AUSTIN, Minn.—When Pastor and Mrs. David Johnson arrived in January 2006 to minister at First Baptist Church, they realized that 3,000–5,000 people in town were from Mexico, working at Hormel Foods, a Fortune 500 company. Presently 6,000–7,000 Hispanics live in Austin, a city that has a total of 24,000 people.
The Johnsons soon began to pray that God would make First Baptist a multicultural church that truly represented the city.
In June 2007 the first Hispanic family attended: a husband, wife, and two young sons. They had come to Christ through a church in Sedalia, Mo. The husband spoke broken English, the wife spoke no English, and the boys spoke both English and Spanish. The family has attended every Sunday since. Soon another man started attending. He spoke English fairly well, but his wife and children did not start attending until almost a year later.
In February 2008 the Hispanic pastor and seven others from the church in Sedalia came to visit their former members. They had dinner together in the First Baptist fellowship hall after a Spanish-speaking service. “They invited us to eat with them, and we were surprised to walk in and find more than 50 Hispanics of all ages present,” related Pastor Johnson. The Hispanic pastor was sound in his doctrine and was concerned for his former sheep now living in Minnesota.
More families began to come regularly, averaging 15–20 Hispanics each Sunday. In March 2008, an interpreter helped for one month, but he left to go to a charismatic church. (First Baptist is the only evangelical noncharismatic Hispanic ministry in Austin. Also, a large part of the Hispanic population is Roman Catholic.)
In April 2008 the new Hispanic group realized that they needed a Spanish-speaking leader who had training and experience. Having the language barrier and no leader who could teach them further, the group was becoming discouraged. A group from Sedalia came several more times that year to visit and to help where possible. In October 2008 First Baptist made an agreement with the Hispanic church in Sedalia to come once a month and help in further teaching in basic Bible doctrine, while for the next year continuing to actively search for a Hispanic leader. A Spanish language Sunday School class also began. The children were all integrated into the church’s existing nurseries and Sunday School classes, since there is no language barrier with the children.
In November 2008 First Baptist began to see souls saved in this group on a regular basis. It was a special joy the first time someone trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior while speaking in Spanish. In January 2009 the church had its first bilingual baptismal service. Four men in their 20s who had trusted Christ in the previous three months obeyed the Lord in this way. Pastor Efrain from Missouri joined Pastor Johnson in the baptismal pool and interpreted the service into Spanish and the Spanish into English for the congregation. First Baptist continued to see souls saved. The first Hispanic man was the leader of the group and taught the new coverts about baptism and prepared them to be baptized. So far three bilingual baptismal services have taken place in 2009, with 16 adult Hispanic men and women getting baptized.
The second bilingual baptism took place in May 2009, and 125 Hispanics came to a dinner afterward. In that baptism service, the wife of the second original man who attended was baptized and added to the church. The church services also began to average 50–60 Hispanics every week. In the previous months, two other evangelical churches in town had closed down their Hispanic ministries. These ministries were not integrated with the “Anglo” church attendees in any way. All ministries were segregated. At the same time First Baptist’s ministry was growing and had Spanish-speaking Bible studies going on in homes during the week.
Pastor Efrain called Pastor Johnson in June 2009 and said that he had two men, experienced Hispanic pastors, who were willing to come to Austin to help in ministry. One of these men was Pastor Moses Rodriquez, who had been Pastor Efrain’s assistant for the past 10 years. First Baptist was familiar with him because he had been up to visit on several occasions for the teaching weekends.
He was an American citizen, well experienced in the ministry, well liked by the Hispanic community, and well grounded in the Word.
The deacons and Pastor Johnson interviewed him in July 2009 and later set up a candidating Sunday for Oct. 11. In September 2009 the church had a combined English and Spanish language Sunday evening service and presented the opportunity. Church members report that the unity and excitement in this service was wonderful to behold.
First Baptist works to integrate the two groups whenever possible. The church has both English and Spanish language books in its library. Every other month the church has an all-church dinner with both language groups. The two ethnicities work together on work projects around the church property when needed as well. The church is also working on ESL classes for the future.
On Oct. 11, Pastor Moses candidated by assisting Pastor Johnson in a bilingual baptismal service, giving his testimony to both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking groups as well as having a question and answer time in both languages after a noon meal of wonderful American and Mexican cuisine.
On Oct. 18, the English- and Spanish-speaking members met together after the Sunday morning service and unanimously voted to call Pastor Moses as associate pastor for Hispanic ministries. First Baptist rejoices to see what God has done in the last four years. There is potential for the Hispanic congregation, which averages 60–75 people each Sunday, to double or even triple in size. The people are thanking the Lord for the souls who have been saved. On a humorous note, Pastor Johnson adds, “Our pastoral staff is now David and Moses. What a combination! We are looking for an Asaph to lead music! Maybe a Peter or Paul could lead in missions!”