Ramon Ulangca still remembers one Sabbath after church in Bangkok, Thailand, when a perceptive missionary confronted him with God’s call to be a pastor. He was barely an adolescent then, quiet and shy, with dreams of becoming a doctor someday. There were subtle hints pointing to the gift of “pastoring,” but the prospect of speaking before large groups of people frankly frightened him, and so he rejected God’s call.
The signs were there in high school as well, when the student body elected him as spiritual vice-president of the student association. After Ramon graduated from high school, he was awarded a four year scholarship to study at Walla Walla University in the United States. Choosing to major in music, with a minor in chemistry, he pursued his dream, but others saw something else in him. His fellow students elected him to serve the international student association at Walla Walla University—as spiritual vice-president. But still, Ramon refused to heed God’s call.
After graduating from college, Ramon served as minister of music at the Central Filipino Church in Los Angeles while pursuing graduate studies in music at California State University. His choirs soon gained a reputation for excellence with performances at the Hollywood Bowl, Crystal Cathedral as well as appearances and recordings with various musical stars, including such luminaries as Stevie Wonder. Ramon’s 120-voice children’s choir toured the United States and Canada, pausing along the way to sing at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in, of all places, Indianapolis, Indiana!
However, the congregation he served recognized other gifts as well, and occasionally invited him to speak for their worship services. One day after one of his sermons, a doctor came up to Ramon and said she was being impressed by God to call him to the pastoral ministry. She laid the offer on the table—if he would accept the call, she and her husband, also a physician, would pay his way through seminary.
Convicted once again of his need to fully surrender his will to God, Ramon finally accepted the call to be a pastor, but the road was not without its challenges. After he graduated from seminary, the local Conference informed him there were no openings for pastors at that time. Instead of sitting around waiting for a “call,” he followed God’s lead and founded the InterValley Seventh-day Adventist Church in the foothills of Monrovia, overlooking the city of Los Angeles. The challenge of building a church “from the ground up” was an invaluable experience that taught him the value of practical discipleship in a way that his theological training never anticipated. That lesson has been the foundation of his ministry ever since.
During that time, Ramon and his wife, Rae Ann, were praying that God would open the way for her to pursue an optometry career in the United States. By God's grace, she was accepted into the program of the Illinois College of Optometry. It was clear they would have to move to Chicago, but where would Ramon work? The local Conference there made it clear no openings were available. So they went down on their knees.
While they prayed, God impressed upon the Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church, the largest congregation in the Conference, the need for another pastor. It didn’t make any sense because they already had a full staff. But amazingly, when the request was presented to the Conference, it was granted and an opening was created where once there was none! God had worked yet another miracle in response to Ramon’s and Rae Ann’s faith and obedience to His call.
The year Rae Ann graduated from her optometry program, a call came from Mac McAllister, first elder of the Fort Wayne Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was aware that Ramon was happy where he was and not looking to move, but he felt impressed through the providence of God to place the call anyway. After discussing the logic of the move, Ramon and Rae Ann felt it made more sense to stay in Hinsdale, but God’s ways are not always our ways.
The next morning, as Ramon was preparing to inform the Indiana Conference of his family’s decision to turn down the call, he checked his email and there at the top of the list was a piece of junk mail that had somehow made it through the filter into his mailbox. When he opened it, these words jumped out at him: “My most influential professor moved from high-paying, powerful jobs at some of the nation’s largest investment companies to teach at a small college in Indiana. He desired to seek and act on God’s will, even when it meant giving up a lot. He moved his family across country to teach and influence business students. I respect decisions like his. They go against the grain of what we’re supposed to do. They show true character and wisdom of what’s important in life.”
Through this piece of "junk mail," Ramon heard God's call once again. And so in the Fall of 2004, Pastor Ulangca became the pastor of Fort Wayne Seventh-day Adventist Church. Along with his wife, Rae Ann, now a full-fledged optometrist, and their two teenage sons, Randall and Richard, he continues to pursue his passion of making disciples for Jesus. Only time will tell why the Lord called Pastor Ulangca to Fort Wayne, but one thing is certain—God is his Strength and Guide.