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Anglos, Koreans, Hispanics gather through Open Door

ROGERS, Ark. (BP) — What might be described as “a little taste of heaven on earth” happens every Sunday for Anglos, Koreans and Hispanics at Open Door Baptist Church.

There, the church’s Anglo congregation worships at the same time as Open Door Korean Baptist Church while Iglesia Bautista Oikos holds its Sunday School followed by worship.

And: On the first Sunday of each month the culturally diverse congregations meet together “to celebrate what heaven is going to be like when every tribe, tongue and nation come together in the presence of our great Savior, Jesus,” said R.E. Clark, associational missionary for Northwest Baptist Association, who was a guest preacher last fall.

Jerry Harris, Open Door’s Anglo pastor in the northwest Arkansas city of Rogers, along with Kim Young-Gurl of Open Door Korean Baptist and Daniel Cerda of Iglesia Bautista Oikos began the joint services more than two years ago, sparked by a conversation Harris had with a couple of Open Door’s Anglo members.

The Korean congregation has been part of the church some 20 years, while the Hispanic congregation came to Open Door about three years ago under the leadership of Cerda, who also is the Hispanic ministries director for the association.

“Each congregation provided special music in their heart languages and all joined in unison as words to songs were displayed in English, Korean and Spanish,” Clark said of his experience preaching at Open Door. “It was easy to imagine what it would be like one day in heaven as multitudes of other languages sing in harmony the songs of Zion.”

Before he began preaching, Clark noted to the congregation how much it looked like heaven — except for one small thing. The Anglos were all seated in one section; the Koreans in another; and the Hispanics in yet another. “Not quite like heaven after all,” he said.

The congregants were then asked to stand and regroup according to the day of the month on which each head of household was born. Everyone reassembled by birthday with Anglos, Koreans and Hispanics now thoroughly interspersed in the mix.

“Now, it looked like heaven!” said Clark, who preached in English while the message was translated into Korean and then Spanish.

“As the message began, the translators stumbled over each other a bit as they determined who was to go first. But then it all came together,” Clark said. “Like a fine-tuned three-cycle engine, the Word of God was preached into the heart language of three congregations meeting together under one roof and in the presence of heaven itself.

“The result: three saved and multiple other decisions were made while there was joy in the presence of the angels,” Clark said.

The service concluded with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper, with representatives from each congregation participating in the distribution of the elements and the times of prayer.

“It was indeed heaven on earth for one day in a church that has learned that God is not finished with them yet,” Clark said of the congregation that began as a mission in 1973.

With 10 acres of property and a large facility in Rogers, a city of 60,000, “this congregation has revitalized themselves, not in a traditional way by trying to regrow the Anglo congregation,” Clark said, “but by becoming what God has always intended the church to be — a place where all who will eventually go to heaven can gather now and again while still living together here on earth.”

What’s also amazing, Clark said, is that Harris, Open Door’s Anglo pastor, surrendered to the ministry at age 62 following retirement after 33 years as an electronic technician with an electric co-op.

“Now at 70 years young, he and his wife Alice are leading Open Door Baptist Church to a new day of potential in reaching the world in and from northwest Arkansas,” Clark said.

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  • Arkansas Baptist News

    The Arkansas Baptist News (www.arkansasbaptist.org) is the newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this story.

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