By Claudia Davis
Growing up in Mexico, Carlos Lozano never imagined he would one day be pastor of an Hispanic church in Milan, Missouri.
The son of a pastor, Lozano felt called to ministry when he was 16 years old. He felt called to prepare to reach people with the gospel but didn't know how at the time. "God opened many doors," to point him in the right way, he said.
The Trenton/Milan Hispanic Mission was birthed in response to a need seen by the people in the Milan area.
What originally began with 10 people less than two years ago has expanded to a weekly attendance of 60 or more worshippers.
The Hispanic congregation has grown so large, they needed a new meeting place, explained Wade Paris, who chairs the mission's advisory committee.
Advisory committee members and Lozano began looking for a larger place to rent but found nothing suitable.
Then they discovered the former USDA building was for sale. Trusting God, they agreed to purchase the building that now provides ample space for the worship center and classrooms.
They were also able to convert extra space into three apartments. Lozano and his family occupy one apartment, and the other two will be rented out to help with the mission's finances.
Lozano and his wife, Alicia, have three children, Elisabeth, Carlos and Esther. The family lived in Washington State, working in orchards and in the ministry, until Lozano's father died three years ago.
Prior to his father's death, Lozano returned to Mexico to spend time with his dad. Then he went to California where he received the call to the new mission, his first full-time pastorate.
The Trenton area has few Hispanic families; however, there are many in the Milan area. According to Paris, there are approximately 600 registered Hispanics in Sullivan County.
Lozano meets with a small group each Sunday morning at First Baptist Church, Trenton. He returns to Milan where a group meets at 2 p.m. for Sunday School and worship. He also leads Bible study and prayer meetings throughout the week.
Services are conducted in Spanish. Although not all those who attend are Hispanic, they all speak Spanish fluently.
The mission enjoys wide support from the community and churches in the area. Laymen worked with North Grand River Baptist Association, First Baptist churches of Trenton and Milan, North Central Baptist Association, Kirksville Baptist Division and the Missouri Baptist Convention, Paris, former director of missions for Kirksville Baptist Division, said.
MBC language missions specialist Mauricio Vargas also was involved in the church start-up.
Paris said the success of the church can be attributed to both the support from other churches in the area and to Lozano.
"He is very committed," Paris said. The church "has far exceeded anything we ever dreamed."