By Sharon Mager
OXON HILL, Md.—Oxon Hill Baptist Church members celebrated their 75th anniversary at a special remembrance and praise dinner on Oct. 13. Members enjoyed looking back at how God has guided, shaped and reshaped their church
In 1943, while America was engaged in World War ll, a group of believers, led by John Culver, began meeting at a local school to start the church, never knowing how God would use their faith to raise an international ministry.
God grew the small church, and members built a sanctuary and purchased a parsonage in 1954. Many pastors provided leadership for short terms until Willard Spurlock began his ministry in 1988 and stayed for three decades before retiring in April 2018. The church called Pastor Ramon Jugo, with his wife, Hilda, as the senior pastor. Jugo had been serving as associate pastor of international ministries.
Jugo greeted visitors at the anniversary celebration followed by greetings from Anthony Minter, Prince George’s Baptist Association moderator.
In addition to special music, and a power point presentation, Deacon Doug Shue and Willard Spurlock gave some historical highlights. Others shared testimonies and remembrances and told how OHBC impacted their lives. Many of those who shared were Filipino teachers who came to the United States and were befriended by church members.
The Filipino ministry, a large part of Oxon Hill’s story and transformation, began with prayer. Like many churches, the community around the area gradually became ethnically diverse while the OHBC membership remained the same. By 2006, The 30-member congregation was Anglo, and most of them were at least 60 years old, but they had a passion for reaching the lost, and they didn’t want to remain static, so they asked God for wisdom.
The change began when a Filipino family began attending and then joined the church. They shared with the congregation about a Prince George’s County Schools’ initiative to bring Filipino teachers to the county due to a lack of locally available workers. The church began to consider reaching out to the teachers. As they researched a bit, the church discovered that the Filipino teachers were discouraged by the agency that handled their recruitment to bring their families when they first arrived. Also, they found that the teachers were ill-prepared for the cold weather and that many had little money, having spent thousands of dollars to increase their opportunities in the United States. Most of all, the teachers were lonely and needed to acclimate quickly.
The church sought a part-time language pastor and in 2007 called Jugo, with his wife Hilda, to lead an international ministry effort, assigning them the job of assisting the church in developing a plan to help the teachers. Under their leadership, the church organized a coat drive, and they collected other warm weather clothing and household goods. Volunteers sent out flyers, and 150 teachers responded, attending a giveaway event and they gratefully accepted all that was offered.
That was the beginning of some beautiful friendships. Many of the teachers began attending the church services and getting to know Oxon Hill members and bonding with them.
Later, when teachers were permitted to bring their families to the United States, Oxon Hill Church collected a “reunification fund” to help pay for airfare.
“This was a loan. We allowed them to pay it back over a period of 10 months without interest. By putting it back in the fund, it allowed us to help others,” Jugo explained.
Many of the family members also attended Oxon Hill Church, and the attendance soared to as high as 80. Several teachers and family members made professions of faith and were baptized.
Later, there was a significant Visa problem, and the schools were unable to renew the contracts with the teachers. The loss of their jobs was a crisis for them, but the congregation stood with the teachers, providing them support, friendship, and prayer as well as the use of the church building for meetings to discuss legal matters and to make plans for the future.
Through that incredible ministry and the church’s obedience in loving their neighbors, the church began a transition to what is now an international church, with Filipinos comprising two-thirds of the congregation.
John Gauger, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) Evangelism and Pastoral Connection Consultant, represented the convention at the celebration and shared greetings. Gauger said, “Filipinos are proud of their strong family structures. Moving to a different country and culture without their families was very hard on them,” he said.
Gauger said the transition from an Anglo congregation to Filipino seemed seamless and people from the two different cultures have blended well. “It was obvious at the celebration the love they have for each other,” he said.
The dinner included many of the teachers and their families sharing how God blessed them in and through the church. Even those who didn’t attend the church came to express their thankfulness.
“They particularly thanked Mrs. Hilda Jugo for her part in the distribution with terms of the greatest respect. They testified that Oxon Hill members were the first friends and their first sense of family in their new country. It was a community they could trust and very helpful for their transition to life in the US,” Gauger said.“
“The great thing about our 75th anniversary is that we’ve seen the church go through many cycles. People have come and gone,” Jugo said. The church showed a video that included photographs from the 60’s to the present. “You could see how the profile of the church has changed and how the work has continued through that change.
“That is an inspiration for us to press on with the faithfulness that previous members have shown.”