NASHVILLE (BRN) – In 1953, the International Mission Board, then known as the Foreign Mission Board, sent their first missionary to the northern part of the Philippines. From that initial connection, came a ministry that grew and a family that came to know and serve the Lord.

As the years went by, one of the sons from that family followed a call into ministry. Being faithful to God’s call on his life and his people, he planted his first church in the Philippines in 1972.

Building up his church with the Word of God, this shepherd passed along timeless lessons to his congregation, including the youth.

One of the young people reached out to a high school friend and invited him to a Bible study at the church. The friend was intrigued by the Word and kept attending. Time and time again this young boy kept attending, until in 1985 he officially made the decision to follow Christ.

Six years later, in 1991, after completing seminary, this young man went back to the church where he first heard the gospel and served as their intern pastor. Two years later, he transitioned into being the church’s senior pastor, a position that enabled him to not only share the gospel with his church family, but also his biological family, who, at the time, were not believers.

From the lips of an international missionary to the boldness of a friend, the impact of God’s love through relationships has been no stranger to Rev. Peter Yanes.

Now serving as the Executive Director for Asian American Relations and Mobilization for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, Yanes continues to see God unite people through the sweetness of His good news.

“We might be so diverse in terms of, you know, culture, language, immigration, history, but we’re very much committed and one heartbeat to the Great Commission. So, the Great Commission is the one really bringing us together,” said Yanes.

Yanes joined the SBC’s executive committee in 2019, after the convention took notice of the work he was doing with ethnic churches at the state level.

“The Southern Baptist Convention executive committee reached out to me directly, actually, and said, ‘Are you interested in serving as the Asian American executive director for the Southern Baptist Convention?’ and I missed the call,” shared Yanes.

“They left a message and I called back, so that’s the conversation right away. [They] said, ‘Pray about it, but, you know what, submit your resume.’”

During his years at the state level, Yanes was very active within the Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptist Convention as he served as a church planter in the Philadelphia and Atlantic City areas. He also worked as church planting catalyst, an interim senior pastor, and the first ethnic president for the Pennsylvania/South Jersey state convention.

“Pennsylvania convention has a special place in Irene,myself and my two children, because it’s the very first state that we moved in and started a family,” said Yanes.

He continued: “I got a chance of representing our state convention to other national meetings and [I] take pride in how Pennsylvania convention is very diverse. It’s where diversity is welcome [and] celebrated, diversity is very much a part of who we are in Pennsylvania. So, that’s one thing, you know, Pennsylvania convention/BRN is very unique and I think we’re leading the way in terms of diversity.”

While a part of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, Yanes served as the convention’s first ethnic president.

Prior to his current role with the SBC executive committee, Yanes served at the national level as well, taking on the role of a catalytic language missionary for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

Now, as the executive director for Asian American Relations, Yanes works to foster healthy relationships amongst ethnic churches within the SBC as well as be a voice for them at the national level.

“The current ministry we have right now is we see to it that everyone has a voice, everyone has a seat at the table, [and] everyone can participate. If we will do this, and grow together, we can accomplish more,” shared Yanes.

Presently, the SBC has 32-35 different ethnic networks, these including Haitian, Slavic, African American, and Asian ethnicities.

“SBC, for one, is one of the very diverse [denominations], comparing it to other evangelical denominations. In fact, I was the one who led the study of tracking diversity for [the] Southern Baptist Convention since 1990 to 2018,” said Yanes.

Through his years of tracking, Yanes found that in 1999 two out of ten SBC churches were ethnic minority churches. That number has since increased to eight out of ten churches.

“We might not be talking about it all the time [and] we might not be getting all of the information to every pastor and to every local church, but the reality is the different ethnicity and affinity group[s] are within the SBC family.”

Yanes continued: “So, to expand that and to translate that into a way that would take advantage of the propagation of the gospel – we did it to really engage all of those ethnic churches and all of those from different cultural background[s]. Not only to involve what we do, but [to] take part of the missional cooperation from a local standpoint to the national Southern Baptist Convention, because we need each other.”

From his earliest days, Yanes recognized this need and saw how God uses relationships to build His Kingdom. An experience he now practices, and encourages others to use, in order to win their ethnic brothers and sisters over for Christ.

“I think the very practical way is you start with how many ethnic churches? Where are they located? Who are the key leaders or pastors from each local church? So, you have to really find ways of knowing how many of them there are, what ethnicity they belong [to], and then find ways of, you know, what’s the culture look like,” said Yanes.

“Then you have to educate yourself on what’s the best way to understand this ethnic group and educate yourself about that certain culture. Then you move on and connect with them. It will always start with building [a] relationship from the grassroots and that [will] impact and grow into a national movement.”

Listen to the podcast interview:

The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!