After we were over the shock of 50 people in our first service, we settled down with 12 at the next service, and a month into the ministry, we had Bro Rene & Sis Rose Jagolina, Bro Ernie, Sis Verna David, Sis Lydia Balagot, Bro Alfred & Sis Ren de Jesus committed attendees of BBCJH. Soon after we had Sis Ingrid Macdonald, Sis Nelly Gonzalez, Bro Bernie Peralta, Bro Chris Tamang, Sis Myo Khin, Sis Susan Un and Sis Antonette Potian. These made up the first congregation, and it was a great blessing to work with these folks who loved the Lord. Many have moved on as the Lord directed, and many were added making up the 2nd, 3rd & 4th congregation. I was told that a church planter will have several congregations, and that was absolutely true!
"But there's nobody here.."
In January 2011, 4 months after our first service (in September 2010), while averaging close to 10 in the morning service, we held our first evening service. In the first 2 months NO ONE showed up. In the next 6 months, we would see one visitor pop in. Of all those, only one would eventually become a regular member, a dear Cuban lady. Whether we had one or none, we remained consistent and patient. We conducted each service as if we had 9 or 10 like the morning service. Jasmine would play the piano with months old Russell on her lap, and 10 year old Zach running back and forth in the back. We were always excited. I remember distincly, on our second evening service as I started to preach, one man entered our meeting place at the Jewish Center and started pacing back and forth in the middle aisle (the sanctuary sits close to 300). I called his attention, invited him to join us, but fell on deaf ears. A little while later, I called his attention once again, this time with a reasonable degree of impatience, I reminded him that we were having a service. He then looked around and said, "BUT THERE IS NOBODY HERE." He wasn't exaggerating! I'm glad Jasmine encouraged to just keep preaching (to her and the empty seats). Today, we have about a third of our morning attendance return for the evening service. Precious moments in our history.. Thankful to the Lord for His grace.
Never Too Early..
Our first service was in September 2010, and by November 2010, we started supporting world missions! The first missionaries we supported were the Armah Family in Ghana and the Tabanao Family in Cambodia. In February 2011, we hosted our first missionaries (on deputation). In March 2011, we started supporting a church planter (to Staten Island, NY). Obviously it was never too early to be involved in world missions. And even as an infant church, it was never too early to help out another church planter nearby. It is now 7 years as I am writing this bit of history, and today we support 30 missionaries! As our own needs have increased, so our missions involvement has increase. Just last month, we added a missionary family heading to Scotland.
Setting the tone..
In the summer of 2010, before we opened our doors as a (mission) church, NYSET (New York Summer Evangelistic Team) under the leadership of Bro Doug Lowery came to Jackson Heights for street evangelism. They helped us give out our opening day flyers aside from John-Romans booklets and Gospel tracts. That set the tone for what BBCJH is today. With the participation of BBC in Elmont and Faith Baptist in Corona during our early months, we handed out thousands of Gospel tracts and preached out on the streets. I think that was the best way to announce the birth of BBCJH.
Little Time is much When God is in it..
Searching for a meeting place two months before opening day is a little bit late. We were advised September was the best time to hold a first service. It was July and we just discovered College Point was not where God would have us to plant the church. Suddenly it seemed like Jackson Heights was the right place. Very diverse, multiple ethnicities, and no independent baptist presence (in other words no soul-winning church). There was one big problem, we had no meeting place. But God's hand was upon us. I remembered the Jewish center. Ideal location and hoped they would be willing to rent us time and space. I was initially turned down. But on our way out the President of the Jewish Center arrived and after five minutes, we had a meeting place every Sunday morning from 9:00 to 11:00. To top that, they gave us the first two Sundays free! We would remain at the Jewish Center for the ext 3 1/2 years before finding our current location. We started with $200.00/week, and by the time we moved, we were paying $2,000.00 for 16 hours spread throughout the month.
BBCJH is quite unique blessed with not one, not two, but three independent baptist churches sending me to plant an independent New Testament Baptist local church in New York City, specifically Jackson Heights in Queens. Bible Baptist Church in Cebu City (lovingly referred to as Katipunan church) under the leadership of Pastor Armie F. Jesalva. Baptist Bible Church in Manila (lovingly referred to as Sta. Mesa church) under the leadership of Pastor Boyd Lyons. Bible Baptist Church in Elmont, Long Island, New York under the leadership of Pastor James Barker. These three churches led by their respective pastors, authorized the establishment of BBCJH. One would have been enough, two a real blessing, but three makes it truly amazing!
Home Bible Study?
Initially the plan was to establish a home Bile study that would eventually lead to the establishment of a local church. But having realized that the Lord had called me to full time ministry, specifically to establish a New Testament local church, and with good advice from a seasoned New York independent Baptist church pastor, I decided to plant a church instead of just a home Bible study. Looking back, that was very good advice I received that led me in the right direction the Lord had planned all along. And so on September 12, 2010, our first Sunday morning service, we opened our doors to the community as a church (mission church).
Whitestone Baptist Church
Our history will have to include a word about initial plans to plant an independent Baptist church in College Point, Queens, just immediately north of the Whitestone Expressway. We thought we would name it Whitestone Baptist Church. Having become familiar with this community, and there being no independent Baptist church there, it seemed like the Lord was leading in that direction. We found a place to meet for services and we were just waiting for the fall (September 2010) to hold our first service, Lord willing. However, in July of 2010, I found out that another (Baptist) church had just opened its doors to the public. With this unexpected turn of events, I was advised to consider Jackson Heights also in Queens, were there was also no independent Baptist presence. Looking back, I am thankful for that "unexpected" hindrance because apparently, the Lord had Jackson Heights reserved for us.