Alumni/ae Couple Serving in the Philippines
Alex Aronis (M.Div. '63, D.Min. '80) and his wife, Carol Aronis (M.Div. '62) have served at a Philippine church three times in the past 30 years. Below is their story.
President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, during our first tour of duty in the Philippines. It was a horrible experience for the Philippine people. I was serving as a U. S. Navy chaplain in Subic Bay and our country was dealing with the final chapters of the Vietnam War. I had the privilege of ministering to our POWs when they came out of North Vietnam in 1973 during Operation Homecoming. Our men landed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines as their first stop on their way home. During those years in the Philippines, Carol and I learned to appreciate the amiable spirit of the Filipino people, and admired their spiritual, linguistic and musical depth and ability. We added a fourth child to our family by adopting a Philippine child in 1979.
Our second experience in the Philippines was from 1980 to 1985 when I served as pastor of Union Church of Manila. With the Philippine nation, we grieved on August 21, 1983, over the murder of Benigno Aquino when he was shot getting off of the jet airliner that had brought him back to Manila. Prayer rallies filled the streets of Makati, the business district in Manila where UCM is located. I had the privilege of sitting next to Cory Acquino and praying at one of the first massive peace rallies. Darrell Johnson, another Fuller grad who followed me at Union Church in 1986, was witness to the popular revolt that ousted the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. People Power I on February 25, 1986, was an incredible demonstration of and a subsequent model for a nonviolent revolution.
After serving Kenwood Baptist Church in Cincinnati for twelve years, Union Church of Manila asked me to return as interim senior pastor and Carol as the director of women's ministry. The church was in the process of moving into a larger, ten-story facility in November 2001 and needed help until a new senior pastor could be identified and called. (The search continues with few applicants despite the fact that this ministry is a rare, unknown jewel of immense opportunity. It provides ministry to the internationals and also key nationals in Manila. I would strongly encourage alumni/ae to apply. We have 1,100 worshippers on Sunday mornings. Check our web site at www.unionchurch.ph, or contact the chairman of the Senior Pastor Search Committee at email@example.com.)
On January 20, 2001, Carol and I were privileged to witness another mass demonstration of prayer and peaceful protest referred to as "People Power II," that resulted in the ousting of President Joseph Estrada. As I write, Estrada received a reprieve from indictment and possible arrest after the Supreme Court ordered prosecutors to wait until it had resolved with finality all legal questions on his ouster. Most everyone is expecting Estrada to be prosecuted on graft and plunder charges.
Before we accepted this most recent invitation to serve in the Philippines, our son, Steve, who is a deputy district attorney with crime on his mind, said to me, "Dad, I don't like the idea of you and mom going to the Philippines. It can be dangerous. What if they kidnap you?" I tried to reassure him, but when I telephoned him from a conference I was attending in Baltimore, Maryland, he repeated his concern.
At the conference I had been introduced to a Sister Rosario who had come all the way from Manila, and so I told Steve that I would ask her about kidnapping in the Philippines. I spotted her in one of the conference rooms, approached her, and asked "Sister Rosario, my wife and I are planning to go to Makati to serve a church. But my son is worried that we might be kidnapped. Is there any danger?"
She thought for a moment and said, "Well, sometimes there are kidnappings. But the gangs kidnap movie stars and good looking men." She looked fully into my face and said, "You have nothing to worry about." I conveyed the story to my son, and it seemed to satisfy him. He never brought the subject up again, apparently agreeing with Sister Rosario.
And so Carol and I are here, safe and secure and willing to serve, making it a total of ten years in the Philippines at the end of this year. We love the people and are humbled by the opportunity to be a part of a truly great church, the Union Church of Manila, and are strongly and prayerfully supportive of the new Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Please offer a prayer for us, for the future ministry of Union Church of Manila, and for President Arroyo and the enormous challenges she faces.