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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Hamilton Hispanic congregation completes church buildingcomment (0)

June 15, 2006

By Erin W. Tunnell


After being a dream and work in progress for four years, Primera Iglesia Bautista, Hamilton, became a reality that was dedicated June 3.
   
Translated as First Baptist Church, area leaders say the name is fitting because it is the first Alabama Baptist church owned by a Hispanic congregation.
   
“(The church building) is a recognition of the solid and good impact of the Hispanic Christian population in Alabama,” said Richard Alford, director of language missions in the office of associational missions and church planting at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM). 
   
He said the state has approximately 30 Hispanic congregations. These meet in storefronts, rented facilities, mobile chapels from the SBOM or jointly with an Anglo church in its facilities. 
   
A handful meet in buildings dedicated solely to use by a Hispanic congregation, but the Hamilton congregation is the only reported church of its kind, Alford confirmed.
   
Mark Gallups, director of missions for Marion Baptist Association, said the association is excited to have Primera Iglesia Bautista as a member.
   
Led by Pastor Ramon Rivas, the 42-member church not only owns its 3,000-square-foot, two-story building, it also owns the 4.65 acres of land on which it sits next to the Marion Association office in Hamilton.
   
“This is a big, big blessing,” Rivas said. “We know this came from the Lord.”
   
He is also the Hispanic missionary for the Northwest Alabama Hispanic Coalition, which is made up of Marion, Winston and Franklin associations. 
   
Primera Iglesia Bautista is the result of Rivas’ work in Marion Association.
   
Beginning in 2002 under the leadership of then-director of missions Daniel Knight, building the church took several years because the association wanted to turn it over to the congregation debt-free.
   
Much of the labor was volunteer, with members of churches in the association joining the Hispanic congregation to pour concrete and frame up walls, among other construction jobs. 
   
Rivas and Gallups said the joint work built the foundation for a strong relationship that has formed between the Hispanic congregation and the other churches in Marion Association.
   
Every church in the association participated in the project in some way, Gallups said.
   
That support demonstrated what it means to be part of the family of God to the Hispanic congregation, Rivas noted. “(The church members) saw the love others had for them.” 
   
He added the building would help the church body grow because it is a visible symbol to Hispanics in the area of the love of God’s family. The church will hold its first Vacation Bible School in July.
   
The building is also a sign of the development of indigenous leadership in the area, Alford said. Marion Association is an official extension of the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, a theological university dedicated to training Hispanic leaders.

The day of the building dedication, the association awarded diplomas in church ministry from the university to three men who had completed their training through Internet correspondence classes.
   
Rivas plans to continue training Hispanic leaders by moving the extension classes from the associational office to the church building. “This could be the center of preparation for the Lord.”

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