Editor’s Note: The Northwest Baptist Historical Society recently recognized the late Lemuel Onggao, a longtime pastor and church planting missionary in the Northwest, as a recipient of its 2018 Heritage Award. Onggao died in June 2018. Following is the society’s summary of his life and ministry.
PORTLAND, Ore. (Northwest Baptist Witness) — Lemuel Onggao was literally a “Christmas gift” — born to Vicente and Angeles Onggao on Dec. 25, 1947, in Davao City, Philippines.
The fourth of five children, he was talented and purposeful even as young child. Lemuel learned how to repair things with a sewing machine, and created toys out of seemingly useless items that were available.
Because of his parents’ commitment to Jesus Christ and to missions, Lemuel and his siblings became followers of Christ at early ages. All of the siblings continue to serve in mission work here in the Northwest and overseas, simultaneously.
Lemuel’s wife, Ina Onggao, currently serves as a Bible school director in the Philippines.
Their son, Jim Onggao, resides in Tacoma, Wash., where he continues to serve in the church his father initiated in 1993 at First Baptist Church, Parkland.
In the 1950s, due to the resurgence of Chinese nationalism, Southern Baptist Convention missionaries were forced to leave China. They were assigned temporarily to the Philippines while waiting a return to China.
Vicente Onggao, a new believer, heard about these missionaries on his island. He visited them and urged the missionaries work with Filipinos, since they were living on Philippine soil. After deliberating with the SBC’s Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board), the missionaries agreed to work with Vicente. They established the first SBC-related church in the southern Philippine Islands. This initial work became the catalyst for more than 150 churches today.
Involvement in new work and serving Christ with his family from the beginning became part of Lemuel’s character. Lemuel’s priorities were three-pronged in starting churches and ministries: faith, family and frontiers. All three were intertwined.
Lemuel used his musical gifts for ministry. As a boy, he acquired a trumpet through one of the SBC missionaries and became proficient in playing it. He and his younger brother, Jerry, took lessons and played music at various venues. At one point they won a musical contest while serving in various mission locations.
Lemuel attended and graduated from Philippines Baptist Theological Seminary with a bachelor of divinity. During his years there, he was a top student in music and conducted the seminary choir. He expanded mission opportunities through singing, playing trumpet, conducting, teaching and preaching.
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Source: Baptist Press