Church members hang up the sign at the church
Photo submitted

Fourteen years ago a small group of people in Los Osos started getting together in alternating homes for Bible study sessions to form friendships and strengthen the faith and understanding of God better.

Out of those gatherings a church was born a few years later. The Maharlika Christian Fellowship, at 1805 11th Street, Los Osos, celebrates its 10th anniversary this month.

Their journey has been one of faith in more ways than one. Parishioners have relocated places of worship multiple times before settling into what will hopefully be their permanent spiritual home — only a few houses away from where the first Bible study was held.

“It is a sign of our faith that God will provide for us because it is His church and He is responsible for it,” said Pastor James Erwin Estoque. “We, the pastor, leaders, ministers and members (congregation), are just stewards.”

It is the first Filipino-based Christian church on the Central Coast, but the now 60-member church is open to people of all backgrounds.

“All are welcome,” said Pastor Estoque, who along with his mom, Pastora Elizabeth Estoque, were members of the original Bible study group.

“Color, ethnicity, prestige, background, religion, status, education and so on and so forth, it doesn’t matter; we love everyone.”

The Maharlika Christian Fellowship celebrates their 10-year anniversary in Los Osos. Pictured is the Church Council: Lita Lazo, Kirby and Jojit Diaz, Marivic Miranda, Dick and Veronica Pacaoan, Fred Alvarado, Jesse Caluya, Emma Pacaoan, Elizabeth Estoque (the pastor’s mother) and Pastor James Erwin Estoque. Photo submitted

Like so many other churches, social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 has had an impact in that fewer members attend services now held in the church parking lot. Pastor Estoque welcomes the change and said that in the future outside services might be worked into the regular schedule.

“The outdoor services are a great experience and are something we might do often, weather permitting,” he said. “It feels good to be outside. The neighbors and passersby get to see what our members look like. We enjoy being out in the sun. It’s a blessing in disguise.”

Times have certainly changed over the past 10 years, but Estoque says the heart of the church is still the same.

“We are still the friendliest, most welcoming church as ever. We are small but make a difference. Our faith never wavered, our mission, which is reaching out to ‘make disciples of all mankind’ is still the same.”

Because of the current situation, bigger plans to mark the church’s anniversary have been put on hold until likely 2021.

“We had big plans to celebrate with the community, but because of social distancing restrictions, we have to make it simple,” said Pastor Estoque. “Maybe some day all of the stuff we planned will come to fruition, and we can reach out to our community.”

A smaller version of the planned celebration takes place Sept. 27 at 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

“We will have mostly music, drama, dances–inspirational, cultural and modern worship, preaching, fun and games, and most of all a variety of Filipino food.

“It’s free and all are welcome to come and eat with us,” Pastor Estoque said.

For fans of Filipino food, and you should be, the church also holds a barbeque fundraiser on the last Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. -1:30 p.m. The cost is $10 a plate. Lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) are $10 for a dozen, fried/cooked or unfried/uncooked. Money raised goes to support the church building fund.

“Someday we may be able to buy this property as God provides,” said Pastor Estoque

Services at Maharlika Christian Fellowship are held on Sundays starting at 11 a.m. Members bring food to eat afterwards so that they don’t have to go out for lunch.

For folks who are avoiding public gatherings during the pandemic, there is a digital live version of the service on the church’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/maharlikachristianfellowship.

As for the future, Pastor Estoque said that beyond purchasing the building that they are now in, there are plans to establish and build another Mahalika Christian Fellowship in SLO county.