Last year Old Town Community Church sent 72 backpacks full of school supplies to the Philippines. This year, they are sending 500.
“Knapsacks are an instrument to show us that we are capable of loving and reaching them, and an opportunity for us to share God’s love with them,” Irene Achacoso told Baptist Press (BP). She is the wife of Alex Achacoso, pastor of Old Town since he founded the church as a Filipino congregation in 1993.
In the years that followed, the neighborhood and the congregation of about 80 people attending Sunday morning worship became home to people from many countries: Africa, Brazil, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, and “even Texas. “, executive pastor. Don Biadog said BP.
The multi-ethnic expansion of the Old City community may be due to the church’s active missionary programs. His pantry operates three times a week and distributes about half a million pounds of food a year, Biadog said. There is a continued emphasis on reaching children with the gospel. And earlier this year, the church hosted 82 Ukrainian refugees for two weeks.
“Given the success of the backpacks last year – several children were saved – we decided to do it again this year,” said Achacoso.
The original goal this year was 327 backpacks, but with the response as word spread in the community, the goal grew to 500 “or more,” said the pastor’s wife who led the fundraising campaign.
“What inspired us, we saw how people reacted when we needed help for Ukrainians,” she continued. “We contacted a lot of people here. It’s our way of doing things: reaching out to people, letting them know that we love them and that we want them to know that God loves them.
Life can be tough on the Philippine archipelago, a group or “chain” of more than 7,100 islands. Last year, the backpacks went to the islands of Leyte and Samar, which have yet to recover from Category 5 Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.
“In the Philippines, there are a lot of children in small towns where there is a lot of poverty,” Achacoso said. “It’s hard to pay the rent, the food, the slippers, to buy a basketball. I just feel there is a need now, right now, for backpacks and school supplies. here [Old Town Community Church] we focus on the ministry of education, and I think a lot of people want to support that.
Last year, the backpacks went to Pastor Silas Felongco of Tanauan Community Church in Leyte, near the center of the archipelago. This is the church where Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Disaster Relief volunteers stayed for over a month after the typhoon, doing rescue and recovery. Felongco will lead a multi-church distribution of the backpacks this year.
“We are very grateful for these backpacks and school supplies,” Felongco told BP. “I am happy to share with you that many of the children receiving them have put their faith in Jesus as a result, and they are now learning to walk with Jesus every day.
“Pastors from other islands have asked me how they could get backpacks this year, so it’s a blessing to hear there are so many,” the pastor continued. “We pray that God will use them to bring joy to children and bring them closer to him and his ways.”
Donations of money, school supplies, bibles, hygiene items and more have been received for this year’s backpacking project at the Old Town Community Church. Many came from the local community, as well as from five churches in Southern California and one in Rhode Island. The other churches are all connections Biadog made during 30 years as a Navy chaplain.
It was Biadog who learned at the 2021 SBC annual meeting of NAMB’s Send Relief Backpack Day, and saw the backpacks given to him as another mission opportunity. Biadog came up with the goal of 327 backpacks after reading Proverbs 3:27, “Do not refuse good to those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”
Backpack Day is a Send Relief program that saw 913 churches sign up to participate this year, Josh Benton said BP. Benton is Vice President of Send Relief for NAMB.
“We provided a total of 61,056 backpacks to help churches with their backpack projects,” Benton said. “Many provide backpacks and school supplies to children whose families cannot afford to do so on their own. However, others will use the backpacks to help children into foster care, or to provide food to those in need, or to help people in women and family shelters.
A downloadable guide from the Backpacking Ministry has ideas and offers advice on all of these options and more. A promotional kit helps churches encourage participation.
But by the time Biadog asked this year, there were no Send Relief backpacks left of the 60,000 Send Relief ordered. He turned to dollardays.coman online resource with wholesale pricing, where he found 19-inch backpacks for $5.84 each, in a case of 24.
“We are not a very big church, but despite being a very small church, we are very involved,” said the pastor’s wife. “We have outreach, supporting children, we have been doing food pantries three days a week for over 10 years.
“We love to do ministry,” Achacoso said. “The passion is there. There is a need for the community. It’s a way of telling people that we are there for them, that God is there for them.
“It’s about sharing the gospel with them,” continued the pastor’s wife. “I think we’re pretty lucky to have all these people who want to reach out and share.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)