Verona Baptist church plant serves Hispanics
VERONA – Verona Baptist Church has doubled its ministry.
The small southwest Missouri town is now served by two vibrant Baptist churches—one with services in English and one in Spanish.
“This church stepped out on faith and felt led to start a Hispanic church,” said Lendell Morris, pastor of Verona Baptist.
The Centro de Alabanza—the Praise Center—now averages more than 70 on Sunday mornings and is taking steps toward becoming autonomous. Not only has the church plant flourished, the sponsoring church is experiencing growth, baptizing 13 new members last year. All of this is taking place in a town of about 800 people.
“The amazing thing is how God blesses when you give it all to Him,” Morris said.
The region’s Latino population has boomed because of workers drawn to poultry processing plants. In Verona, the population is now about evenly split between Hispanics and whites. The church had tried Spanish-language outreach ministries before, but Morris, who became pastor in 2001, realized it would take a separate church building to reach the new population.
“It’s a pattern observed throughout missions to Hispanics,” said Ken McCune, church planting strategist in southwest Missouri.
“It usually works best for them to have their own particular church,” he said, because new residents usually do not know much English. “They’re better able to worship in their own language.
A church member donated a vacant downtown building in 2002, but Centro de Alabanza still struggled. Morris said Verona Baptist began to embrace the premise that they needed to be willing to fail in order to succeed with God and decided to put their full effort into the mission work. In 2004, they called Melvin Mendoza, a Honduran pastor, to lead the church plant.
“He was exactly what we prayed for, a real go-getter, which is what it takes in church planting,” Morris said.
Even though the language barrier presented difficulties, Morris said he and Pastor Mendoza instantly connected. Morris and McCune even traveled to Honduras to clear up problems with Mendoza.
He’s taken to his pastorate and spends a lot of time knocking on doors and sharing the Gospel with Verona’s Latinos. Outgrowing its original building, Centro de Alabanza hopes to move into the old fire station, which the city may give them. They’re also taking steps to become an independent church by October 2007. They’re already covering most of their expenses.
The church plant has completely separate activities—Sunday School, Kids Club, mid-week prayer meetings and visitation—but the two church families get together for dinners and fellowship at least once a quarter.
Neither is either church content to stay at the same level. Verona Baptist recently started a food pantry serving people of all races. Centro de Alabanza is holding home Bible studies in another community and may even start a church plant there.
“One of the most exiting things in Verona is the sponsoring church is not that large,” McCune said. “They stepped out in faith sponsoring this church and they’re doing a good job with it.”
Even though there are a number of Spanish-language churches in southwest Missouri, McCune said there is a need for more. Morris hopes more Baptists catch the vision to multiply, both personally and as churches.
“It is truly wonderful,” Morris said. “We just praise God for everything that’s going on.”