Pinoy Christian group reopens London church after fire

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Jan 08 2010 01:08 PM | Updated as of Jan 09 2010 01:48 AM

LONDON - A church owned by a Filipino-Christian group has reopened for service after a year of reconstruction following a devastating fire in 2008.

Formerly known as the Shepherds Bush Tabernacle, the church in West London is the home of The Great Commission Ministry (GCM), an evangelical Christian organization led by Filipinos.

In July 2008, a fire that started from a neighboring hostel ravaged the church, just two months after GCM purchased the building from its Baptist owners for £1.1 million. The ministry rented the property for 12 years prior to its acquisition.

The rebuilding project, which cost approximately £2 million, took over a year to complete, and was covered entirely by the building insurance. The renewed church is now worth an estimated £3.5 million.

“We’re still trying to fathom what God really has done,” said Daniel Makonnen, director and facility manager at the GCM, who managed the reconstruction.

He added: “It is an Old Testament miracle. This is one of those miracles that God has done. We came into a position where the fire came, and here we are in a better position, and all the issues of the church [building] have been dealt with.”

Hundreds of GCM supporters attended the reopening, with a program of events including Sunday service, performances, presentations, dinner party, worship, and a tour of the building.

“It really is very important for us to come back to this church so we could fulfill all the plans and purposes that God has given to us as a ministry,” explained Josefina Bolor, a leading pastor at the GCM.

She continued: “The congregation is really happy. It’s their home, and they just enjoy being back.”

The ministry received positive response from its members, including regular churchgoer Felix Perez from East London, who said: “One thing I like about the church is that it’s modernized, and all the rooms are now accessible. I think it’s one of the best Filipino churches we have. We’re really proud of it.”

He added: “Every time you visit the church, you feel a sense that this is our church. This is a place where people can find peace, sanctuary, help, and friendly people are always here. You can always find someone to talk to in this place.”

The Great Commission Ministry is an international Christian organization with churches around the world, including Britain, Spain, France and the Philippines. Founded by Filipino pastors in London at the end of the 20th century, it continues to grow as a devoted religious flock of Filipinos and other nationalities.