A group of believers who met and worshiped together extended an invitation for me to serve with them as pastor. They were remnants of what used to be International Baptist Church, about forty of them inclusive of the children. After times of prayer for the Lord’s leading, while yet serving as pastor in Manila, Philippines, my family and I packed our bags and headed to Houston in January 2004. The church co-rented worship space with a Hispanic congregation in a commercial strip at Cherry Park by SH6. Elder Frank Tebio led in the re-incorporation of the group as International Baptist Church of Houston (IBCH). After a few months we decided to lease and build our own space at FM 1960 so we could worship in the morning. This decision resulted in immediate growth and we baptized twenty-three adults at one time.
In 2005 we began our building campaign and prayed for our own property. By the third year of our stay at FM 1960, we added space for worship when the congregation reached over one hundred. Since the three year lease agreement was expiring, we made a decision to move to another commercial space at West Little York, close to SH6. Providing much of the labor, the members practically built the 7,800 square foot church worship facility. We were about two hundred by the time the three-year lease contract ended. With architecture and engineering plans approved, and financing on a positive track, we were ready to build on a three-acre lot adjacent to the space we were renting. But the Lord had something much better.
Out of the blue our realtor came up with another option that was too good to ignore. This property was suddenly available on amazingly affordable terms – three and a half acres, a building in very good condition, low interest five-year financing by owner, over a million dollars less expensive than the initial plan, and excellently situated. We promptly shifted gears and in just two meetings with the owner, the deal was closed. We moved into this beautiful campus on September 1, 2010. Again, the congregation worked with their hands to do the cleaning, repainting, some minor repairing, and landscaping. We held our first worship on September 5. On September 6, Monday, as we concluded the cleaning at about six in the evening, we rushed outside to see a rainbow which perfectly arched the church’s steeple. That day happened to be my birthday.
We adopted ‘Willow River Church’ as the name that will represent us. We recently completed three years on this campus. To this day I am still amazed at how the Lord brought us to this place, considering our resources that are barely able to make ends meet. I still recall the statement that made the previous owner, St. Cuthbert Episcopal Church, to agree to sell the property to us. When asked how we could pay for the property considering our meager finances, the Lord instantaneously gave these words to tell them: “The strength of our church is not in the numbers; it is in the heart of our members.” They smiled upon hearing it and asked me to repeat. We closed the meeting in prayer and went home. Two hours later our realtor called to tell us that the owner has agreed to the sale. Thus, after seven years of renting space, we landed in this beautiful place. Truly the Lord is amazing!
We believe God has a beautiful plan of growing this church. Otherwise, He would not have brought us to this place in just seven years. Another reason we believe this, is because of some other events that diverted our focus. These include individuals who tend to overlook proper polity governance, a few who taught things inconsistent with the Scripture or have engaged in unacceptable activities, to the discouragement of some. Some have gone to pursue personal desires to do ministry apart from the church. Currently, about two hundred are in the church roll. Our immediate goal is to reach three hundred of faithful membership for a more expansive ministry. We believe that God allowed those things to happen for the good of the church (Romans 8:28).
God is gracious and faithful. Contrary to forecast, we are still here, able to sustain the ministry. New people have joined our church, all of whom are selfless and dedicated servants. We now have a stronger faith and desire to grow deeper in our relationship with God. Our services are inspiring. We have embarked on an extensive and intensive discipleship program. The Council is fresh, youthful, positive and affirming that our meetings are usually fun times of working together. The church is happier and more relaxed with everyone contributing his or her effort without counting costs. We abide by Christ’s teaching to not judge one another and instead love and care for one another. Clearly, Willow River Church has become a place of grace. Praise the Lord!