December 31, 2000: Saturday Night at The River
November 26, 2000: College athletes minstry emphasizes Holy Spirit
November 19, 2000: Bad weather doesn't dampen spirits of thousands at Detroit's Convoy of Hope
November 12, 2000: International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Church
October 29, 2000: Frontiersman way of life draws men, boys closer to Christ
September 17, 2000: Loving the unloved
September 10, 2000: Changing lives in a big way
August 13, 2000: Church planting fuels growth
July 30, 2000: Full Gospel New York Church targets 500,000 Koreans
July 16, 2000: Running the good race
July 9, 2000: Hispanic church thrives in border town
June 25, 2000: The hand of God
June 18, 2000: HonorBound: Raising an army of godly men
May 14, 2000: A/G foster families minister to children
April 30, 2000: Prison revival reaches beyond the fence
April 23, 2000: Harvest Sunday draws hundreds for water baptism
April 16, 2000: Chain reaction
April 9, 2000: One pastor's burden: reaching the 'white slums'
March 26, 2000: Cowboy church rounds up believers
March 19, 2000: Motorsports ministry: Winning souls at the track
March 12, 2000: A dream blooms in the desert
February 20, 2000: Romanian church prospers for 20 years
February 13, 2000: Ministry at a strategic academic crossroads
January 23, 2000: God's Navy
Hispanic church thrives in border town
The newly added sanctuary at Iglesia Cristiana Misericordia (Mercy Christian Church) in Laredo, Texas, is not yet complete. Inside, I-beams and insulation are exposed, the concrete floor is yet to be tiled and the air conditioner is not working but hundreds of worshipers file into the church undeterred.
"Every Sunday nearly 600 people come to worship here," says Gilbert Velez, M.D., pastor of the church. "Some families in the congregation cross the border [from Mexico] to be here. The people of this church really love God."
Outside the temperature is creeping toward the century mark, and it is not much cooler in the sanctuary. But when the music begins, the worshipers spring to their feet and begin praising God. In the front row, two women dance one has a colorful streamer that she whips back and forth. The Spanish lyrics are accompanied by the beating of drums, the rattle of tambourines and shouts of "Hallelujah" or "Gloria a Díos."
In 1994, this church started as a Bible study in Rebecca Gallegos home. Gallegos had read in the Pentecostal Evangel about a woman who started a home Bible study that eventually turned into a thriving church. Inspired, she wanted to do the same. Unbeknownst to her, God was also working on Velez, who at the time was practicing medicine.
"I felt like the Lord was leading me to start a Hispanic church in Laredo," says Velez. "But the growth of this church really caught us by surprise."
Within six months, the Bible study of 15 moved to a storefront location and quickly grew to more than 75 people. As God moved in the church, Velez and his wife, Zulma, also a physician, felt impressed to leave their medical practices.
For their first four months as full-time ministers, another Christian physician paid Velez a pastors salary. By the beginning of the fifth month the church had grown enough that it could support him. Since then the church has continued to experience growth due in large part, says Velez, to prayer.
"Every weekday morning at 6 a.m. more than 20 come to the church to pray," he says. "We know that in order for us to enjoy an intimate relationship with God we must pray. Prayer is the key factor to this churchs success."
Evangelism is also a cornerstone of the church. Five years ago when Balbemar Sanchezs daughter was critically ill, church members went to the hospital and ministered to the family. When they prayed for Sanchezs daughter, God healed her. Touched, Sanchez accepted Christ as his Savior.
"The people of this church supported our family," he says. "When we were going through a hard time, this church was there."
In childrens church the next generation of prayer warriors and soul winners is being discipled. More than 150 children sit in child-sized plastic chairs paying rapt attention to Jeff Miller, youth and childrens pastor.
"The children and youth are spiritually hungry," Miller says. "We cant feed them fast enough they are serious about church and reaching the lost."
Gilbert Sanchez, a layperson, says the church is just getting started. "We are going to outgrow this place very soon, because we are going to reach more people," he promises, pointing to the sanctuary. "And we will continue working toward that until the coming of the Lord."
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