In Feb. 2009, two retired missionary couples, Rue and Gwen Scott and Allison and Gale Holman, joined hearts in their vision of reaching Hispanics for Christ in the Oklahoma City area. That vision sparked the beginning of the Iglesia Bautista Hispana in Bethany.
The Scotts served with the International Mission Board in Malawi and South Africa for 20 years; the Holmans retired from the Board in 2008 after serving 22 years as church planters in Panama. Gwen and Gale are sisters.
As members of Bethany, First, the Scotts participate in the church’s clothing distribution ministry and offer a Bible study to the Anglos; however, they felt a burden for the many Spanish-speaking people who came for clothing, as no one could converse with them. At that point, they asked the Holmans to consider reaching these people.
The Scotts supported through prayer as the Holmans began the slow process of visiting the long list of prospects from the clothing ministry and teaching home Bible studies to those who accepted. Bethany, First Pastor Charles Womack agreed with the Hispanic ministry as did the mission’s committee who stated that God was leading and the church should follow. The clothing ministry continues to be the key to opening doors among Hispanics.
At one man’s request, Allison Holeman announced that a Spanish worship service would be held on June 14. The man did attend, but for the next five Sundays, only the Holmans met for worship. Sunday July 26, 2009, moved the compass towards a church start when Minerva and Roberto walked into the Spanish service. They had recently completed the home Bible study, “Good News for You,” with the Holmans. God was working in their hearts, and soon they committed themselves to the vision of starting a Hispanic church in Bethany.
Minerva suggested having a monthly fellowship meal and accepted the job of hostess. She began working in the clothing room where she could meet prospects and invite them to church. Gradually, church attendance increased. What really attracts Hispanics to a church is the personal invitation by family or friends, Holman said. The fellowship meal fits well into the their culture.
In Sept. 2009, Efren, a seminary student at Golden Gate Seminary Extension, along with his wife, Adriana, and two sons began attending services. The church recently licensed him to preach, and he serves as Hispanic associate pastor. Adriana plays the guitar and directs the music.
According to Holman, Hispanics are more open to receiving Christ than Anglos are, but in cross-cultural ministry, it takes longer for people to be baptized and join a church. Some 42 adults have made professions of faith during Hispanic home Bible studies since April 2009. Average church attendance is 30, and the highest attendance was 55 on Feb. 13 when “Friend’s Day” (Valentine’s Day) was observed.
Youth of Bethany First: Kendall, Michael, Taylor, Blakely and Moisés, provide Children’s Church during worship services.
The new work, which meets on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, emphasizes principles of church growth: prayer, loving God and loving one another, Gale Holman said.
“We help people to recognize and develop their spiritual gifts encouraging the use of that gift in the church,” she said.
Last December, the church exceeded its Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal of $500. The church gives 6 percent to the Cooperative Program, 2 percent to associational missions and 2 percent to the Hispanic fellowship.
According to Jim Brunk, BGCO associational & S.A.C. outreach specialist, more than 76,000 people reside within a three-mile radius of Bethany, First, and 13.2 percent of that population is Hispanic.
Daniel Caceres, BGCO church planting strategist, emphasized that there is a great need for partnership churches to help start new works.
“I would encourage retired missionaries to help plant chuches,” Caceres said. He added that at least 12 retired missionaries currently are helping in church starts. There are now 26 Hispanic churches in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area whereas in 1981, there was only one, he said.
The Holmans said they appreciate Bethany, First and Pastor Womack for their provision of a place to meet and for the amenities they offer. The warmth of the people toward Hispanics is a great help to the new work, they said.
“It is obvious the church loves missions and ethnic people,” said Caceres.
Gale Holeman said the new church is a joyful, productive ministry that God is blessing.