On December 17, 2006 the first Bible study was held during Edmund Ignacio’s birthday party in his home in Tucson. Those in attendance were Nick Subong, Alex Gregorios, and Reden Evarola and their wives and children. They met to discuss having Christian fellowship apart from the usual parties and sporting events. The conversation began with a question by Nick, “What is happiness?” They resolved to conduct a monthly Bible study at Fountain Plaza Apartments where most Filipinos working at Tucson Medical Center were based. It was decided Saturday would be the best day.
Prior to moving to the area, Edgar Zalamea (who was then in the UK) had contacted Pastor Joel Padilla from the Filipino American Baptist Church in Phoenix to inquire about a Tucson church. Upon arrival, Edgar learned about the home Bible study group. He contacted Pastor Joel again regarding the possibility of having a minister help establish a Filipino church in Tucson. Little did he know, Pastor Joel had been praying for an outreach in the area. The first Bible study with Pastor Joel Padilla took place in August of 2007. A Bible study at the apartments took place the following month.
On September 29, 2007, a worship service was held at Fountain Plaza Apartments. Approximately 15 members from the Filipino American Baptist Church of Phoenix came to support the outreach. Another 15 or more participants from Tucson were present. Those members were Rommel Caole, RJ Carlos (and his mother-in-law) the Reden Evarola Family, Ely Ferrer, the Edmund Ignacio Family, the Nick Subong Family, Chito and Gloria Tapia, Edgar Zalamea and a few visitors.
Soon after the first worship service, the group decided to conduct a weekly Bible study on Friday evenings instead of having a monthly Saturday fellowship. The location rotated between the member’s homes. The participants also took turns leading the study. Monthly worship services continued at Fountain Plaza Apartments or in member’s homes when the Plaza facilities were not available
The pioneers were determined to build an organized Filipino Christian Fellowship of Tucson. The group advertised in Oriental stores and aggressively invited everyone they knew or had contact with to attend. More people came to the Bible studies and worship services in the ensuing months. When Americans who married Filipinas began to join the group, Tyrone Smith suggested the name be changed to the Filipino – American Christian Fellowship of Tucson (FACF).
In June of 2008, the group requested Pastor Dave from the Christian Faith Fellowship of Tucson to allow the FACF to hold services in their facilities. Their board generously agreed. The move was driven by a need to have a large enough facility to hold the number of people attending the fellowship. It also paved the way for the formation of a children’s Sunday school.
During this time period, an e-mail was received from someone in Alaska requesting information about Filipino Christian ministry work in Tucson. Ely Ferrer replied to the e-mail detailing the FACF ministry activities and vision. He also mentioned the group had been praying for a pastor since the ministry was showing signs of rapid growth. At that point, the person revealed his identity. It was Pastor Joel Reyes.
Unknown to FACF members, Pastor Reyes and his wife, Beth, had been stirred by God to move to a warmer climate after serving the Lord for 14 years in chilly Alaska. It was no coincidence that FACF pioneers held the first Bible study fellowship at nearly the same time these two began feeling the need to move. God had answered prayer.
In September 2008, Pastor Joel Reyes and his wife, Beth, moved to Tucson and began attending the Bible studies and monthly worship services. The following month, he was asked to lead the Friday evening Bible studies. By November, the group had formally asked him to consider becoming the pastor of FACF. He readily accepted the challenge, even without paperwork or formal support.
Pastor Joel Reyes immediately began working with Pastor Joel Padilla from Phoenix to apply for church planting support from the Association of Southern Baptists Convention (ASBC). The request was approved.
In November 2008, Nick Subong had a conversation with the administrator of Rincon Baptist Church’s Li’l Bear Christian Preschool. He shared the ministry of FACF and the process of applying for affiliation with ASBC. Nick was subsequently directed to Pastor Gordon of Rincon Baptist Church. He warmly offered the facilities for use. The FACF members agreed to move from the Christian Faith Fellowship facilities to Rincon Baptist Church.
On January 10, 2009, Pastor Joel Reyes was officially installed as pastor of the Filipino – American Christian Fellowship of Tucson. Soon after the installation, worship services were moved to a weekly event. The single Bible study group expanded into four groups which met at various locations throughout the city. Special services were held on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Thanksgiving Day. A Christmas Party was magnificently held at the JW Marriott in Tucson on December 19, 2009. The first Christmas cantata was performed the next day on December 20. Encore presentations of the cantata took place at three assisted living homes.
God has blessed the Filipino – American Christian Fellowship. As long as we worship God and grow in our relationship with Him, we can expect an exciting future.