Dr. Don Paauw (1926-2013) and the Reformation in the Philippines


The resurgence of the Reformed Christian faith in the Philippines can be traced back to a great man of faith, Dr. Donald Jack Paauw, who went to be with our Lord Jesus Christ on February 5, 2013.

Donald Paauw Memorial 1
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We here in the Philippines offer our heartfelt condolences and gratitude to—and share in the joy of—all his family and friends. In January 2000, a month before his 74th birthday, he traveled halfway around the world (about 18 hours) and endured jet lag to share his faith and encourage the budding Reformed movement in the Philippines.

He gave Rev. Vic Bernales and I initial thoughts about going to his beloved Westminster Seminary, where he served as Board member for 18 years, to start the ministry in Davao City.

Here’s an excerpt from “A Brief History of the United Covenant Reformed Church – Davao City”

January 1999. Nollie and Evelyn Malabuyo, missionaries of Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT), start a home Bible study series on Reformed doctrines of grace, because they couldn’t find a truly Reformed, paedobaptist church in Davao City. The Bible study group started with 10 people, including one other WBT missionary, Bob Sterner (OPC).

Fall (September) 1999. Dr. Don Paauw and Trinity United Reformed Church (TURC) of Walnut Creek, CA, through David and Irma Crow, Evelyn’s sister and brother-in-law, start supporting the group with Reformed literature. Vic Bernales, Pete Dimaya, and Nollie Malabuyo decide to start meeting for worship on Sunday mornings.

January 2000. Dr. Don Paauw visits Davao City, encouraging the group to persevere in their studies and fellowship, and to conduct meetings and Bible studies. The group’s leaders ask the TURC council to place the mission church under its supervision.

January 23, 2000. The congregation of [Davao Covenant Reformed Church] conducts its inaugural Sunday morning worship service, with Dr. Paauw as the exhorter. About 100 people attended. Worship services were conducted almost exclusively in English, and were patterned after TURC’s liturgy. During Dr. Paauw’s visit, Vic Bernales agrees to apply to Westminster Theological Seminary in California to study to become the Minister of the Word of the Davao church. Throughout the year, four men alternated leading and exhorting: Mr. Bernales, Mr. Dimaya, Mr. Malabuyo, and Mr. Sterner. The number of Visayan-speaking attendees increased gradually, including two former Baptist lay pastors.

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In a sermon I preached on the 10th anniversary of UCRC Davao in January 2010, “The Unshakable Church”, I briefly mentioned his part in the formation of the church:

Dr. Don Paauw, then an elder of Trinity United Reformed Church in Walnut Creek, California, came for that first worship service on January 23, 2000 at a small room at Faith Academy, a school for missionary children. He preached on the theme, “What Do You Think of Christ?” based on Matthew 16:13-20. This was the beginning of a long-term relationship between DUCRC and TURC, which has faithfully supported the young church ever since.

From these obscure beginnings in the southern Philippines, confessional Reformed Christian faith made its way throughout the whole country. Our Sovereign Lord has graciously and mercifully used Dr. Don Paauw for just this purpose which He decreed before the creation of the world.


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