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Las Vegas church plant holds grand opening

New facility filled to capacity for historic January launch

By Connie Faber with files from Mission USA and the PDC church planting newsletter

U.S. Mennonite Brethren celebrated a historic occasion Jan. 26 when Friends of Jesus, the first USMB church plant in Las Vegas, Nev., held their grand opening and dedicated their new facility. The congregation is led by Pastor Andy Basilio and his wife, Leah.

The approximately 65 attendees filled to capacity the newly leased commercial office complex for the afternoon service. The new facility, made possible by the Pacific District Conference (PDC) Board of Home Missions, the PDC Board of Trustees and Mission USA, the USMB church planting and renewal ministry, will be both a worship and ministry facility.

“The hope is to have a lively, day-by-day ministry outreach, connecting with people through providing basic needs and clothing,” says Don Morris, Mission USA director, “helping people who have lost jobs and connecting face-to-face with people in the community.”

The new facility, located just north of a major artery, allows the congregation to have a stable daily presence with easy access for people in need in the Las Vegas metro area.

“On this very special occasion, we dedicate this as a place where Jesus is alive and at work,” said Gary Wall, PDC district minister, in his sermon. “May you truly be ‘friends of Jesus’ who carry his live and light into the darkness of this community.”

In his message, based on the story of Jesus healing a leper as told in Mark 1, the story of Jesus healing a leper, Wall connected the text with the many people living in Las Vegas likely see themselves as "unclean" just as the leper did. Las Vegas doesn't need another typical church, Wall told the congregation. The city needs a congregation that is willing to reach out to the "unclean" in the community, becoming involved in their lives and helping them toward Jesus.

While there is a mix of ethnicities in the congregation, many couples are Filipino/American and Filipino/Filipino. Services are conducted in English and worship is led in a contemporary style with a worship team that is led by Ana Torentino and includes her husband, Pastor Aris Torentino playing either guitar or keyboard, and their son on the drums. Addition vocalists provides “a lot of worship energy,” says Morris, who also spoke at the opening.

Since most people in the congregation have little or no knowledge of the Mennonite Brethren Church, Morris provided a brief history lesson and information about national ministries. Morris told the audience that Mennonite Brethren have always been a missionary people and that this outreach effort in Las Vegas is simply one more open door for this family of churches.

Morris also encouraged the congregation to see themselves as members of the USMB and PDC family. “They are already asking how they can be involved and how they can begin to support both the district and USMB financially,” says Morris.

In addition to Wall and Morris, other special guests included a local pastor who wanted to offer his support to the fledgling congregation and the facility landlord, Tom, and his wife.

“Tom has been extremely helpful, working through a lot of City of Las Vegas issues in order for a church to be able to occupy the space,” says Morris. “That work took several months to finalize. Tom is thrilled that a church is in this facility.”

Because the complex includes a variety of businesses that are closed on Sunday, the congregation is able to worship on Sundays and can “raise the roof,” says Morris in terms of sound levels.

The opening celebration concluded with a potluck meal.

“These really are very pleasant people to get to know,” says Morris. “Gary (Wall) and I already feel a part of them. They are kind and gentle, yet fun-loving. They are serious about loving and serving Jesus.”

Photos by Don Morris

Photo 1: Balloons, good food and smiling faces, including that of Pastor Andy Basilio and his wife, Leah, welcomed guests to the Friends of Jesus launch service in late January.

Photo 2: Pacific District Conference minister Gary Wall, the guest speaker for the Friends of Jesus grand opening and building dedication, emphasized the unique ministry opportunity in metro Las Vegas.

Photo 3: Pastor Aris Torentino, pictured far left, and his wife, Ana, pictured right, along with their son, not pictured, lead the Friends of Jesus congregation in contemporary worship.

Photo 4: The Friends of Jesus congregation, a portion of which is pictured from the launch Sunday service, is comprised of a variety of ethnicities but many in the congregation are Filipino.

Photo 5: The Friends of Jesus launch Sunday concluded with a potluck.

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