Almost seven years ago, after praying for four years and being out of full-time ministry to which I was convinced I would not return again, God called us to Tyler Texas to plant a Spanish campus. I had no idea what it would look like, but I had been seeing a growth trend in our Hispanic demographics all across the United States (This still continues and you can read my thoughts on it here). In 2015 we started our Spanish Campus at Grace Community (Local newspaper’s articles that covered this are here and here) . It wasn’t easy and I don’t think it met all of our expectations but God was (and is) the architect who led us even with our limitations, our struggles, and our weaknesses. I will be forever grateful for allowing me and my family to be part of this ministry. Obviously I am grateful to Grace Community for allowing me this opportunity. The years spent there have been invaluable and the experience gained will prove very helpful where I will go next.
Here some of the things that God did during this time:
- Our Spanish campus enriched the church, helping her become more diverse, more reflective of the community as it strives in carrying out the mission of being and making disciples of all nations.
- A healthy, vibrant, spiritually maturing campus was established with the vision of making disciples within a Hispanic context. The uniqueness of this was that Grace was the first church in the city who planted a campus within a campus. Currently, there are other churches in the city (and I have observed this even more in other places as well) who are beginning the process of reaching the Hispanic population in city.
- Two campuses, one English speaking and one Spanish speaking established a connection and a relationship guided by the Gospel’s mission. Serving as a bridge between English and Spanish speaking campuses wasn’t easy but with God’s help it became a more integrated and diverse church. The joint bilingual Sunday celebrations and bilingual Christmas Eve at the park became a highlight and testimony to the community of a diverse community of believers that follow Jesus together.
- The church’s staff became diversified. I was the first Hispanic to be part of the staff but this has changed significantly.
- The church’s school also became more diverse and several of Hispanic families from our campus have their children attending and three young men have graduated from the High School.
- An ESL program was established and became one of the primary connections to the Hispanic community in the city.
- Our campus established a good reputation and her influence in the community through participation in community events and the church’s own events carried out on a regular basis throughout the year (e.g., ESL, Mental/Spiritual Health Conference, and other community events).
- A group of lay leaders were developed and became involved in leading, planning events, and discipling others. Three of the men in this group went through a practical mentoring process for ministry preparation including how to preach on Sundays. Two of them are currently in Seminary.
- A strong culture of discipleship was established in the church, aligned and contextualized within the church’s vision. It was hard due to the many changes we experienced and limited resources that were available in Spanish but a culture of discipling was established in spite of this.
- Women’s ministry that my wife has led became a strong pillar of our campus. Womens Bible studies and their yearly Women’s Conference became some of their highlights.
- The class on Sunday mornings taught by three couples plus one more became instrumental in leadership development and grounding people in God’s Word in practical areas of life.
Our calling as disciples of Christ regardless of position or job titles is to go and make disciples of all nations. Through the years, I’ve become convinced that we need to reach our Hispanic population that are not only of first generation but also those who are English-speaking. Of the 60 million Hispanics in the US, about 60 percent are of second and higher generations. Most of them do not know Jesus. Many of them do not attend church in Spanish or English. But not only this, I believe that the Great Commission involves reaching all ethnicities here in America. America is more diverse than ever. There are more than 300 languages spoken in the United States. The task of the church to make disciples of all nations is here, in our new diverse Samaria (“New Samaria” by Alejandro Mandes in his book) is a term used by all around us.
After almost seven years of being sent by the Lord from California to East Texas God has called to go to Edmond Oklahoma to partner with a church that seeks to reach many more people through intentional church planting. We are moving to a new ministry with the intent of planting a new church that will start in Spanish but with the aim of becoming a two-language church that reaches a diverse population.
We are praying that the Lord of the harvest will bring many more sheep that are not yet part of the fold so there can be one sheep pen (Church) and one Shepherd.