General Santos is a city in the southernmost part of the Philippines, a key agricultural and fishing hub. This is where Pastor Ronald Ben Pontanar lived as a child. His grandparents owned a large farm and corn milling business. His parents also owned a farm. Ben enjoyed farm life and has many happy memories of both farms. As he puts it, “I had a pretty comfortable childhood growing up”. His childhood was a rewarding time of family, church and ministry. His family was very active in the church.
“I am a 4th generation Adventist. My great grandparents on my mother’s side were faithful Adventists.” Ben’s home church recognised his natural talent for speaking, so Ben was encouraged to participate in church activities and evangelism. “I was a child preacher, a youth leader and a youth evangelist. I was baptised when I was 15, one out of the thousands baptised after a big evangelistic campaign in the South Philippines by Quiet Hour Ministries.” This was the highlight for him. He loved being involved at church – preaching, singing and being part of an active ministry team. Yet, as he says, “I never thought that I would become a pastor. I thought I would become either a doctor or a lawyer.”
Though Ben’s church life was meaningful and positive, his personal life became very difficult. “Life took a turn when I was around 13. We lost almost everything and life was quite difficult after that. And then at 17, I lost my father, he was just 40. It was a painful and confusing period in my life.” It was during this very difficult time of Ben’s life that God intervened. A year after the tragic death of his father, Ben was offered a scholarship to study theology and become a pastor. As he says “God has His way of turning things around.”
Today, Ben is the Pastor at the Belfast Church. I asked him what he is most passionate about in his ministry. “Pastoral care, outreach and evangelism… I’m passionate about our ‘lived’ Christianity. I believe that our Christianity would be meaningless if it does not make a practical and positive difference to people around us. It is my prayer that my Christianity, God’s grace and love, would always find expressions in my personal life… I am motivated by our hope in the Saviour who is coming again soon, and the desire for others to discover and experience that hope.”
Ben’s favourite song is the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness. As Ben shared his story, I am reminded that God truly is faithful. Ben’s life is a testimony to the faithfulness of God. We are thankful that Ben is part of the Irish Mission. God bless you Ben as you share the hope found in God with others.
Ben is supported in his ministry by his family. As he shares, “We are a family of four. There’s Joy, my prayer warrior. She enjoys cooking and loves music. Ron who’s doing his A levels. And our little boy Luke, 6.”