By Steve Bertel
Many church-planting pastors will agree that launching an upstart church in these times – getting the word out, organizing a staff, attracting and growing a congregation, even finding an affordable and suitable location in which to worship – can certainly be a daunting task, even with the Lord’s help.
It’s even more daunting when that church is located clear on the other side of the world.
That’s the challenge Roy Grimm and his wife, Joanne, undertook several years ago – faithfully following where the Lord led them.
On February 8, 2015, their Sunday School started with a group of rag-tag kids in a ramshackle bamboo house on a beach. Today, the Laoag Community Christian Church in the community of Cabangan, in the Zambales province of the Philippines, has more than 200 congregants, both adults and children, celebrating God’s grace and goodness several times a week in a brand-new, brick-and-mortar church. It’s also the sister church of the Ten Mile Community Church in south Meridian.
But let’s back up a bit.
Roy gave his heart to the Lord 42 years ago at a Billy Graham Crusade in Spokane, Washington. “I had listened to TV preachers, but many of them didn’t ring true to me. Billy Graham always did,” Roy says. He was living in Montana at the time and, when he heard Rev. Graham was coming to Spokane, he didn’t hesitate to take the six-hour drive to get there.
Years later, in the mid-’80s, Roy and his family moved to the Boise area and started attending Ten Mile Community Church in south Meridian, after being invited by a neighbor who was a long-standing member of the congregation. Roy eventually became one of Ten Mile’s deacons.
Professionally, he spent some thirty years in the semiconductor industry working for PerkinElmer, a major scientific instrument company, which later became ASML. Boise-based Micron was one of their first and biggest clients. Roy’s job as an engineering manager often took him overseas; he spent several years in Asia, particularly in Singapore and Taiwan. “In 2004, the church I was [temporarily] attending in Singapore did a mission trip to Cambodia,” he recalls, “And that’s what first put missionary work in my heart.”
Four years later, Roy was back in the States and riding his motorcycle along Interstate 84 near Nampa when a careless driver ran him off the highway. His bike slid, and Roy went tumbling across the pavement. His helmet saved his life. But it took months for Roy to recover from his injuries. “During that time, God helped me refocus, to think about what’s important in my life. Surely, relationships are important. But God is more important,” Roy states. “And I could feel Him calling me to ministry.” So he began taking online ministerial courses through the Moody Bible School.
Then came 2013. A dark time for Roy.
In March of that year, his 82-year-old mother died.
In June, his wife died. They had been married 35 years.
And in October, his only brother died.
“It’s hard to understand when God starts taking people out of your life one by one,” he said. “So I had arguments with Him, asking Him, ‘Why are you taking these people away from me?’ I prayed and yelled and prayed and yelled. And finally, God told me, ‘It’s my plan. My will. Not yours. I have a plan for your life.’ So it was definitely a test of my faith. I had to have faith to realize God knows what He’s doing.”
In 2014, Roy met with Ten Mile’s then-pastor Mark Canady. “I told him of my interest in becoming a missionary, and that I had a contact in Cambodia – a church-planting pastor.” So the church commissioned Roy as its first missionary to Asia.
“At age 60, I left my job, took an early retirement, moved to Cambodia, and began working with a Philippine missionary there,” Roy states. But because of the country’s Visa regulations, Roy – as a foreigner – was not allowed to stay in Cambodia more than six weeks at a time. “I had to leave the country every six weeks, then come back.”
So he built a little bamboo house for himself on the beach in Zambales, what Roy describes as “ … a ‘rest house’ in the Philippines, during the interim time when I couldn’t be in Cambodia – just a place to be when I wasn’t in the mission field.”
A year earlier, he had met Joanne, a Philippine Christian woman, online. They began exchanging texts, emails, and sharing their faith in God, to the point where they were soon writing each other “electronic love letters,” as Roy calls them. In December, 2013, the two finally met in person and, believing in their hearts that God had brought them together, were married two years later. Joanne then joined her husband in his Cambodian ministry and began sharing the little bamboo house on the beach in the Philippines.
