It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Or was it, really?
When Tigua Baptist Church in El Paso closed its doors for the last time in January, God was able to use the church’s sacrifice more mightily than the church had been used in years.
After years of work and effort, the members of the 66-year-old church decided that all good things, including churches, must come to an end. It very well may have seemed the worst of times. Tigua’s pastor, Mark Rawles, had been at the church for nearly eight years and had tried virtually everything he knew to do to help the church turn around and reach its community.
Meanwhile, La Verdad Community Baptist Church, a bilingual church located just over a mile away, was busting at the seams with growth. But even better times were literally just around the corner on the North Loop.
A sacrificial exchange
“The decision to close the church took about a year and a half in the making,” Rawles said. “We came to a stalemate in our endeavors. I knew closing the church would put me out of a job. I had been there for seven-and-a-half years and it was a struggle (to grow the church) from day one.”
Like the protagonists Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, a sacrificial exchange was made and Tigua Baptist Church voted to swap its church property valued at $800,000 with La Verdad’s building, valued at one-tenth of the cost of Tigua’s facility.
“La Verdad is growing and was having a larger church attendance than we were. They’re doing things we wished we could have done,” Rawles said. “They were running about 80 and we were having about 18 in our services. Our building was on three or four city lots, including the sanctuary, the lobby, three church offices, a library, and a kitchen.”
“When we told Frank [Quintana, pastor of La Verdad], he was thrilled to say the least. He just started crying, and I felt the peace of God.”
Quintana said the trade could not have come at a better time. “We were growing and are still growing, and we had been planning on building onto our old church. In a way, it was one of the greatest things Tigua Baptist Church has ever done because it’s all for the Kingdom of God. I’ve seen other churches just let their property go to waste until it’s no longer useful to anyone.”
In its efforts to improve the facility, Tigua had in recent years remodeled the sanctuary, put a rock fence around the property and made other improvements to its property to attract new members. But its two-story education building and 23 classrooms had not been used for years. Pastor Quintana says the members of La Verdad are working to renovate those rooms for its accelerated growth. “We have offices for everybody. It’s really exciting!” Quintana said.
“In all my years in the ministry, this is the most growth I’ve seen, and these are very exciting times. We’ve seen our church double in the last four months. We are getting visitors to our church ever Sunday.”
Giving to missions
But the exchange of the two churches was not the end of Tigua’s giving story. Rather than continue to meet in the smaller church, Tigua Baptist decided to continue with plans made before the exchange to dissolve Tigua and sell La Verdad’s former building. The proceeds went to mission projects, including the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. It also gave to a local rescue mission and a severance pay for the pastor.
A check dated April 10, 2003, was sent to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in the amount of $63,973 of which: $18,278 was designated to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering; $18,278 was designated to Annie Armstrong Missions Offering; and $18,278 was designated to the Cooperative Program. State Missions received $9,139.00.
Aubrey Warren, the finance chairman and a trustee of the Tigua Baptist Church, said the decision to give to missions was only natural for the church. “We’ve always supported missions and the Cooperative Program. Our Woman’s Missionary Union sponsored it strongly and made charts for our goal.”