GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The vision to start a Filipino-American work for church started with the inspiration from Arnold and Cora Villanueva in 2016. They were members of Philippine International Baptist Church located in Taylor. Arnold and Cora moved to Grand Rapids to start a Tim Horton’s franchise.
In October of 2016, Aaron and Nancy Tanap visited the Villanueva’s at their Tim Horton’s store in Kentwood/Grand Rapids. The Tanaps wanted to visit, pray and encourage them. There are a lot of challenges in starting your own business. It was at that visit, Arnold and Cora shared their desire to start a Filipino-American church in their new location. They felt that they needed help from a mentor and/or pastor in starting the new church start. Even with the challenges in starting a franchise, that didn’t prevent them from pursuing the desire God placed in their hearts to start a church that focused on Filipino/Americans.
The Tanaps were excited about their vision, and told Alex and Cora that they would share their desires with our church leaders and meet with them again soon. The Tanaps committed to pray, and over the next few months, kept in touch. They all were committing this to the Lord. Arnold and Cora started doing the groundwork, and began telling people about the possibility of a new Filipino/American church start. Because of their Tim Horton business, they found that they had the opportunity to meet people and connect with them.
Six months later, the Tanaps took the next step, and went through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) Church Planting Assessment process. Aaron worked with Dr. Tony Lynn, (Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM) State Director of Missions, Mike Durbin, BSCM State Director of Evangelism, and Dan Ghramm, his assigned Church Planting Catalyst.
The Bethlehem Baptist Church of Belleville, which Aaron helped start in 1999, and is currently pastoring, approved and allowed him to also help in the Grand Rapids new church work. The next 6 months, the Tanaps began to go to Grand Rapids every other Friday to help Arnold and Cora in laying the groundwork for a new church start. A year later, Aaron and Nancy were approved by the BSCM and North American Mission Board (NAMB) as a Church Planter. Their situation is unique in that they do not live in Grand Rapids, only go there twice-a-month, Arnold (mentee) has a full-time job, instead of Arnold being the Church Planter, Aaron functions as Church Planter even though he still pastors in Belleville. In spite of the uniqueness of the situation, the work has begun and continues presently.
The new church start hasn’t launched yet, but over the spring and summer, with much prayer and efforts, there are 15-24 regularly attending our Bible Study groups. So far, 4 have accepted Christ as personal Lord and Savior. The core group has met many couples, and most of the Filipino wives are married to Caucasian-Americans. They have expanded from meeting as a group at Arnold and Cora’s residence to now meeting in 3 home locations.
Aaron says, “During the year and a half of work here, we’ve seen exciting things! The people come and are eager to learn the Word of God.” They are teaching “Firm Foundations, from Creation to Christ. A few of the husbands are showing interest, and starting to come to the Bible studies. There are challenges as the enemy continually tries to hinder the work. But Aaron says that the Lord is greater than our enemy and that He is always with us.
Due to the unique situation of pastoring while trying to help lead a new church start, the Tanaps feel that the work would reach its full potential more quickly if there was a church leader who would have more time to lead the groups and live and work in Grand Rapids. They have committed to pray for that person. Until then, they continue to do the work, and trust and depend upon God because this is His work. It is a strong seed planted in Grand Rapids area and in the Lord’s time, a robust, vibrant group of believers will be established for God’s glory and honor until His return.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron Tanap and his wife, Nancy, have 3 children, Chrissy, Ivan, and Jourdane. They have 4 grandchildren. Aaron and Nancy live in Canton, Michigan where he has served as Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Belleville since 1999. The Tanaps also planted two churches in the Philippines. They are currently serving as Church Planters to help a new Filipino/American work in Grand Rapids.