DALLAS — Every Sunday morning 8-year-old Omar Quintero wakes up, combs his hair and jumps on a church bus just in time to make it to Bible study at the Amigos de Dios mission of Park Cities Baptist Church.
Omar is one of about 125 people who attend the Spanish congregation. Many are Mexican immigrants or children of immigrants — like Omar — living in the Vickery Meadows Community in Dallas.
Amigos de Dios started in the summer of 2007, when seven people began meeting in a crowded office at the Park Cities missions building, said Sam Silva, a Buckner International staff member and pastor of Amigos de Dios.
“We got so big that by the summer of 2007, we moved to a conference room in the missions office and by 2008 we were meeting in the church gym.”
The money for that outreach came from the Wise Trust, a $500,000 donation given by Leola Lyons Wise after her death. The money was to be used for missions.
“Our stated purpose was to seek to meet the needs of the community and to do everything possible to encourage those living in Vickery to join Park Cities Baptist Church,” said Bob Hefner, chair of the committee in charge of allocating the Wise donation.
“Therefore we feel we have honored Ms. Wise’s hope and that the gift, which continues to support our efforts at Vickery, has been of substantial kingdom-building benefit, for which we give God all the glory.”
When Spanish-speaking families from Vickery, where Buckner operated a community center, started going to the church, they encountered a language barrier. So, the church launched its Spanish-language Bible study, which has grown into a thriving congregation.
The love demonstrated by church members and the power of the Scriptures to touch her heart kept Mayra Falcon, 20, attending Amigos de Dios.
“I went to church as a kid, but it was here that the message of the Bible penetrated. So I stayed,” she said in Spanish. “I love the fellowship and how they treat each other here — how they love each other.
“I don’t mind that we are the minority. Even though our services are separated, there are times in which we all come together and we know that we are seen as equals. The important thing is that we all stay together and keep learning from each other so that we can be better Christians and learn about the word.”
Buckner International has partnered with Park Cities Baptist to serve the children and families in the Vickery Meadows community more than 10 years.
“The collaboration that Buckner has with Park Cities is one that we would like to duplicate with other churches,” said Felipe Garza, vice president of national operations at Buckner. “We want to integrate the church into the community and the community into the church life, as well.
“Here is a large, predominantly Anglo church, which has a largely Hispanic community as a next-door neighbor. Well, the church saw it as a mission field across the street and they put funding into the collaboration with Buckner, established Kids Hope USA (a mentoring program) and Cool Kids to serve children in the area, and then started a Bible study that became a Spanish congregation.”
Two of the many members who have benefited from the collaboration are Victorino and Angélica Trujillo. They were some of the first to join the group and clearly remember the days when they used to meet in the crowded office.
“The first time we walked in, we went to the English service,” she said. “We were under-dressed and couldn’t understand most of what was said, but we liked it. We started meeting with Sam in an office with five other people.
“When we were baptized, we emerged from the water with peace, and we’ve grown in our relationship with God. God has blessed us so much that people wouldn’t believe us if we told them.”
Her husband said at first, it felt odd to be the minority in the church.
“But God doesn’t care about the color of your skin. He just loves you and we know that. In some places you will experience racism. But it isn’t like that here. It’s different that way.”
Analiz González Schremmer is a writer and Spanish-language media contact for Buckner International.