“I never thought it would be us”

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Church planting & multiplication

Rodel Balingit didn’t feel too excited when he visited a Bible study in the early days of Forever Community Church.

It was Mother’s Day 2021, Benjamin and Hilda Padua explained, when Rodel and his wife, Maryanne, came. She wanted him to go to the Bible study as part of the special day for moms.

Then the Balingits and the Paduas got a big surprise: the man decided to recommit to Christ during that very Bible study.

“He didn’t have a full grasp (of what Christ had done for him) until he came to our Bible study,” Hilda explained. Before, in the 1990s, someone shared the gospel with this man in the Philippines. Then, two decades later, at a Mother’s Day gathering of the new Converge church in Antioch, California, he had the opportunity to renew his commitment to Christ.

Almost right away, Rodel shared with the Paduas and the others that the Bible study should be a church. Actually, they told him, the Bible study was part of a church that was already forming.

“We want to be with you guys and be part of the church planting,” that man responded to the Paduas.

That was before Forever Community Church even started holding services in October. The church went to every-week services in December.

The Lord can use us even more

The Paduas moved to Antioch from San Francisco in 2007. They focused on the usual priorities: finding a new church to serve in, enjoying more frequent interactions with families and unpacking in their new home.

They joined Golden Hills Church in Brentwood, California, and became part of a thriving, growing community of Filipino-American believers. Benjamin was working for the United States Post Office after serving in the Air Force.

Hilda was continuing her career as well and they lived close to family again. Grandparents got to see grandchildren. Cousins got to play together. They could afford a home and had a wonderful church.

“Let’s face it, here in America, you couldn’t ask for a better set of circumstances,” Benjamin said.

Then, a couple of years ago, a few Filipino pastors talked with Benjamin about someone starting a new church for Filipinos.

Benjamin Padua more or less agreed for the need of a new Filipino church. However, he and Hilda were active in their church, helping lead a small group.

“I never thought it would be us (starting a church.) It didn’t even enter my mind,” he added.

During a few months in the summer of 2020, the Lord shared a challenging perspective with the Paduas.

“Is that the definition of blessed ― living a comfortable life?” Benjamin asked himself. “The Lord can use us even more. We’re called to the great commission, to the people that are still lost.”

As Hilda came to the same conclusion, the Paduas went to Converge’s assessment for church planters.

Related: Could you be a church planter?

They started talking with small group leaders and met one-on-one with families at Golden Hills. In addition, they spoke with leadership at the church throughout the process.

In the second half of 2020, about eight families, a couple of dozen people in all, joined the Paduas in starting a new church.

“They see the value of starting a Filipino church,” Hilda said. “They stayed on more than a year” until the launch in 2021.

God meets needs for new churches

Starting a new church takes a lot of work, a fair amount of equipment, plus new skills among a core team working together. Benjamin and Hilda knew they didn’t have all the abilities and knowledge.

Even so, God was ready to meet some of their needs.

In August, the Paduas hosted a worship service in their backyard. They had one guitar, one microphone and a speaker for the few dozen people at their home. Five visitors joined the core team. Then, their first worship service as Forever Community Church ended with a huge surprise.

One of those five visitors pledged to pay for a sound system, a gift of about $10,000.

“I’m going to cry now,” Hilda said as she retold the story at Unleash. “There’s so many things in the process that gave me the confirmation that this is the calling of the Lord.”

Another example of God’s provision came after the Paduas went to a Converge PacWest training session for church planters. They heard that church plants need to set aside money for social media.

Even before the Forever team budgeted those expenses, three people who work in social media and communications volunteered their skills. Now, the church uses Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the church has a quality website with a well-designed logo, videos and valuable content for church visitors and members.

Related: Building a better church website (Unfiltered church planting podcast episode)

“We’re just so overwhelmed with God’s favor,” Hilda said.

God’s favor helps them bear fruit

Psalm 44’s language of praising God for all time inspired the church’s name. The Paduas sense God’s call for them is to focus on people in challenging life situations so his glory increases.

“We both have a compassionate heart for the lost, of course, but (also) for the less-fortunate,” Benjamin said.

For example, Hilda knew Marvi, a woman raising her two children while living in a tent. The family support organization Safe Refuge for Children and Families connected with the Paduas. Safe Refuge could offer services to Marvi but they needed a Tagalog translator.

So, Hilda and Safe Refuge staff walked beside the Filipino woman until she and her two children found a home and obtained the particular services they needed.

“Those are the people that we have reached, people that are ignored by society,” Benjamin said. “I should do more than just hang out with people who are already Christians.”

After a year of friendship with the Paduas, Marvi surrendered her life to Christ. She’s now part of Forever Community Church.

“It’s a story of hope and redemption,” Hilda added.


Forever Community Church scheduled an outreach concert in May to share the gospel in a new way. The church invited Christian artists from the Philippines to lead an evangelistic outreach.

The friend of sinners is still making connections

That concert is one way the Paduas navigate the realities of their culture and make disciples. Five people have trusted Christ through Forever’s ministry.

Many Filipinos work in health care or family support positions, serving families with special needs children. Other people in their church community are seniors, who express so much gratitude for Forever’s social and spiritual interactions.

In Antioch’s Filipino community, the spiritual needs are nuanced. Some Filipinos understand the gospel while others are learning more about the work of Christ. The Paduas are thankful to be sharing Christ’s good news with everyone they meet, even those who are religious.

Benjamin has lived through that journey. He was in the Air Force serving overseas when someone shared about Christ. At first, Benjamin wasn’t interested because he was already religious. However, the person was eager to share and he agreed to listen for a few minutes.

“All of a sudden, my eyes were opened and I accepted the Lord as my savior,” Benjamin said.

Related: Lord, send me (a U.S. Air Force chaplain’s story)

He returned to California seven years later and a local church discipled him.

That’s what he hopes to offer others through a warm, friendly church.

“One of our strengths, Hilda and I, is relationship with the other men and women in the group. When they come in, we make sure they feel the genuine love we have for them,” Benjamin said. “The friendliness of the group is attracting nonbelievers and that is how they will keep coming.”

He and Hilda are patient, knowing the Lord will grow the church at a pace that pleases him.

“It takes a while for people to hear the gospel before they come to the Lord,” he said. “Later on, they will hear the gospel and be reached.”

Look down the road

Starting new churches is one of the best ways for more people to know Jesus as Lord. So, Converge’s 10 districts across the United States committed to deploying 312 church planters by 2026.

Related: See the Converge churches started since 2020

With the same spirit, the Paduas have optimism drawn from the works God has already started.

“I’m looking forward, five years down the road, 10 years, to what this church can be,” Benjamin said. “I’m looking to see that this church can be a refuge for the Filipino community. I see that down the road if we just remain faithful. I believe the Lord will continue to increase the numbers and people will come to the Lord.”

The Paduas’ confidence in God continues to grow, as does their eagerness for the opportunity to start a church that can become a multi-ethnic community. Although predominantly Filipino, the church does have people from other Asian nations and some from Anglo backgrounds.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do than this,” Benjamin said. “These are the people we can reach.”

Forever Community Church is one of 312 churches Converge’s 10 districts committed to plant before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn more about the goal to plant 312 churches in five years.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene