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December 31, 2000: California church trailblazer for city's revitalization

December 24, 2000: New Jersey township retracts impediment to A/G congregation

December 10, 2000: Christmas stocking project brings hope, gifts to needy kids

November 26, 2000: A/G church looks to second half-century with founding pastor

November 19, 2000: Quest for souls occupies Christians during Olympics

November 12, 2000: Three ministers reaching their world

October 29, 2000: A/G Minister to ride to each state capitol, pray for nation

October 22, 2000: Art academy connects students with Creator

October 15, 2000: Columbine survivors share testimonies, hundreds respond

October 8, 2000: Graham conducts final evangelism conference

September 24, 2000: Independent congregation receives help from Lousiana A/G church

September 17, 2000: California ministry team breaking strongholds

August 27, 2000: Bold outreach touches hurting in Allentown

August 20, 2000: Baptist church gives A/G congregation its facility

August 13, 2000: Climbers conquer Kilimanjaro, help A/G

July 30, 2000: Chicago church, city partner to improve lives of women, children

July 9, 2000: New Mexico fires damage A/G families’ homes

June 25, 2000: God moves in Mississippi high school assembly

June 18, 2000: California skate park becomes 'teen church'

June 11, 2000: Convoy and partners team up to reach poor

May 28, 2000: Tornado damages A/G church in Texas

May 21, 2000: National Prayer Center ministry expands reach

May 14, 2000: Adventure, ministry on Pathfinder missions

April 30, 2000: Church reaching deaf students in Louisiana

April 23, 2000: 40-day fasts unite, renew A/G churches

April 9, 2000: Colorado church booms with bilingual services

March 26, 2000: Cell groups strengthen California youth group

March 19, 2000: Michigan church bounces back from brink of closing

March 12, 2000: A/G man holds world arm-wrestling title

February 27, 2000: A/G minister helps others get their wings

February 20, 2000: Former editor with Christ

 

A/G church looks to second half-century with founding pastor

(November 26, 2000)

During World War II, Raul Garcia learned Hindustani and served as an interpreter for U.S. forces fighting the Japanese in Burma. He also planted a church. His church-planting fervor carried over to his ministry in the United States. Today, Garcia, 77, has shepherded the congregation of El Sendero de la Cruz (the Path of the Cross) A/G in San Antonio, Texas, for 50 years as the church’s senior pastor. It is one of the largest Hispanic churches in the area.

Pastor Raul and Bertha Garcia at El Sendero’s first building.

"My wife, Bertha, and I went with our family door to door in 1950 inviting children to vacation Bible school," Garcia says. "We had about 45 children attend. When we graduated them, we invited their parents. Those families became El Sendero church."

The church’s first building was a rented house. The landlord gave permission to knock out walls to make a sanctuary. In 1960, the congregation bought the building it remained in for the next 38 years.

Garcia’s son, Roy L. Garcia, his associate pastor, ministers in English. Associate Pastor David Castro ministers in Spanish. Garcia’s daughter, Sandy Sanchez, is the office manager. Daughter Marlene Pedroza and son Randy Garcia live in Texas and minister in their communities.

The church’s 38-year location.

"The key to growth and unity at El Sendero has been the willingness of many leaders to open opportunities of ministry to the people of our congregation and to the community," says Roy Garcia. Among the church’s outreaches are daily prayer meetings, benevolence ministries and home Bible fellowships.

Carmen Lira served as the receptionist at El Sendero during the final years in the second building. She feels blessed to be a part of the church.

"We have wonderful times of worship and Pastor Garcia’s preaching is so anointed," she says. "He is a caring and loving pastor."

But ministry does not stop with the pastoral staff. Lira has reached out to hurting people who have called the church.

"Sometimes when the pastor is not available, I’ve had the opportunity to pray with someone for salvation or healing," she says. She now serves as a bookkeeper at the new church.

"We really saw the hand of God during our move to our current location in 1998," Raul Garcia says. "We did not even have our other property on the market, but two churches bought the buildings for top dollar. We were able to get our current property on the busiest intersection in San Antonio, and this has contributed greatly to our growth."

El Sendero has built a 25,000-square-foot church and a 20,000-square-foot building for its Christian school, Sendero Christian Academy. Plans are under way for another 20,000-square-foot addition to offer more classrooms for Sunday school and the academy.

"We have 400 students now and a waiting list," Garcia says. "The school has been a big part of our evangelism in this community. The first year we had 71 students get saved."

Neyra Peñaherrera teaches kindergarten at the academy. "We have devotions with the children each morning and chapel with them on Wednesday," she says. "This year, about half the students in my class have already given their hearts to the Lord."

More than 1,000 people attend the English and Spanish services offered on Sunday morning. More are joining the church regularly, many through the development of home Bible study groups.

Jorge and Neyra Peñaherrera lead one of the groups. As many as 45 people have filled their home. Eight people accepted Christ during a recent three-week period.

The bottom line, Garcia emphasizes, is winning souls. From the students who come to Christ at the academy to the elderly who are touched by the church’s ministry to seniors, all ages are being evangelized by this thriving church as it moves into its second half-century with its founding pastor.

— Scott Harrup

 

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