First Westside Baptist Church in Kansas City likely is the oldest Baptist work, at least the oldest continuous congregation, among Hispanics in Missouri.
The church began as Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana, or First Mexican Baptist Church, in 1916 with M.A. Urbina as its first pastor, according to an historical booklet Ramiro Castillo and Joel Molina wrote to celebrate the congregation’s 75th anniversary in 1991.
Records show Blue River Baptist Association (now Blue River-Kansas City) gave $50 to assist the new work and accepted the Hispanic congregation into fellowship the following year. The church reported 42 members.
In 1920, the association’s City Mission Board gave the congregation the old William Jewell church building. Once established in their own building, church members began ministries to the community, establishing a day nursery and offering a free medical clinic.
The early 1920s apparently were difficult years for the young congregation, which had five pastors within two years, including two furloughing missionaries. In 1922, J.M. Justice, who had spent 11 years in Argentina, took the pastoral reins. The association’s minutes that year called the church “our only real mission work among foreigners in Kansas City.”
Poor health forced Justice to resign in early 1926. By that time, Hispanic outreach had resulted in joint ministry across the state line. The church called F. B. Colon, who also assisted with the metro-area work.
However, by mid-year Colon was able to concentrate primarily on the Missouri church. “The work grew so much that Kansas City, Kansas (in) June placed a man in charge (there),” Castillo and Molina noted.
Through the 1930s, the church offered English language classes and began a pre-kindergarten class in addition to its established day nursery. Its Woman’s Missionary Union, which began in 1918, held Bible studies and provided training in sewing and other handwork.
By the late 1930s, the congregation’s building could not adequately accommodate its ministries. In 1944, the association purchased a lot. A new facility was constructed and dedicated in late 1945.
Church members were active in the National Mexican Baptist Convention, hosting a meeting in 1936 and again in 1945. Unfortunately, Castillo and Molina ended their written history at 1945.
In the late 1990s, the church changed its name, partly to reflect changes in membership. Because several members speak English, the church called Randy Schmidt, who had served as a missionary to Argentina for 10 years, as pastor and began offering two worship services — one in Spanish and one in English. Sunday School classes are offered in both Spanish and English, and Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services are conducted in Spanish.
The congregation ministers to its community in several ways, including opening its facilities for other groups to use. Members feed breakfast one Saturday each month to laborers who wait for job opportunities.