“I was wanting a partner in the ministry, and God sent me Joanne! She’s the best partner I could ever have!” Roy beams.
But little did they realize at the time that their little bamboo house on the beach would soon become the springboard, the catalyst for their mission.
The Philippines is known for being predominantly Catholic. And rural. Or as Roy says, “The lifestyle is pretty basic; the living conditions are what we would consider poor by U.S. standards. No electricity. No running water. No indoor plumbing. Farming and fishing are the main economies. A lot of people raise their own meat and vegetables, or they own small fishing boats. They catch good ocean fish and sell them to local markets. But sometimes, the ocean waves are too big for them to go fishing.” Plus, the Philippines has a fairly young population; many are in their twenties and thirties. In fact, most of the people living in the community where Roy and Joanne settled haven’t yet reached their 60th birthday.
Living there, “We also noticed there were a lot of kids around,” Roy says. “They weren’t homeless kids or members of gangs, they just roamed the town and played in the dirt streets.”
Since there was no church in the area, Roy and Joanne felt God leading them to start a children’s Sunday School in their little bamboo house.
So they did.
“We prayed for forty kids to show up,” Roy recalls. “The first day, the Lord sent us sixty-three!”
Pretty soon, the children’s parents started coming as well. Then more. And more. And more. To the point where Roy and Joanne began thinking about expanding their Sunday School/Bible Study into a Christ-centered community church.
“God told me: ‘Build the church. Church body first, church building second,’” Roy remembers.
“We prayed about it a lot,” says Joanne. “We told people to spread the word and see if there was a lot or property we could buy to build a church.”
And their prayers were soon answered.
A Catholic woman who lived in Manila had property for sale in their community, listed for one million pesos, about $20,000 in U.S. money. “She had received a full cash offer from someone who wanted to buy her property but, after talking with one of the ladies in our congregation, she said ‘I want this to be for the church.’ A lot of people thought she was crazy for turning down that cash offer,” Joanne recalls.
“So, between our savings and donations, we bought the lot for 450,000 pesos – about $9,000,” Roy adds.
Excited by the prospects, the couple came to the United States and started raising money for a building fund.
But donations only trickled in.
“So we thought, ‘Well, God wants us to build a church, but maybe just not now. We don’t have the money or the resources. We’ll let God do it when He wants to,’” Joanne says. Then, one day, she had a vision. “I was sitting in my living room when I saw silhouettes of people – their heads bowed – shackled by chains at their necks, wrists, and ankles – walking slowly down the street where we wanted to build the church. But there was no building there. Just the lot. Then the people turned, walked onto the property and, as soon as they did, everything became bright! Their chains were broken! After that, I knew God wanted us to build a church.”
As Roy explains, “I estimated the building would cost us about $60,000. We had about $20,000 on hand, mainly from savings and the people at Ten Mile. So we went forward with the project because we felt that’s where God was leading us. Me of ‘little faith,’ I figured we would go as far as we could with the $20,000. If we ran out of money, we would simply lay everybody off and wait until more money was raised.”
But God had different plans.
“The building of the church was truly a miracle upon miracle,” Roy points out. “Our next-door neighbor was a building contractor who lived right across the street from the lot where the church was going to be. He offered to be our contractor – at a reduced rate. He said, ‘If I’m going to be looking at that building from my balcony every day, it’s going to be pretty!’
“And God never stopped providing. Donations then started coming in that allowed us to continue building, and to cover all the costs of materials and labor. We never had to stop construction or borrow money or wait for donations every week. We never missed a labor payment. God always supplied.”
What’s more, being a tight-knit community, the construction workers were all local; many had children who attended the Grimms’ Sunday School. “So even before it was built, the church was already helping the community, providing the workers with wages every week. It was a big help to their families,” Roy says. (Today, many of the workers and their families still attend the church.)
