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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Fort Payne Hispanic church leaves wheels behindcomment (0)

May 1, 2003

By Lauren Brooks


On April 5, about 125 people gathered for the first worship service in the new building of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Jesucristo (First Baptist Church of Jesus Christ), a young Hispanic mission church in Fort Payne.
   
The church — whose pastor is Renez Perez, a Guatamalan native — has been meeting in a mobile chapel for the past six years but thanks to the DeKalb Baptist Association, it finally has a home without wheels.
   
“It started through the ministry of one of our churches and now it’s become a joint effort and an associational project,” said Phillip Webb, former director of missions for DeKalb Association. “Faith Baptist Church in Fort Payne approached the association about sponsoring a mission church with them about six years ago.”
   
At that time, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions helped the association buy a mobile chapel for the mission. About a year ago, after the congregation started to outgrow the mobile facility, the association decided it was time to build a permanent structure.
   
Alton Vaughn, pastor of Minvale Baptist Church, serves as chairman of the building committee.
“Alton has been a Godsend to me,” Webb said in an interview conducted while he was serving as director of missions. “He has handled everything. He’s an incredible blessing.”
   
Vaughn said building a church for the Hispanic community has been on his heart for some time. “We’re always sending people on missions trips and then one day it hit me,” he said. “We’ve had a missions field move in on top of us — they’ve come to us.”
   
Vaughn said he realized that a church specifically geared toward Hispanics was necessary. “Because of the language barrier they won’t come to our church,” Vaughn said. “We need to equip them to reach and minister to their people group.”
   
The church is built on four acres of land owned by DeKalb Association in north Fort Payne near Ramblewood Apartments, a highly populated Hispanic area.
   
Webb said about half of the churches in DeKalb Association have been involved in the building process to some extent. “With the exception of installing the heating and cooling units, volunteer labor did the interior work,” he said. “I’d say we’ve probably saved between $50,000 and $70,000 doing it this way.”
   
Webb hopes the church will be self-supporting in three years. “Each year we hope that the church will assume a greater percentage of its finances,” he said. 
   
Because this particular Hispanic community has a high turnover rate, Webb said the association will probably never completely cut ties with the church, however.
   
This is not the only Hispanic mission church planned for this part of Alabama. Marshall Association is looking at plans for a church in the Kilpatrick area and DeKalb Association is considering partnering with Marshall or possibly building a church in Collinsville.

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