Hispanic church helps start Russian church across town

LEWISVILLE?In its eight-year existence, El Companerismo Biblico El Camino of Lewisville has planted and supported churches and ministries around the world. The Spanish-language church’s latest ministry project, a Russian-language church plant, is only 20 miles away in distance but a world away in culture.

The two churches may seem an unlikely tandem. The pastors, though from different cultures and upbringings, share a common commitment to missions and church planting. Their current ministries give immigrants who might otherwise feel disconnected within their new communities a sense of belonging in a fellowship of believers.

“I’ve always had a burden for missions,” said Felix Cornier, pastor of El Camino and an SBTC church planting consultant. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York, Cornier did not learn to speak Spanish until he was 21. At El Camino he has worked to create a mission-minded church. The fruit of their faith is reflected in a budget that sets aside 20 percent for missions, including the SBTC and the Cooperative Program missions funding plan.

“That,” Cornier said, “is non-negotiable.”

The Hispanic congregation financially and prayerfully supports Russian Bible Church, an SBTC congregation whose pastor, Josef Lozovyy, is an accomplished violinist. El Camino mission coordinator John McLaughlin said their support has not been with physical help, in part due to logistics. Both congregations are spread throughout the Dallas area. The financial assistance, he said, allows the Russian church to develop as God leads.

“We want to take a backseat and let God lead the Russian church. This was the most effective way of helping,” McLaughlin said.

Lozovyy contacted Cornier in 2007 about supporting the start of a Russian-language church in the Richardson area. He said he contacted the SBTC because the Southern Baptist Convention had been a significant help when his father was involved in church planting in Ohio.

The decision to assist the upstart Russian church was not a difficult one for the small Hispanic church, the majority of whom, Cornier said, are new believers. Launched in 2000, El Camino is a fellowship with a common faith and language but a variety of backgrounds. The congregation of 147 has an average age of 37. They are young couples, day laborers, and professionals. Some are American by birth while others are immigrants from numerous Spanish-language nations?Mexico, El Salvador, Argentina, and Puerto Rico.

Although they did not share a common native tongue, they shared a common experience with their Russian brothers and sisters and even if the support funds had to come out of his own salary, Cornier said he was determined to help.

It was not Lozovyy’s first effort to start a Russian-language church in North Texas.

As a seminary student in Dallas in the late 1990s he made three attempts in two years to start a congregation but his efforts bore no fruit. The opportunity for continued education took him from Dallas back to Ohio where his family had first immigrated in 1992 when Lozovyy was 19 years old. His father, Teodoziy, had been a Protestant church planter in Russia and it was in that spiritually bleak land that Lozovyy’s Christian education began.

In Russia before the Glasnost reforms of the 1980s, the Lozovyy family at times found themselves the only confessing Christians they knew of. It was also illegal, he said, for parents to take their children to church.

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TEXAN Correspondent
Bonnie Pritchett
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