Century-old church experiences new life by reaching out to changing community

From refocused to revitalized

Christians live in an ever-changing world with a never-changing gospel. Considering that reality, many find themselves adapting their evangelistic strategies to reach new generations and cultures around them.

First Baptist Church of Galena Park, located in a city that has seen its population demographic shift dramatically over the years, has embraced these changes. 

The 105-year-old church began as an Anglo congregation in 1918. About 90 years later, the church began to experience a significant decline in membership, dropping from more than 800 members at its high point to less than 100. As the church experienced change, so did the population around it. By 2002, Galena Park’s population had become 85% Hispanic.

FBC Galena Park decided to embrace that change and begin reaching out to other cultures. What followed can only be described as a revitalization of the church. Part of the church’s plan to adapt to its new reality included calling a bilingual Hispanic pastor to lead services in English and Spanish to reach the growing number of Hispanics in the community. 

That bilingual pastor was Marcos Ramos, who, along with his wife Irma and their three children, answered the call to lead the church into the future. According to Ramos, the church gained strength and became financially sound as it began reaching out to Hispanics.

FBC Galena Park hosts three Sunday worship services: in Spanish at 9:30 a.m., in English at 11 a.m., and a bilingual service at 6 p.m.

“We didn’t want to be just the Hispanic department or mission of Galena Park. We wanted to be one church [in multiple languages].”

“We didn’t want to be just the Hispanic department or mission of Galena Park,” said Ramos, who has pastored the church for 21 years. “We wanted to be one church [in multiple languages].” 

Ramos felt a call to ministry at age 16, when he saw a need for more Hispanic pastors. Later, he decided to prepare for his calling by earning a diploma in theology from the Baptist University of the Américas and a bachelor’s degree in theological studies from Dallas Baptist University. He also took graduate courses at Criswell College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Throughout his 46-year pastoral career, God has been faithful to give Ramos the opportunity to pastor Anglo and Hispanic churches. At 67, he is still preaching the gospel of Christ, leading his flock in Galena Park, and enjoying his 10 grandchildren. Ramos served two consecutive terms on the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Executive Board from 2003-2012 and was chairman of the Credentials Committee in 2007.

FBC Galena Park is a three-time recipient of the SBTC’s “Look Like Heaven” award, given to multicultural churches that are among the state’s top givers to the Cooperative Program.  

“Last year, we gave $11,998 to the Cooperative Program for the glory of God,” Ramos said, “and we also financially support other mission work, such as our local Baptist association, the San Jacinto Baptist Association.” During the 2022 SBTC Annual Meeting, Ramos and his wife received the Michael Gonzales Ministerial Legacy Award for their many years of ministry. 

(Left) Ramos and his wife, Irma, were honored for their years of ministry service at the 2022 SBTC Annual Meeting. (Right) Ramos is pictured with his family. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

That faithful ministry has included leading the church to host events and programs throughout the year to evangelize and reach out to the community. During Thanksgiving, FBC Galena Park hosts a meal where the Word of God is shared. The church also has a food pantry for those in the community who need help, members pack gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and it hosts block parties to provide haircuts, food, school supplies, and activities for the children. FBC Galena Park also hosts AWANA, a discipleship and recreation program for children. Additionally, the church has participated in several mission trips to various Hispanic countries.  

FBC Galena Park has a mission to be “a dynamic spiritual organism empowered by the Holy Spirit to share Jesus Christ and reach as many people as possible in our community and around the world.” The church believes what the Bible says is true—that one day, those from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue will worship before the throne of God. 

Until that time, they will continue to fulfill the mission by reaching every nation, tribe, and tongue God has placed right in their own backyard.

Correspondent
Arlene Sanabria
Southern Baptist Texan
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