NAMB honors Garay as Asian church planter
    March 24 2010 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

    ATLANTA, Ga. — Baptist State Convention (BSC) staffer Ralph Garay has been named “Asian Church Planting Missionary of the Year” by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board (NAMB) for his role in planting 25 new Asian churches across North Carolina during 2009.


    Garay, Asian church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention, received the award during the recent NAMB-sponsored 2010 Church Planting Missionary Forum. A native of the Philippines, Garay earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Anna Lynn, and their two sons, Paulo and Philippe, immigrated to the United States in 1995. He was pastor of a Filipino-American church in San Diego, Calif., for 11 years before joining the Convention staff in 2006.


    As one of the Convention’s five church planting consultants, Garay helps oversee the work of more than 40 Asian church planters who are in some phase of church planting as they partner with the Convention, associations and local churches. His work centers on visiting the planters as coach, trainer, teacher, cheerleader and accountability agent.


    Photo by John Swain

    Ralph Garay, center, Asian church planting consultant and a member of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina church planting staff since 2006, was named “Asian Church Planting Missionary of the Year” during the North American Mission Board’s 2010 Church Planting Missionary Forum in Atlanta Feb. 24-27. Presenting the award to Garay was Ken Weathersby, right, vice president-church planting for NAMB, and Van Kicklighter, left, NAMB’s church planting team leader for strategic planning and people groups.

    “With 234 different language groups now in North Carolina, Ralph’s strategic thinking ability is a valuable asset to effective church planting in our state,” said Mark Gray, church planting team leader. 


    The 25 new Asian churches started during 2009 include about as many language/culture groups, reflecting the fact that Asians are one of the fastest growing minorities in both the United States and North Carolina. Asians make up one very diverse element in the Convention’s church planting ministry, which started 98 new churches during 2009. 


    That equates to a new church being started somewhere in the state every three or four days on average. North Carolina Baptists support this ministry through their Cooperative Program giving and gifts to the North Carolina Missions Offering. Some 150 church planters and their support teams involved in planting new churches made more than 176,000 evangelistic visits and led more than 2,300 people to faith in Christ during 2009. The church planting ministry is one of the Convention’s biggest and most successful evangelistic efforts; since more than 90 percent of the churches started grow into self-supporting churches and will continue to reach people for years, it is also one of the Convention’s most enduring ministries.


    Asians include many language/culture/nationality backgrounds but also represent a wide range of income and educational levels, Garay said. He said Asians in the state include very poor refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Some Asians may operate hot dog stands or clean houses, he said.


    “But not all Asians are poor. For example, Asian Indians own and operate many of the hotels along North Carolina interstate highways. Chinese or Koreans are often students or have well-paying jobs in the Research Triangle Park. Filipinos often serve in nursing or other parts of the medical field,” Garay said.


    Asians have brought their religions with them. Several Hindu temples now stand in Cary and Charlotte; Buddhist centers are now open in Greensboro.
But for Asians who accept Christ as Savior, the differences in their lives can be immense and immediate. For example, Hmong people from Laos try to buy farms so they can raise animals to sacrifice, as a way to appease the animistic spirits who they believe might otherwise bring illness or misfortune. Once they come to understand that Jesus Christ is the ultimate high priest who sacrificed Himself for those who accept Him, they are able to set down a very heavy spiritual burden.


    Although he works out of the Baptist State Convention office in Cary, Garay spends much of his week on the road as he visits the widely scattered planters, driving some 30,000 miles a year in the process. 


    Known for his soft-spoken, understated demeanor and hard work, Garay is quick to credit the hard-working church planters and their families, as well as fellow Convention staffers, associational staffs and others involved.   “I received this award for everyone involved,” he said.


    He marvels that God keeps raising up new church planters from so many other countries here in North Carolina. 

    “But we keep praying for the Lord of the Harvest to send them, so we should not be surprised.  We should anticipate that God will respond and help us in His work,” Garay said.
    3/24/2010 6:09:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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