Sowing Gospel Seeds
It’s common to hear about English-speaking churches planting Spanish-speaking churches. But what Jezreel Dios Siembra Church is doing in this burgeoning West Texas border city is not so common.
Daniel Moreno, Jezreel’s pastor, believes his Hispanic church is the first in El Paso—and possibly in the surrounding area—to plant an English-speaking church. Though it is estimated that nearly 82% of the city’s 550,000 residents are Hispanic, Jezreel began to discover what other Hispanic churches are finding: households with family members who speak predominantly English or predominantly Spanish living under the same roof.
So after 17 years of sharing the gospel in their city, Jezreel reached out to Send Network SBTC—the church planting partnership between the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the North American Mission Board—for counsel and to help train a pastor to lead the English-speaking campus.
Moreno said Jezreel was motivated by a strong desire to unite mixed-language families that want to worship together.
“There were people who preferred English as their primary language but who were married to [Spanish-speaking] people from our congregation,” Moreno said. “To fill that need for [those families] to come together, we decided to start an English work.”
Moreno has led Jezreel to plant six churches so far, with plans to begin training more planters soon. He recently began serving as a planting catalyst for the SBTC, sharing the planting and evangelism knowledge God has given him during 30 years of ministry with other planters. Planting is hard-wired into this heart.
Moreno grew up in a Christian home that was very active in missions and evangelism. He was born in El Paso but grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, where his family returned to minister. His father, Fernando, was one of the planting leaders of a church in Chihuahua, also called Jezreel, which he led for 12 years as an ordained deacon while it searched for a pastor. From this church, nine missions were born between 1978 to 1980, some of them under Fernando’s leadership.
Moreno said his father encouraged giving the church’s children and youth opportunities to serve. That included providing Moreno—beginning at age 11—with opportunities to preach in the church and teach Bible classes to children. By age 16, he was helping lead missions initiatives and becoming more familiar with church planting.
However, Moreno’s life took an unexpected turn when he turned 17. Fernando—mistakenly believing anyone born in the U.S. was required to serve in the military—sent his son back to El Paso to enlist. Moreno arrived in the U.S. to learn he was not required to enlist, leaving him without a place to live. He sought refuge from a local church—not yet knowing how God would use the experience to open a door back into ministry.
The church not only sheltered Moreno, but offered him a chance to serve after leaders there learned about his extensive ministry background. It was a good fit, allowing Moreno to assist the church’s pastor—a new believer with no ministry experience. Moreno began working with the church’s youth and, while there, met his wife, Margarita.
He later accepted an offer to be the full-time youth pastor at another church in El Paso, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work at New Mexico State University during that time. When he finished his studies, the church ordained him as a pastor and immediately invited him to start a Hispanic church in El Paso. Accepting the challenge, Moreno began this work in a family’s home. Eventually, the church outgrew the house, and members were able to move into an abandoned building that was donated to them.
‘God takes care of His church’
Jezreel—named in honor of his father’s church in Mexico—is a healthy and growing congregation that, desite challenges, continues to believe God is the one sustaining its work.
One of those challenges is El Paso’s transient population. According to Moreno, his church—along with many others in the city—loses about 20% of its membership each year as families come and go looking for work or opportunities to better their lives.
“The churches in this city have to grow constantly to survive,” Moreno said, “because if they do not, [they] will be empty in a few years.”
Sharing the gospel, then, becomes that much more urgent. Once a month, Jezreel members visit an alley where many homeless people and addicts live. The most beautiful thing, Moreno said, is that some of the church members making the visits once lived in that alley themselves before Christ transformed them. On other occasions, church members bring food and clothing to the more than 200 migrants who have settled in the downtown area.
Like his father, Moreno has a passion for evangelism and believes in providing opportunities for children and youth to grow. The church has two worship groups made up mostly of young adults, and every Sunday the service includes a brief time when children share a biblical message with the church. It’s part of the reason, Moreno said, the church is thriving.
Which brings another challenge: space. With a Sunday attendance around 220, Jezreel sometimes has to hold services in its parking lot so nobody is left out. Church leaders are now looking for ways to fund construction for a new building.
“In all these years, we have seen that God does not abandon us,” Moreno said, “but fights our battles and takes care of His church.”