God uses ‘setback’ to open door for much-needed Hispanic church plant in Corpus Christi

Pastor Ruben De Rus has personally experienced the biblical promise that God works all things together for good.

De Rus, originally from Spain, obtained a student visa and came to the U.S. in his 20s to study theology at a Baptist university in San Antonio. There he met his wife, Azucena, and, shortly before graduating, he was recruited to pastor a church in Colorado. 

De Rus had been pastoring there for several years when he discovered something that would change the trajectory of his ministry: someone who had helped him obtain his religious visa did so fraudulently, forcing De Rus to change his plans and return to school so he could remain in the U.S. on his student visa. He decided to pursue a master’s degree in clinical counseling, a path he says he might not have considered had things gone according to his own plans. During that time, he also took a job at a mental health center.

Little did he know, God was at work laying a foundation for ministry that would benefit the kingdom several years later.

By 2018, De Rus and his wife began sensing God calling them away from Colorado and back to Texas to be closer to her family. The Lord opened the door for De Rus to serve as a clinical counselor at a shelter for immigrant girls in the Corpus Christi area, a position he held for five years, the last serving as director of the counseling department. 

As time passed, De Rus learned the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention had identified Corpus as an area where more Hispanic church planters were needed. Although De Rus had no plans to return to pastoring, God impressed on his heart that he could help meet that need. 

He began the evaluation process for planters through Send Network SBTC, the church planting partnership between the SBTC and North American Mission Board, in late 2022. He was sent out with the support of his church, Yorktown Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, its pastor, Jonathan Brazell, and its elders. De Rus and his family were officially commissioned as planters at the SBTC Annual Meeting in November 2022 and planted South Side Baptist Church in Corpus Christi a few months later. 

South Side Baptist Church in Corpus Christi began with a handful of people (including Ruben and Ariadna De Rus second row far right), but that number swelled by the time the church celebrated its one-year anniversary a year later.

Having conversations, reaching families

South Side began holding Bible studies on Sundays in 2023, with De Rus and his wife being joined by friends Miguel and Daniela Barreras, who were eager to join the work God was doing. De Rus specifically felt called to put his experience and training as a clinical counselor into practice through the church, providing inner healing to people hurting and living without Jesus. That mission guided how South Side began reaching out to the community. 

The church began offering a series of workshops called “Let’s Talk” addressing subjects such as immigration, parenting, and more. These talks helped the church connect with 10 families that attended not only the talks, but also church. 

“Our focus at this time is to work with the family unit, and our mission is to make disciples of Christ who grow in their obedience to God and love for others,” De Rus said.

De Rus said it has been striking to see how many people the Lord has connected to the church in such a short time. South Side has witnessed a number of ministry doors open, allowing members to minister to families and vulnerable people. One of those opportunities has come through a local women’s shelter, where a woman there saw a social media ad promoting one of the church’s talks. She began attending, invited others to come, and, as a result, several have accepted Christ and been baptized.

“Our focus at this time is to work with the family unit, and our mission is to make disciples of Christ who grow in their obedience to God and love for others.”

South Side—which celebrated its one-year anniversary on Jan. 1, 2024, with a person coming to faith in Christ—has plans to expand its community outreach. Soon, a community plaza will be located on its premises where the church will offer ESL and GED classes. Additionally, a mobile Mexican consulate will operate there in May so Mexican citizens can legally resolve documentation issues.

As a bivocational pastor who also serves as an assistant director at a family foster care program, De Rus said his prayer is that God will continue to help him manage his time well. He said it is a challenge to see great needs with few resources to address them. Even so, the plan is to faithfully minister to the 40 or so people attending South Side regularly while continuing to offer talks and workshops to strengthen families, introduce them to Jesus, and help them grow in their faith. 

“When you decide to walk through [God’s] door, it’s amazing to see everything behind that door—which are opportunities to minister to people,” De Rus said. “We are seeing people coming to Christ, families integrated, serving, and growing in their relationship with God and strengthening their parent-child and spouse relationships.”

Arlene Sanabria
Southern Baptist Texan
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