Projects introduce community to Christ, local Hispanic church
from a report by Juan Wall
Iglesia Fuente de Vida, a Spanish-language Mennonite Brethren congregation in Parlier, Calif., conducted an intensive Easter week community project April 13-17 with the help of Riverpark Bible Church, a large Conservative Baptist congregation in Fresno, Calif. The project resulted in new believers, church growth and potential for a long-term partnership between the two churches.
“Operation 1:8,” as it was called, was sparked by a desire to reach out to the Parlier community—the kind of local outreach referred to as “Judea and Samaria” in Acts 1:8. Juan Wall, co-pastor of the Parlier congregation, says, “The church decided to conduct this project to let the city know that Iglesia Fuente de Vida has been called by God to serve the people.”
The project had two parts: morning neighborhood kids’ clubs and community service each afternoon. Six teams of eight to 12 youth and adults gathered early every morning for worship and evangelism training. Then they spread across the city to conduct six different kids’ clubs. Community children were enthusiastic about participating, according to Wall. Some 150 children, as well as some adults, came to the clubs every day to learn about the Bible through songs, Bible lessons, missionary stories and arts and crafts.
“The Lord was gracious,” says Wall, “and about 50 children made a decision to receive Christ in their hearts. There were also a number of adults that received Christ.” He says that about seven to 10 adults and 10 to 15 children have been attending Iglesia Fuente de Vida regularly as a result of this project.
One family made initial contact with the church through English as a Second Language classes, then opened their home to host a kids’ club. “They came to the knowledge of Christ through this project,” Wall says, and have been attending the Parlier church regularly.
During the afternoons, teams dispersed across the city to paint house numbers on curbs, a project suggested by city officials. Wall says that some people were initially skeptical, thinking the city never offers something for free, but when teams explained they were from the church, it opened opportunities for conversation. “This was an opportunity to share Christ with people that we met throughout the city,” he says.
The teams painted curbs in front of about half the houses in the city; they hope to paint more, especially in the neighborhood immediately around the church, according to Wall. He says city officials have received numerous positive comments from people in the community about the painting.
Thursday was the closing night of the community outreach project. The congregation hosted a family-oriented carnival, provided a dinner and held a recognition service for the children that participated in the clubs. About 300 people from the community came out for the carnival and the service. “This was another incredible opportunity to share Christ with the people,” says Wall.
Wall says that the project has motivated some church attendees who were marginally involved to become more involved, and that growth in the children’s and youth areas has created a good kind of challenge: They’ve run out of space and have had to move temporary classrooms onto their property to accommodate the growth. “Sometimes it is a walking by faith kind of thing, because there’s never enough money to do what you want to do,” Wall says, “but we believe that the Lord is moving us, so we’re moving ahead.”
Wall expects the partnership with Riverpark to develop into a long-term relationship. Riverpark is an English-language congregation of some 2,000 attendees that has a desire to equip and help a smaller congregation like Iglesia Fuente de Vida—just the kind of partner the congregation of about 100 had been praying for. The Easter outreach was their first project together, but they hope to continue to work together. Details of the potential partnership are being worked out.