The National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists (NAFAUM) celebrated 100 years of Filipino Methodist ministry in North America at the 14th Biennial Convocation held at Riviera United Methodist Church this past July 23 thru 26.
According to Ben Vinluan, Chair of the Book Project Committee, NAFAUM formally began in January of 1984 in San Francisco, CA with the purpose of empowering an Asian American group in celebrating ethnic diversity as a means of reaching the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. Since then, NAFAUM has held biennial convocations in celebration of God’s work in and through the Filipino-American community.
This year, the theme was “Bagong Siglo, Bagong Sigla,” which in English means, “New Century, New Vitality,” with the associate theme of, “Celebrating God’s Grace and Faithfulness.”
Through a series of resolutions, NAFAUM reaffirmed its connection with American Methodism and effectively launched a new focus on “Vital Ministry” following the outlines of the emphasis on “Vital Ministry” by the General Conference. Also, NAFAUM, as a national body, supported California Assembly bill AB123 which seeks to recognize the contributions of Filipinos in the American Farm Labor Movement. And, NAFAUM is in excited anticipation of a book project planned to be published by July 2014 on the Filipino-American stories of faith within American Methodism in the past 100 years.
The celebration was led by many from the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church:
Rev. Dr. Ben Vinluan, Chair, Book Project Committee
Rev. Adiel de Pano, Member, Vital Ministry Commission
Rev. Nestor Gerente, Treasurer, NAFAUM
Rev. Lisa Gay Santiago, Member of the Board of Directors & immediate past president
Mr. Armando Lapus, Member of Board of Directors
Mr. Alberto Mendoza, Member of Board of Directors
Also in attendance were North District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth, who preached in the opening worship service, West District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Kathey Wilborn, Executive Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. Dr. Stephen Hundley, and Chair of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, Rev. Janet McKeithen.
The final night of NAFAUM was all youth-led and included numerous young people sharing their testimonies, some nervously in front of the large crowd, on how they were touched by God at the young people’s camp known as the “Christmas Institute.”
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, as the honored guest of that night, preached from the scene in the book of Acts where the apostles Peter and John command a lame man to get up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ. The Bishop challenged those in attendance with three important questions:
1) Do you truly believe that Jesus Christ can heal as the apostles believed?
2) Are you sure of your identity in Christ as the apostles were sure?
3) Will you go to the public and political places as the apostles went?
The response from the young people was quite telling of their perspectives on faith and the future.
24 year old Katerina de Pano, MC for the night and daughter of Rev. Adiel de Pano, remarked that the Bishop’s message gave her hope that the Methodist Church in the future can reach young people by being “relevant, truthful, and genuinely loving.”
Yvonne Agduyeng, Faith Sairez, and Kathleen “Kaye” San Pedro all in their 20‘s and from the Pacific Northwest Conference noted that the message was easy to understand as a challenge to them to be more welcoming to outsiders and to engage the issues of today such as the issue of immigration which is quite relevant to the Filipino community.
Kathlyn Talapian, 19 years old and from the Northern Illinois Conference, was empowered by the message as it was to her, “a reminder that, as we face the new century, God will always be with us.”
The night itself was a symbol of Methodism’s spiritual vibrancy and of NAFAUM’s commitment to “Vital Ministry.” For the past, the present, and the future to come, the California-Pacific Conference is in heartfelt celebration with the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists.[Update (8/8/13): The following is an addendum from Rev. Dr. Ben Vinluan]
Last, but not least, NAFAUM, in a nod to both its past and the promise of the future, on the centennial Night of July 25th, heard from the Rev. Amy Valdez-Barker, Executive Secretary of the Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church, based in Chicago. She spoke of her roots as a child from the Philippines whose family heard the gospel story from missionary Richard Wehrman. She spoke of how amazingly the grace of that story led her to a life of service and ministry where, in her current role, she’s engaged in finding and implementing new and creative ways to tell the gospel story to our age and time. The crowd of some 500 from all over the country, the Philippines and Canada, as well as locally, received her message with rapt attention and responded with enthusiasm to her challenge to go make disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world.
NAFAUM’s new President is Aquilino Pong Javier, II, from Chicago which, incidentally, will be the site of the 2015 convocation.