The energy is unmissable when you step into the warm mix of Spanglish unleashed in the foyer at Tabernaculo Biblico au Bautista El Redentor in Vancouver’s Killarney District. Ola! it is the gospel in Spanish! The greetings are enthusiastic and welcoming. From the auditorium, the Latin American beat and energetic singing show a deep soul connection with those who worship here. The Evangelistic preaching of Dr. David Rodriguez, dynamically on display to a live streaming audience of thousands around the globe, is enthusiastically welcomed by the capacity crowd in-house.
Twenty-four year old Edmir Nunez (from Mexico) was just four years old in 1997 when his immigrant parents brought him to Canada. Through connections with another Spanish speaker, they searched out the church. He says that when he began to take his faith seriously, “the growth that has occurred in my life has been so drastic in my own eyes, when I look back to who I was before. My character, my mindset and heart has been changed dramatically by the will of God. My church has been the center of a huge portion of influence of who I am today. The values, virtues, and morals that I have learned from the word of God and from the many men and women of God will be things that I will take with me for the rest of my life and if God is willing, I will pass it on to my future family.”
Ethnic bridge churches can be vital links in bridging the gaps for newcomers to Canada. When the flags are flown to demonstrate which countries are represented in the congregation, the Latin American world is in full display among other nations. A quick survey reveales attendees from Albania, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Eritrea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Spain, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
November 1988 marked the birth of this Spanish-focused church with 15 in attendance. Strong outreach to Hispanic newcomers has increased the depth and breadth of those who fill out the relationships that form a strong bond. The airport, area farms, malls and the streets of the city are all places where members reach out to Spanish speakers. Cross-cultural marriages continue to expand the countries represented. Being a city church and an ethnic church means a lot of transition over the years.
Dr. Rodriguez says that El Redentor is effective in communicating the love of Jesus “through the authentic proclamation of the Gospel and all of Scripture; through sacrificial and loving service and through genuine testimony.” A week of prayer and fasting formed a foundation to launch 2018 with the motto of ‘God first’. He says “we are aware of the mandate to preach the Gospel to every human being, which we do passionately inside and outside the church. Over the years we have seen hundreds of souls surrender their lives to Christ and be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Twenty-two missionaries in 16 countries are supported by this local church determined to make disciples for Christ from all nations – especially those where Spanish-speaking residents are searching for truth. According to Rogelio Martinez, “the church doesn’t want to have a missions department – they want to be a missionary church.” Forty different ministries tap into the collective gifting and resources of a wide spectrum of professionals, tradesmen, students, and families. A Foodbank depot on Fridays serves almost 200 community members from over 30 nations each week.
Ana Judith Rivera (from El Salvador) still remembers in the early days when four brothers, orphaned in a conflict in their native land, came filled with pain, anger, resentment and revenge. Through the ministry of the church they came to Christ and found healing. They still minister to others in Vancouver. She remembers healed marriages – as one example among others – through which the church has impacted the community.
Rodriguez says “we believe that Jesus’ love is modeled through our actions which speak louder than words. We are inclusive. We help the needy and newcomers and are willing to aid those who need a hand to get ahead. When they ask us why we do what we do, we explain that we are only fulfilling Jesus’ command to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.”
Enrique Torres echoes the observations of others when he references the testimony of members who have come to Christ from drug or alcohol addiction. One individual finally left his life of addiction after the church had prayed for him at their Friday prayer houses for a significant length of time. He is now baptized and active in the opportunities at the church.
Martinez says that “we as a congregation are very enthusiastic and eager to see what great things our Lord will allow us to achieve in the coming years. Currently, we have set in our hearts to leave Jesus’ legacy in the hearts of future generations so that the gospel is proclaimed forever until Jesus comes.”