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Texas church’s Hispanic neighbors receive dinner, groceries — and a Gospel invitation

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (BP)–In a scene reminiscent of the disciples’ distribution of the five loaves and two fishes in Matthew 14, an army of volunteers served hot meals and passed out sacks of groceries to more than 2,800 members of the Hispanic community late into the evening Dec. 4.

But the real miracle, ministers at the Texas church said, occurred in the sanctuary of First Baptist, Colleyville, where 138 people came forward to accept salvation in Jesus Christ after a Gospel presentation by Pastor Frank Harber.

“At the end of the service tonight we are going to give you good gifts. Your money is no good here. We are not taking up an offering and we will not accept donations,” Harber told the 800-plus families at the event. “The gift of eternal life is just like that. It is free and you would offend God if you tried to buy it.”

The dinner, grocery distribution and Gospel presentation were part of the church’s third annual “Mission Colleyville” outreach. Attendance at the events has doubled in three years, since one of First Baptist’s deacons conceived the idea of feeding and providing for the most neglected members of the community.

Ron Cogburn, deacon chairman when the idea of the mission was developed just over three years ago, said Hispanics in the Dallas-Fort Worth-area community have embraced the mission because they see in it true compassion.

“Compassion without action is nothing. True mercy is compassion with action,” Cogburn said. “We are not only telling the people here that Jesus loves them; we are showing them. Where else could they get a meal, groceries and toys for their children? This makes a lot of difference in their lives.”

This year, more than 400 volunteers from the church participated in the mission. Bilingual pastors and ministers at other area Hispanic churches also took part. Carlos Flores, a minister at Highland Meadows Church, strolled around inside the tent on the church grounds where dinner was being served, greeting the families that carpooled from as far away as Irving, Texas. Several school buses also transported community members to the church.

Flores, wearing a bright red shirt with the word “bilingual” in white, shook hands, prayed with families and encouraged them to listen closely to the Gospel message they would hear in the church’s sanctuary.

“The people here at the church are doing this because they have a heart for people. They have a heart for the lost in the Hispanic community,” Flores said.

Jose Ramírez, pastor of the Hispanic congregation Jesucristo es la Respuesta (“Jesus Christ is the answer”), said during the evangelistic service that God had given the people of the community an opportunity through Mission Colleyville. “He prepared this night so that on the last day we don’t have an excuse to say, ‘No one told me about Jesus.’”

Mission Colleyville organizers, however, fear just that — that in many parts of the country Hispanics are being overlooked despite being the nation’s fastest growing minority group.

Jim Bailey, now the chairman of deacons at the church, said the Hispanic populace has been difficult to reach with the Gospel because deeply entrenched Roman Catholic beliefs often create a barrier to evangelism.

“But they are here, about 40,000 of them right around the church,” Bailey said.

Freddie Gage, a retired evangelist who is now a member of the ministry team at the church, said he had not seen many churches in his 53 years of ministry in Southern Baptist life with an outreach like Mission Colleyville. He said the church, despite cultural barriers, had made inroads into the community with “pure evangelism.”

“You are seeing the evidence of that tonight,” Gage said. “I’ve got news for everybody. You are not going to reach the downtrodden, the poor, the blue-collar people unless you do it the Jesus way.”

Gage said the church was perfectly situated to accomplish the mission of reaching the community. He said there are some 5,000 apartments in the area where the poor live. “Ironically,” he added, there are “multimillion dollar homes and the rich and famous nearby as well.”

Eric Vaughan, associate pastor at the church, said he expects Mission Colleyville ministry to continue to expand and for the church to seek more assistance from Hispanic churches for outreach into the Hispanic community.

“Each year we have an increase in the number of Hispanics involved in this outreach. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. As our population grows, we will need to partner with Hispanics to reach into their communities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them,” Vaughan said.

“We have a heart and a passion to reach out to our Jerusalem or northeast Tarrant County. It all boils down to the fact that this church body at its core, at its heart, is evangelistic.”

At the conclusion of the service, Vaughan and other ministers baptized eight who had come forward during the evangelistic service.

“Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right,” said Mike Gonzales, director of the Hispanic Initiative for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and also a member of First Baptist Colleyville. He was on hand for the event and said he was overwhelmed by the response to the church’s outreach.

“They are really setting a pace for reaching the Hispanics in their community,” Gonzales said.

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  • Gregory Tomlin