering pastors are appointed to serve Filipino migrant ministries in China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Canada and, more recently, Australia and several countries in Europe.
“Filipino missionaries and pioneer pastors are either partnering with existing denominational congregations or planting new faith communities comprising mostly Filipino migrant workers,” De Jesus said.
Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan, who leads the Davao area in the Philippines, applauds the efforts.
“We praise God for the birth of this new organization, born out of a vision entrusted by God upon Filipino leaders in diaspora. I believe that relationships will all the more be strengthened among our ‘Kababayans’ (fellow countrymen).
“With collective efforts, our people living across the seas will share best practices on how to create new places for new people starting with Filipino communities. Most of all, we can work together to deal with societal problems like human trafficking, immigration and oppression, especially in work places,” Juan said.
De Jesus said other institutions also are recognizing the global phenomenon of churches in diaspora. He will attend a June 3-6 Consultation on Diaspora Churches sponsored by the World Methodist Council in London.
“In an age of migration, many Christians are longing for a spiritual home far from their homes — migrants, church leaders, those who are on the move and people from countries where migrants and refugees seek to find a new home,” he said.
Aquilino “Pong” Javier, the former president of NAFAUM, said that the entire connection is a vital support to the movement.
“The United Methodist connection is one foundation that significantly supports the movement. We are now able to hear from Filipino United Methodists in regards to their locations and situations,” Javier said.
He said that regardless of what happens beyond General Conference 2019, their work will continue.
“The (movement) was conceived before the issue of sexuality was apparently about to reach its boiling point. The movement is very much focused on the mission and ministry to the Filipino migrant population around the globe. (It) will certainly put the welfare of the migrants over church doctrine and policy,” Javier said.
De Jesus agreed, adding that it’s important to remain focused, even amid uncertainty.
“The action of the 2019 Special General Conference must not distract us in any way. This movement is a wakeup call to the people called Methodists to keep the main thing the main thing — the centrality of our faith in Jesus Christ, the humble servant and the risen one, who draws us into profound community with one another in love and unity.”
He emphasized that there is so much that will unite Methodists in terms of missions and ministries.
“The Global Filipino movement aims to bring us back to the very core of who we are and whose we are, baptized people of God who are partnering with God’s mission to redeem and restore a broken and hurting world,” De Jesus said.
“God is with us through the Global Filipino movement. God is with us through the churches in diaspora. Let us unite ourselves in focusing on what matters most, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Mangiduyos is a communicator from the Philippines. News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5469. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.