Brownsville church plant focuses outward to fill heaven

BROWNSVILLE Normally, Moises Molina—bivocational pastor of Brownsville’s Iglesia Bautista Jericó—would have paused at the chain link gate before entering the yard of the modest home, but the gate was open and Molina and team proceeded to a side door under the carport. 

Molina knocked, swallowing his surprise as the door swung open, revealing a man behind a table stacked with guns, cash and packages. 

“I am Moises, a church planter in the neighborhood,” Molina explained, focusing on the man, not the contraband. “We are letting people know we are here for you guys. We would love to pray for you, if there are needs. We think God can be a blessing in your life. I also have a message of love for you about how Jesus Christ is changing lives all over the world.” 

“I have faith. I have my Jesus here with me,” the man replied, indicating a large sacred heart medallion on his chest. “I appreciate what you are doing and what you do around the community, but don’t come here again.”

“No problem. We’ll see you around the area,” Molina answered as the man shut the door.

No opportunity opened that day for Jericó’s team to share the gospel with the likely drug dealer, but they did share it with a couple who was leaving the house at about the same time.

“We preached to them,” Molina recalled. “Now, I see them at the temple. They congregate with us. We didn’t impact the gentleman who was making the sales, but Jesus did save the couple and their kids.”

Walking the block to tell neighbors about Jesus is commonplace for members of the new church, which was incorporated officially in early 2018. They have contacted 5,000 homes at least three times since 2013 when the outreach began as Molina’s sending church, West Brownsville Baptist, launched plans for a new church on the other side of town.

As people responded to congregants knocking on doors, sharing at parks and sponsoring community events, Iglesia Bautista Jericó grew from a monthly Bible study to a weekly meeting. Sunday services began Christmas 2016.

The church meets at the Genesis Learning Center, made available by the owner after hours in what Molina calls a “win-win” arrangement whereby Jericó assists in the upkeep of the donated space.

“It is such a blessing,” said Molina, who uses his experience as a building designer to suggest improvements to the property.

 “The community knows that is where the church meets,” Molina said. “We are the church in the daycare.”

Today, Jericó features a full schedule of weekly programs, emphasizing in-home discipleship. Sustained community outreach sets the pace.

“Everything happens when we are out there,” Molina said. “Every day a different ministry is out on the streets reaching the lost.” 

Among the outreaches is something called ‘Park Church,’ where members hold short outdoor services for visitors at local parks. An annual Christmas Bash hosted 100 community kids last year for snacks, gifts and a play. Jericó also trains youth and college groups in door-to-door evangelism using SBTC curricula. 

Molina focuses on building the congregation from new converts. In fact, people who are already Christians are encouraged to return to their former churches.

“Our growth may be a bit slower because of that policy,” Molina admitted, noting that the congregation has grown from “zero” to 40, with a core group of around 10 assisting in evangelism. “We are looking to fill heaven, not chairs in the temple.”

The commitment to Jericó has proved challenging but worthwhile to Molina and his wife, Beatris, a paralegal in the Cameron County District Attorney’s office. 

Molina’s story mirrors the traditional American dream. His parents left Mexico a quarter century ago as violence began, walking across the border bridge to a McDonald’s where Molina’s father phoned a friend, who took the family to church at West Brownsville.

Molina’s parents recommitted their lives to Jesus; Moises and his sister trusted Christ at West Brownsville, and there the family stayed.

While the senior Molinas became permanent residents and took low-paying jobs, their children finished college. Molina’s sister, Maricruz, works in economic development for the State of Texas in Austin. Molina earned degrees in building design and business as a DACA student and became a regional director of Texans for Greg Abbott before entering full-time ministry.

A recent outreach saw Jericó members dispensing sno-cones and sharing Jesus at Cabler Park.

Among those who responded that day was Diana, a Christian who had drifted into the practice of Santa Muerte, a Mexican cult that seeks favor from the so-called patron saint of death.

“She didn’t know how she had spiraled from knowing the Lord to worshiping death,” Molina said. “She was still wondering if God was willing to forgive her for turning her back on him to go after idols.”

Not long ago, Diana gave her testimony in Sunday School.

“How blessed we have been,” Molina said.

Jericó is the 13th of 17 West Brownsville church plants to date, Molina said, expressing gratitude for the financial support and encouragement of the SBTC.

As for the future, Molina envisions shelters for orphans, pregnant women at risk for abortion and recovering prostitutes.  

“The Lord has allowed a big dream,” he added.

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