In 2013, former Bishop Dean Nelson ordained Pastor Marcos “Mark” Panahon at St. Matthew’s Church in Glendale. In September of that year, St. Matthew’s Filipino outreach community became an official ministry. St. Matthew’s senior pastor, Rev. Keith Barnwart, Jr., and the English Congregation of St. Matthew’s have accepted the Filipino Ministry with open hearts and minds as a part of St. Matthew’s Church, and its members are especially thankful to God and the synod for finding them a home where they have grown not only in the Fruit of the Spirit, but in numbers.
St. Matthew’s Filipino Ministry participates in God’s Work. Our Hands, and is active in several ministries both within and without the ELCA. Their first ministry is “The Tamale Man,” Miguel Aguilar. Miguel sells tamales and the proceeds go to El Centro Cristiano de las 99 Obejas, a ministry that assists orphans, special needs children, and the elderly in the heart of drug cartel territory in Juarez, Mexico. Along with donations of clothes, food, school supplies and toys, this ministry supplies housing to two homeless families in transition. The St. Matthew’s community has been able to help Brother Miguel by holding a yearly food and toy drive. Brother Miguel plans to open a new ministry in Tijuana, Mexico, and the Filipino Ministry has pledged to partner with him in that endeavor.
In addition, St. Matthew’s has a visitation ministry, fellowshipping with members of the ministry or their family and friends and encouraging them with God’s word, prayer, communion, and counsel. They also hold Saturday afternoon Home Bible study at members’ homes, attended not only by members but by friends and families of those members.
Their two annual outreaches are Christmas Caroling and the Gospel Concert. During Christmas Caroling they visit either friends or members of their ministry. They also sing at local businesses too, bringing not only the message of Jesus’ birth, but prayer and thanksgiving.
St. Matthew’s Filipino Ministry’s biggest outreach is their Gospel Concert. Their members and music ministry plan, organize, coordinate, and hold fund raisers as well as performing. The past two years, they have been blessed with the musical and vocal talents of Vertical Covenant and A.M.Y.O.U.RS. Because of this outreach, intern Pastor Davis Tadena and some members of Vertical Covenant and A.M.Y.O.U.R.S. have now formed their first Youth and Young Adult Group, meeting every Friday night for Bible Study and Fellowship. Their hope and prayer as a community is for their young people to be able not only to serve at church but also to be able to do outreaches. These would include activities such as sports, pizza nights, and other activities, enabling them to be witnesses to the outside community.
Blessed with a children’s ministry, the Filipino Ministry has Sunday child care (for infants to three years) and Sunday School for children from here to 13. The children learn to pray, sing songs, listen to God’s word, participate in arts and crafts and play games.
“St. Matthew’s Filipino Ministry is not solely for the Filipino community,” emphasizes Pastor Mark. “We are an open community that embraces ALL peoples. As part of our Mission Statement stipulates, ‘We are a house of prayer for all who seek the Lord.’ At St. Matthew’s Filipino Ministry, your race, gender, ethnicity, or age do not matter. What matters is a heart that desires to worship in truth and in spirit. We are a caring, loving, come-as-who-and-how-you-are kind of ministry. We believe that’s how Jesus loves us unconditionally. We are proud to be a part of a church family that does not discriminate, but has been made with the Lord’s blessing. The Lord united us, and no principality can divide us. To God be the glory! Amen and amen!”
“My name is Josie Buenaventura and I live in Los Angeles. I used to live in San Fernando Valley and I have attended masses at most Catholic Churches in the area: St. Genevieve’s Catholic Church at Roscoe Blvd., St. Elizabeth’s at Kittridge, St. Charles Borromeo’s at Lankershim Blvd, and The Holy Rosary Church at Vineland, just to name a few. When we moved to Los Angeles, the first thing I did was to look for a church close to where we live, a very important thing to consider since I don’t drive and depend on public transportation. So I found St. Agnes’ Church, St. Basil’s at Wilshire Blvd., St. Thomas Moore’s which is a walking distance from our house, and the most beautiful church in the area, the Holy Angel Cathedral in downtown LA.
“Then my sister introduced me to St. Matthew’s Church, a Lutheran Church in Glendale. At first I was hesitant to go. I kept telling myself, ‘I was born and raised as a Catholic and will die Catholic.’
“But then my logical mind told me to go and give it a try, as we all know that Catholics and Christians pray to only one GOD. The first thing I noticed when I started attending the service was the number of attendees. Because it’s just a small group, as compared to all the churches I’ve been to, I felt the closeness of each member. After the service, people have time to talk to one another, share stories, laugh, pray for one another, and eat together – things I never experienced in the other churches I have attended. I became close to everyone, and I felt a sense of belongingness.
“Going to St. Matthew’s takes most of my Sunday: since travel time by bus takes more than an hour, I need to leave the house at 11:00 a.m. so I won’t be late for the 12:30 p.m. service. By the time I get home, it almost 4:00 p.m. But I am not complaining, because I am happy, fulfilled in hearing God’s word – or maybe I enjoy praising GOD through music. When my mom visited us here in LA from the Philippines, and my auntie from Canada, we took them to St. Matthew’s and they felt the same way. A very welcoming church.”
“My name is Felix Tapongot. I am 57 years old, and a resident of Eagle Rock in Los Angeles. I was an active church member as well as a musician of the Eagle Rock Lutheran Church from 2009 – 2013, where I came to know Pastor Marcos.
“When Pastor Marcos left and was looking for a new church to continue his pastoral mission, I stayed in touch and would offer my musical services whenever needed. When St. Matthew’s Lutheran found him, I also found myself in the Glendale Filipino Ministry, along with other musician-members who followed and joined Pastor Marc.
“The reason is simple; it was the communion of people. People want to gather around every Sunday, or any other day, because we want to hear and learn more about God. We want to praise Him and be thankful for whatever trials and blessings that come in our daily lives. Pastor Marcos is not perfect in every thing he does, but his faith counts most. His heart, thoughts, and deeds speak of Christ. We are so blessed to have him as our Pastor, a leader, as a preacher and of course as a friend, in the fellowship of Jesus.”