Tuesday, April 16, 2013
On Sunday, April 7, thousands of people heard the Gospel at the Honda 2013 Motocross Series in the city of Taytay, outside of metro Manila in the Philippines, when Pastor Sam Tamayo preached during the opening ceremony the national race.
Tamayo (pictured left) and his family opened the MXMessiah motocross race track and fairground on private property in February 2012 and are now hosting free amateur motocross events weekly on Sundays, with dozens of race participants and estimated crowds of between 15,000 and 20,000. This spring they hosted their first fully sponsored national race.
The objective is to eventually start a church among the motocross fans.
"This ministry is a creative way of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have a passion for the sport of motocross,” said Stephen Gualberto, field strategy coordinator for the Philippines Field. “Professional and amateur riders who would not go to a traditional church will have the opportunity to know and trust God while engaging in a competition and expressing their love for this extreme sports."
On your mark
Tamayo, who raced as an amateur for four years and as a sponsored professional for one, says that a motocross ministry is a dream come true.
His father, Vern Tamayo, an ordained Nazarene pastor and the district superintendent of the Metro Manila District in the Philippines, was also an avid motorcycle buff. He gave his three sons motorcycles. Sam got his first one when he turned 12. By 16 he was racing as an amateur, winning several championships. His father served as the chaplain of his son’s team.
When Sam was 19 years old, in 1999, they were on their way to a race and got into a severe car accident. Sam sustained a broken jaw and broken ribs. His father was killed.
“It was a turning point in my life,” he recalled.
Until that time, Sam had been running away from God’s call to ministry. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, he’d seen the troubles and trials that come with the work. He decided to be a “committed lay worker” and go into a career in which he could become rich and support the church financially.
Losing his father changed everything.
“I said, ‘OK, Lord. I’m not going to run away from your call. I’m going to be a pastor.’”
But that answered call was going to have to wait.
Sam took a break from racing to go to college, studying civil engineering for three years. In 2002, he returned to racing, again as an amateur. He shared Christ at every opportunity, such as TV interviews. Meanwhile, he was falling more and more in love with Jesus.
When Sam was 23 years old, he finally made it as a professional rider on the Shell-Yamaha team. His rookie year, a global oil crisis forced Shell to cut back on expenses, and they decided to cut sponsorships to motocross teams. The team lost major funding. The sport began to die down across the Philippines.
In 2005, Sam decided it was time to get serious about his call to ministry. He joined the pastoral team at Taytay Church of the Nazarene, where his mother, Luz Tamayo, was serving as a senior pastor. Sam and his cousin, Jordan Escusa, founded a youth ministry called Generation Congregation in which about 200 young people now participate every Sunday evening. He also became the pastor for the English-speaking congregation, which meets for worship at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
In 2010, Sam married his fiancée, Faith, and they have twin children who this year will turn 2. She had asked him if he ever thought he would go back to motocross racing.
“I told her, ‘Oh no, I don’t have any passion for it anymore. My passion is Jesus.”
Early last year, the mayor of Taytay, knowing Sam was a professional rider at one time, approached him to see if he would organize a single invitational motocross race for a city festival in February. Sam recognized it as an opportunity to influence both the mayor and other government officials, as well as the whole town, for Christ.
He convinced his mother to allow him to turn a piece of family property into what is now the MX Messiah motocross race track. He tapped his connections in the sport to invite riders and teams, and to get sponsors for the race’s cash prizes. The event was a major success. Top professional riders from around the country came to the race and thousands from across the city attended.
“I saw wow this can be a big ministry avenue.”
Emboldened, Sam submitted to a proposal to Honda, asking them to sponsor ongoing races at the private track. To his shock, they agreed.
“I wasn’t expecting them to partner with Christian ministers!”
Throughout 2012, MX Messiah hosted amateur racing events.
The Honda Motocross Series 2013 this spring took the race track national.
People from the community are exposed not only to good racing but to the Gospel.
“Our community were so thankful when this fairground was built, because we can watch the races for free and at the same time we can hear some words of God before the race took place,” said Domingo Viterbo, whose son David is one of the racers.
He is thankful that the races are free to the public, because not everyone who is interested in watching can afford the cost of entry tickets.
Viterbo is also impressed with Sam and his hard work with the fairground.
“Every time we talk about the motocross, I can feel how much he wanted to see all the motocross community in the Philippines to be united as one in sports and in spirits with God. I can say that we are lucky and blessed for having Pastor Sam Tamayo in our community.”