Golden Gate Grad Overcomes Extreme Hardship

Profile of Rico Marquez

“It’s hard crawling for a mile just to go to school. And people laughed at me and called me names,” Rico Marquez recalled his early years as a boy growing up in the rural Philippines. “When I was six years old, I contracted polio. I wasn’t a Christian then, and my life was filled with fears, gloom, and hopelessness because I couldn’t walk.

“When I was 14 years old a classmate shared the Gospel with me, and that changed my life. It comforted me knowing that God loves me in spite of who I am,” he said. “Jesus brought me hope and significance.”

When Rico told his father about Jesus, his father ostracized and persecuted him. “My mother had just died, leaving me and my eight siblings, and I think my father blamed her death on my newly found belief in Jesus.” His father cut off his allowance and eventually evicted him from his home.

Desperate, Rico went to his pastor. “The Lord provided me with the support of my new-found family – my church,” said Rico. “The pastor invited me to live with him, but because he had a large family of his own, all he could provide was a wooden shed in his backyard. I lived there for three years, while I attended high school.”

At the time that Rico became a believer, he could only crawl unless he used his crutches. “Once I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I no longer needed my crutches,” he noted. “I have a definite limp but am able to walk and even run on my own.”

During his high school years, while living with his pastor, Rico explained how he was trained to conduct Bible studies and lead singing. “I really enjoyed doing God’s work, and I sensed that God was calling me to be a minister, even though I was only 15 years old at the time.” Rico attended training workshops focused on Bible studies and personal evangelism.

“While in my senior year in high school I sensed the calling of God – and that was to enroll in Bible College and become a pastor.

“The day I graduated from high school I went back to my father’s house to tell him I was graduating and to invite him to attend the ceremony,” Rico recalled with tears in his eyes. “He was sitting with his friends, drinking and smoking. He laughed at me and told me to get lost. I was so sad.”

Directly after graduation in 1996, Rico entered Baptist Theological College in the city of Mandaue, a province of Cebu in the Philippines. He studied theology and after five years he graduated with a BA. “I learned a lot and was exposed to many places and different people in Central Visayas [a region in the Philippines],” Rico said. “God taught me to be courageous in sharing his Gospel to Filipinos.” During his years in Bible College, although it was difficult for him, he walked with some of the leaders he had trained to a variety of towns in this rural area, sharing the Gospel and preaching in an average of three towns per week.

“Throughout this time, I remembered my family,” Rico said. “I prayed for them regularly, and during my internship, four of my siblings came to know Christ. My father listened to the Gospel, and considered God’s promises.”

When he was about to graduate from Bible College, Rico again invited his father to attend the ceremony. “This time he did come, which made me so glad,” Rico smiled. “But he was drunk and only stayed for the commencement. He didn’t stay to celebrate with me but left that same day, even though his home was on a different island.” Tears came to his eyes as he recalled, “I was alone and had no one with which to share my accomplishments.”

After earning his Bible College degree, Rico was called to pastor Metropolitan Heritage Baptist Church in Mindanao, a dangerous area containing Moro Islamic rebels, widespread poverty, and much violence. This is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. Mindanao is the only area of the Philippines with a significant Muslim presence.

Despite the dangers, Rico knew that “Where the Lord leads, I should follow. He led me there and gave me an opportunity to train and equip pastors and church leaders in that area. In the midst of fears and uncertainties there was joy in my heart as I served the Lord.” He was ordained at this Southern Baptist church on May 4, 2003, and this is where he met and married his wife, Margie.

During the six years he served there many came to know the Lord. “It was an encouragement when I learned of a rebel who became a preacher to his own tribe. But my heart was aching to see those shepherds leading sheep without proper training. I prayed that somehow a Bible training center for pastors would be established in this area, and God has granted our prayers. My home church made a commitment to be the training center in spite of the dangers in the area. There were 16 graduates last year!”

Called and sponsored by Trinity Faith Baptist Church in Rodeo, California, Rico and his wife moved to California in 2008, and the next year Rico was urged to apply to Golden Gate Seminary. Although he didn’t have the funds, Rico was accepted into the master’s program and his tuition was paid anonymously the first year. He has received financial aid each semester. In addition, he collected empty bottles in the area and sold them to raise money for his textbooks, gas, and bridge toll fees.

This thirty-three year old young man works from midnight to 9:00 am as a janitor at the Seminary. He has two children (ages 6 years and 2 years), and took five or six classes each semester. He earned a Master of Divinity in June 2012 and a Master of Educational Leadership in December 2012.

“God has gifted me with the gift of teaching. I started teaching when I was 16 years old. I have been a pastor since 1998. I have pastored 5 churches since then.”

Today Rico preaches at East Bay Baptist Church in Alameda on Sunday mornings, and then teaches a Bible training course for the area’s church leaders on Sunday afternoons. He planted and pastors a house church in Pinole for Filipinos, which meets on Sunday afternoons, and he also leads a Bible study for adult church leaders in American Canyon on Friday evenings.

Although Rico has graduated, his wife Margie was just accepted as a Master of Educational Leadership student, so they will continue to live on campus.

“What prompted me to enroll at Golden Gate Seminary is the passion and calling God has put in my heart,” said Rico. “I want to be used by God to train more pastors and church leaders in Mindanao, and to set up a Bible School there. I came to Golden Gate for a multicultural, contextual education.” He noted that the Seminary provided him with three tools: Bible knowledge, ministry skills, and character development.

“I want to share the Gospel in person with my father, so he will understand. I want to see him smile and erase the sound of him telling me, ‘You are good for nothing, you are not my son.’” Rico spoke of his upcoming trip to the Philippines to see his father again. “I am friends with my dad now. His persecution has made me strong, and today he is proud of me.”

Watch the video interview