By Rev. Nollie Malabuyo
Associate Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church, Walnut Creek, California
Calling to the Ministry
I grew up in a Christian home, as my father was the pastor of our church in Manila. I received my Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of the Philippines in 1973, immigrated to the United States in 1976, and married the former Evelyn Roxas in 1977. The Lord has blessed our home with three boys and a girl.
After a 19-year career as an engineer in the United States, I returned to my former homeland as a missionary of Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1995. While serving in Davao City in the southern Philippines as a computer specialist, I started a Bible study in our home that formed the core group of Davao Covenant Reformed Church. This church came under the supervision of Trinity United Reformed Church (Trinity URC) in Walnut Creek, California from 1999-2005. Mr. Vic Bernales served as lay minister there, and later on was given opportunity to study at Mid-America Reformed Seminary from where he received his Master of Divinity degree in May 2008.
In 2001, I went on a study leave to attend Westminster Seminary in California. After receiving my Master of Divinity degree in 2005, I sustained my candidacy examination in 2006, and subsequently, Escondido URC announced my eligibility for a call. In May 2008, I was called and ordained as an Associate Pastor by Trinity URC.
I believe that there is a great need for a truly Reformed ministry in the Philippines. Although evangelical churches are established all over the country, faithful Reformed churches are very rare. Most evangelical churches are a combination of Baptist and Pentecostal characteristics. Even those churches whose labels are Reformed and Presbyterian hardly manifest their distinctives. The goal of my work then is to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission in three distinctly Reformed ministries: (1) church planting, (2) evangelism, and (3) ministerial education.
The Philippines has a population of nearly 90 million people spread over 7,000 islands. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators, there are over 170 different languages spoken, with only about 50 language groups with a complete Bible or New Testament. Because the country was a Spanish colony for three centuries, 85 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Only 3 percent are Protestants, and the rest are Muslims, Buddhists, and other religions. Many of the Protestants belong to Arminian-Dispensational Pentecostal, Baptist, independent evangelical, as well as liberal mainline denominations. Cults abound all over the country, the biggest one being the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), a misnomer because it holds to an Arian Christology. Most of the Filipino people are very superstitious, and their religions are usually syncretistically blended with superstition and paganism.
The proposed target area of a church plant is a suburban area about 20 miles east of the city center of Manila. As with many other suburban areas outside of Manila, these cities are densely populated, with small middle to upper class communities, but largely made up of poor families. The estimated population of this area is about two to three million, with an annual population increase of 2.5 - 3 percent.
Reformed Church Planting
As mentioned above, the need in the Philippines for Reformed churches faithful to Reformed doctrine and worship is great. In filling this need, my goals are:
To start Bible studies for believers who are interested in learning Reformed doctrine and worship. Although the Reformed faith has met stiff resistance in a country where Arminianism and Pentecostalism prevail, patient and persevering discipleship of those who are interested has produced some fruits, one of them Davao CovRC. My goal is to start a Reformed Bible study group near our home east of Manila that will later become a mission church affiliated with a Reformed denomination.
To mentor pastors of existing churches who are interested in teaching the Reformed faith to their congregations. Over the last three years, I have mentored three ministers who have since embraced Reformed theology and reestablished Reformed worship in the churches where they serve. I plan to continue mentoring other pastors who also seek to be taught Reformed doctrine and worship.
To start Bible studies for unbelievers who are interested in learning about the Christian religion, especially those who have Roman Catholic background. As I network with others in the Filipino community, I am praying that God would be gracious to open offices, schools, and other avenues for these Bible studies.
Reformed Study Center
Lord willing, I am planning to open a Reformed Study Center in our area. My target would be pastors and lay leaders who do not have access to study resources for their Bible studies, sermon preparation and Sunday schools because of financial constraints. College students will also be welcomed.
The study center will serve the Christian community in several ways: (1) as a place of worship, when the need eventually arises; (2) as a study center for pastors/elders, providing them with a library of Reformed books and multimedia resources, as well as training such as lectures, seminars and conferences; and (3) as a place for group Bible study.
There are many Bible schools and seminaries in the Philippines, particularly in the Metro Manila area. However, these Bible schools and seminaries are mostly non-denominational, mainstream evangelical institutions. As far as I know, there is no truly Reformed paedobaptistic Bible school or seminary in the whole country.
I praise God that a couple of Bible schools have opened their doors for me to teach men and women training for church ministries. Being a graduate of a United States institution, I am considered to be a highly educated man in the Philippines. As such, my offer to serve as a lecturer was quickly and gratefully taken up by these two schools.
I thank the Lord for calling me to this wonderful work of proclaiming the gospel, planting Reformed churches, and training pastors in the Philippines, and for opening the door to this mission work. I humbly pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will prosper the Lord’s kingdom in the Philippines and throughout all nations of the earth.