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Texas church sending its dollars – and people – to assist nearby Hispanic congregation

Fairdale Baptist sends a group of its members to Primera Iglesia to help put on vacation Bible school each summer. Provided photo

HEMPHILL, Texas (BP) – Years ago, leaders at Fairdale Baptist Church recognized a couple of noteworthy things related to their budget:

1. They knew they needed to formally create a reserve fund to tackle any big-expense emergencies that might arise, such as the church’s air conditioning going out (which, in Texas, definitely constitutes an emergency).

2. They recognized the church had been carrying a large sum of money totaling in the low six figures in its general reserve fund that was going unused each year. 

Fairdale addressed the first issue as many churches do – by creating a reserve fund and contributing to it. But the church chose to do something unique to address the second issue – making a Gospel investment in other churches in the region.

Rather than continuing to leave the money sitting dormant in its own account, Fairdale opted to invest those funds with the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation – a ministry partner of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention that, in turn, works with churches in areas including investments, stewardship assessments, church lending and financial consulting.

Fairdale’s decision to work with the foundation, however, came a twist: the church opted not to keep the interest earned from its investments, but instead directed the foundation to pass that money along to support Hispanic churches in the area, including a church with which it already had a relationship – Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana in Jasper, about 40 miles southwest of Hemphill.

“The biggest thing we talked about was, as a church, we’re not in the business of being a bank. We’re not in the business of just holding funds here that wouldn’t be used,” Fairdale Pastor JR McDonald said. “We have to be about working for the Lord, and we saw those funds just sitting there that could easily be used to help ministry efforts elsewhere.”

Primera Iglesia’s pastor, Enrique Perez, said his congregation is relatively small, full of people who work hard and want to reach people for Christ in their community. Like so many other congregations, COVID significantly impacted the church. Perez said he tries to stay connected to those who were attending regularly before the pandemic but have not quite made it back yet. At the same time, he and the church strive to connect to new people in the community.

“We want Christ to be known in our community,” Perez said. “The only way to do that is to reach people where they are.”

Perez said Fairdale has supported Primera’s work since his arrival there in 2005. That partnership is measured not merely in dollars, but in human capital. Each year, Fairdale sends a group of its members to Primera to help put on vacation Bible school. 

Meanwhile, interest funds from Fairdale’s investment with the foundation are added to a fund that Primera will use to construct a new building to replace its aging facility. Even as it saves for the future, Primera continues to pour into other Gospel work. Perez said his church sent 250 Bibles to two churches in Mexico earlier this year and a few months later provided funds to a Gospel partner to provide sandals and Spanish Bible tracts to people in the mountainous region in Oaxaca.

“I cannot put into words what [Fairdale’s partnership] has meant,” Perez said. “It’s just amazing. Fairdale is the most mission-minded church in our area. If there’s another church that has a bigger heart, I’m not aware of it.”

Going all in

Milton Hamilton, a Fairdale deacon, is among those who have helped with Bible schools and other outreaches at Primera. He and his wife, Rosemary, have become so invested in Primera’s mission, they recently decided to answer a call from the Lord to leave Fairdale – where they have been members since the mid-2000s – to join the Hispanic congregation. They are learning how to speak Spanish and plan on making the transition this summer.

“They’re a small congregation … but they’re just sweet, loving Christian people,” Hamilton said. “I told JR, ‘God is calling Rosemary and me to a foreign mission field, but it’s only 40 miles away.’”

That’s a different kind of investment, but a kingdom investment nonetheless. The significance of the financial and human investment in congregations other than its own has energized Fairdale, McDonald said.

“We’re actually investing in ministry,” he said. “That to me sounds like a winning scenario for investment. You talk about returns in the stock market, but when it comes to kingdom work, investment in ministry is just glorious. That really excites us.”

This article originally appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

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