Seven months later, in November, 2019, construction was finished. And the brand-new Laoag Community Christian Church opened its doors.
Today, services are held every Sunday morning, livestreamed on Facebook, with a meal thereafter served by the church’s kitchen volunteers. “Our meals consist of comfort foods like stir fry, hot soup, porridge, noodles, even sometimes spaghetti,” Joanne points out. “For some people, it’s their only hot meal of the day.”
Roy adds, “We’ve even had some people come to church simply because they were hungry.”
Helped by Assistant Pastor Ramon Lacbain II – “who does the preaching and holds down the fort when we’re gone,” Roy says – the church offers a slew of outreach and ministry programs, including going into local schools. Even though the Philippines has a church/state separation, it’s more lax than the United States’, with Philippine school administrators realizing the benefits of Christian studies. “Teachers came to us, asking if we could teach the Bible in two local schools,” recalls Joanne. “When they saw their students’ grades improving as a result, they invited us to teach every week during recess. So now, we’re ministering to some 180 children from first to seventh grades. It’s interesting the way God works!”
The church has also organized community feeding and clothing distribution programs, provides school supplies and medical needs to the community, and even holds semi-annual ocean baptisms.
On June 14, 2023, the LCCC went one step further, holding a mass wedding for nineteen area couples. “Our evangelism teams went out into the community and identified couples who had been living in common-law marriages or who had never been married before, because they either didn’t want to go through all the paperwork or they simply didn’t have the money to get married,” Roy explains. “We brought them to the Lord, baptized them, and invited them to the wedding ceremony.”
The church picked up the tab for everything, to the tune of some $2,500. “We provided fitted wedding gowns for the brides – each with a different design; we sized the wedding rings for each couple; and our worship team members were the groomsmen, bridesmaids, ring bearers, and flower girls,” Joanne states. “Of course, many of the couples came with their own kids, since they had been living together for twenty years or more.”
“A lot of the couples who were married in the mass wedding are now coming to church every Sunday,” Roy points out. “I’m encouraged with the direction and especially the enthusiasm of all these young people.”
What does he see for the future of the church? “We’re still growing. We’re still a young church, but I think the future is very bright,” Roy says. “It’s encouraging to see some of the kids we had in Sunday School back in 2015 who were then thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old and are now in the twenties and thirties, some with their own families, and very active in our church.”
He goes on, “I’m reminded of Romans 10:14 where it says: “But before people can trust in the Lord for help, they must believe in Him. And before they can believe in the Lord, they must hear about Him. And for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them.” (From the International Children’s Bible)
Reflecting on what God has done so far in his life, Roy says, “As a missionary, I’m now able to have a big impact in a foreign country. I’m not sure how God is going to continue working it all out, but it’s very nice to be a part of it.”
[Publisher’s note: The day after this issue of Christian Living Magazine went to
press, we received an email from Pastor Roy Grimm saying that Associate Pastor
Ramon Lacbain II of the Laoag Community Christian Church suddenly and expectedly
went home to be with the Lord.
We at Christian Living Magazine are keeping Pastor Grimm, his family, and his entire
LCCC church family in our thoughts and prayers – and are praying for the church as it
learns to adjust to God’s new plan.]
You can find more about the Laoag Community Christian Church on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/LaoagChurch.
And you can donate to the Laoag Community Christian Church through the Ten Mile Community Church in south Meridian. Go to TMCC’s missionary support link at https://tmcc.churchcenter.com/giving/to/missionary-support; or give to the church directly at Ten Mile Community Church, 4440 E. Columbia Road, Meridian, ID 83642.
Steve Bertel is a multi-award-winning professional radio, television, print media, and social media journalist, who retired after a 30-year broadcasting career. Now a busy freelance writer, he recently released his debut suspense novel, “Dolphins of an Unjust Sea,” available on both Amazon and Kindle. Steve and his wife of 41 years live in Meridian, Idaho. He can be reached at [email protected].