BELLVILLE, MI – It was always our hearts' desire to be able to do ministry in the United States or Canada. Most of my wife’s relatives live in Windsor, Canada or here in Michigan. We had heard that our Filipino Churches can use more pastors from the Philippines to do Church planting work and ministry.
For the first time, in 1993, our family tried applying for permanent residency in Canada. All of us, especially our kids, were so excited, but the excitement soon turned to sadness and gloom when we learned we had failed the consulate interview. So we said, though it is sad, we will wait on the Lord. While waiting on the Lord, we kept on keeping on, pouring ourselves into our church work, and focusing on the youth and couples, and winning others for Jesus.
After much consideration, prayers, preparation and the passionate encouragement of friends and relatives in the States, we went ahead and applied again in the spring of 1998, both in Canada and the United States. We learned from other peoples’ experiences that it is very difficult to get tourist visas to North America, especially when you bring all of the family. Coming from a third world country didn’t help either, so we needed a lot of prayers. Moreover, the thought of uprooting a whole family (Chrissy was 15 yrs. old, Ivan 13, and Jourdane 11) who had lived in the Philippines all their lives, and moving to the United States resulted in questions, some doubts, and fears.
It all happened as my brother-in-law was getting married, and they wanted Nancy to attend their wedding. At first, it was only Nancy who was coming, but she wanted me to go with her, then eventually we wanted our children to come, too. So in the end, we were doing what we wanted to do, 5 years before. First, we applied for a Canadian visa, we got approved. Then, we applied for a US Visa and got approved. In spite of the difficulty of our situation we were excited to say, USA here we come!
We set foot in the United States on April 25, 1998, landing in L.A, then Columbus, Ohio, and finally our destination, Detroit. It took us 3 layovers, 3 different planes, almost 20 hours of flying, to finally arrive in Michigan. We didn't care, we didn't mind, this is the United States of America and we had finally arrived. We were here!
Here in Michigan we found a home, and we found the work that God wanted us to do. We immediately connected with a Philippine International Baptist Church in Dearborn, and became actively involved in the ministry of that church. While serving PIBC, we started to pray and plan to do church planting in Canton, MI. With the prayers, support and help of PIBC, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Canton was launched, and on April of 1999 we held our first church service. That was one year after arriving in this country. Three years ago, Bethlehem moved from its original Canton location to Belleville, Michigan and last month, June 25, we celebrated our 18th Anniversary as a church. Indeed, the Lord has been faithful through the years, and the rest, as they say, is history.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron Tanap & his wife, Nancy have 3 children, Chrissy 34 yrs. old with three children; Ivan our son is 32 and Jourdane is 30. They live in Canton, Michigan, where he has served as Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Belleville, MI since 1999. The Tanaps also planted two churches in the Philippines, serving as an associate pastor and pastor there.