By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
OXON HILL, Md.—Oxon Hill Baptist Church had a God-given vision for an international ministry. Like many churches, the community around the church had become ethnically diverse, but the church did not change. The 30-member congregation was Anglo and most of them were at least 60 years old. The group didn’t want to remain static. They wanted to reach their community for Christ.
“They are a loving congregation,” Senior Pastor Willard Spurlock said.
The change began when a Filipino family joined the church and told the congregation about a Prince George’s County Schools’ initiative to bring Filipino teachers to the county. The church caught the vision of reaching out to these teachers. Church members discovered that the teachers were not permitted to bring their families at first, so teachers were arriving by themselves. Teachers spent thousands of dollars on fees to increase their opportunities in the United States. Some came without winter coats and other warm-weather clothing. They were lonely and needed to quickly acclimate.
The church sought a part-time language pastor and called Ramon Jugo to lead the international ministry effort.
Under Jugo’s leadership, the church prayed about ways to minister to the Filipino teachers and organized a winter coat drive. They filled the church with coats and with household items that members thought the teachers might need. Volunteers sent out flyers, and 150 teachers responded.
That was the beginning of some beautiful friendships. The church threw their arms around the teachers figuratively and literally. Many of the teachers began attending the church services and getting to know Oxon Hill members.
“One of the things we did, especially in the early days of the ministry, was to get them oriented towards American culture,” Jugo said. He and others organized trips to the Shenandoah Valley, Skyline Drive and Luray Caverns. The church even introduced the Filipino teachers to skiing.
“Skiing was an activity you don’t have in a tropical country. They really enjoyed that,” Jugo said.
When teachers were permitted to bring their families to the United States, Oxon Hill Church collected a “reunification fund” to help pay for airfare.
“This was a loan. We allowed them to pay it back over a period of ten months without interest. By putting it back in the fund, it allowed us to help others,” Jugo explained.
Those family members also attended Oxon Hill Church, and the attendance soared to as high as 80.
Several teachers and family members made professions of faith and were baptized.
Due to disputes between the United States Department of Labor and the Prince George’s County School system, Filipino teachers were suddenly in a position of uncertainty and were afraid they would have to return to the Philippines. Jugo said it was a very difficult situation. Many had “burned their bridges,” he said.
Sadly, some had to move to other states quickly to find jobs.
The church lost some members because of the issue, but many still remain, and the church is averaging 55 in weekly attendance.
Jugo stresses that the church is not separate. There is not an English and Filipino church. There is one church composed of Americans and Filipinos.
“You drive around our area in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., and you see a lot of churches sharing facilities…but there’s no fellowship between the two. We didn’t want that. If it’s from the Lord, we want a congregation that resembles heaven, with different tongues that fellowship together because of Christ,” he said.
Church services are in English, though they occasionally sing a Filipino song.
Jugo acknowledges there are some cultural challenges, but he acts as an intermediary, and it works out.
Both churches bring food for the regular fellowships, so it’s a mixture of American and Filipino food. It’s a “cultural experience.”
The church recently started a tutoring ministry. Jugo said it was a “natural.”
“We have so many teachers in our church. That’s a talent God has given us,” Jugo said.
“This is our first try, and we’re optimistic about it.”