Featured: I am a United Methodist! Ruby Ramos Bago, Fresno (Calif.) Christian Fellowship
I am a United Methodist! Ruby Ramos Bago, Fresno (Calif.) Christian Fellowship
At age 7, Ruby Ramos Bago was a girl on a mission.
"I learned early on," she says, "there is an overflowing joy serving God." As a little girl, she went around the neighborhood "collecting rice to take to the parsonage as an additional support for the pastor."
Bago's grandparents founded a Methodist congregation in the Philippines. "I grew up in the United Methodist church in the barrio of Muzon, Malabon," she recalls. When her family immigrated to the United States, her parents became pillars of Fresno Christian Fellowship, the first Filipino United Methodist church in Fresno, Calif.
Her parents were excellent role models, Bago says, "as active leaders of our church. My parents welcomed and hosted deaconesses to stay in our humble house, summer after summer and on weekends. It was my family's way of life — the Methodist way."
Their example made an impact on young Bago.
"The church helped me develop my leadership skills and cultivated my creativity," she explains. "Through the church, I developed my people skills."
When financial issues threatened closure of Fresno Christian Fellowship and the congregation could not pay a pastor, Bago stepped in.
"As the lay leader of the church and certified lay servant," she says, "I was preaching two to three Sundays a month. I worked with the district superintendent and the cabinet. I got the congregation engaged to own the ministry of the church."
Her efforts reaped rewards.
A passion for church planting
Today, Fellowship has a part-time pastor and "is on the right direction of being vital," Bago reports. "As we create the culture of vitality, we are developing people and strengthening relationships internally to build bridges in the community." She recently completed a Discipleship Ministries (General Board of Discipleship) Path 1 New Church Starts course. "'The Trailhead'," she says, "helped me solidify my passion for church planting."
Bago's involvement goes beyond the local church, as she serves as district lay leader and on the California-Nevada Annual Conference core team. The former president of the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists (NAFAUM) is the national chair of the organization's Paglago, also known as "The Vitality Commission." On the conference level, she serves on the Board of Laity and the "Healthy Boundaries" training team for clergy and chairs the Committee on Filipino American Ministry. She is also a member of the advisory committee to the Asian Language Ministry of the General Board of Global Ministries.
She received a Bishop's Award during the June 2013 annual conference session. The award honors laypeople who demonstrate outstanding service both within and beyond their local church.
Bago's heart for ministry also reaches into the community. She coordinated health-screening events and classes and initiated a local Toys for Tots project for underserved children to receive Christmas gifts.
To Bago, connectionalism is United Methodism's greatest asset. She notes positive signs as the denomination acknowledges the work of the laity and becomes more culturally sensitive. She would like to see more United Methodists claim their Wesleyan heritage, live out the mission of the gospel with emphasis on young people and create new ways of witnessing to the community.
"If we want the denomination to change," she says, "we need to empower the laity. The change will require a lot of hands-on cultivation and shifting."