Departmento Salem

At the beginning of the year 2000, after the Y2K fears had subsided, our church was asked to consider meeting with Rev. Victor Orta, a pastor in our association of churches and leader of the local Baptist Hispanic network. He had a few families that were interested in starting their own church in our neighborhood. Rev. Orta knew that we had had modest Hispanic Bible classes during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. We met a few times for careful discussions and developed a plan for going forward together. With full congregational approval, we invited this group of about 25 or 30 people to begin meeting with us starting on Palm Sunday that spring. They organized themselves as Departmento Salem, with Ariel Benetiz as their pastor/leader.  

Our people volunteered to be certified to teach English as a Second Language and held weekly sessions for about 3 years. We were able to provide some workshops where experts taught the basics of church operations, age-graded classes, and the role of deacons. We also provided how-to sessions on immigration matters, citizenship, tax requirements and keeping documents current. The children, as they felt more comfortable, joined in our Sunday School classes and Vacation Bible Schools. We led in the ordination of Pastor Benetiz and the first set of deacons including their current pastor, Francisco Gaona, who is also an original member. Soon their attendance outgrew their department room. They gathered for worship in our Fellowship Hall during the 11:00 hour. By 2009 they were consistently overflowing their space and began dreaming of forming their own congregation and finding their own church facilities. They secured an older church at Pine and Harvard, debt free from the start. They fully incorporated in 2010 as Iglesia Bautista Monte Los Olivos (Mt. Olive Baptist Church).

By 2013 the Monte Los Olivos congregation had outgrown their church building. In the meantime, we had invited GracePoint Church in 2012, to have a similar relationship with us in our facilities. By 2013, Braden Park and GracePoint began holding all our services and activities together. By early 2014 our churches invited Monte Los Olivos Church to share our facilities once again. Three separate congregations approved a new arrangement where we would start our worship Sundays at 10:00 a.m. with Monte Los Olivos beginning at 11:15. Here we are, ten years later, stronger than ever. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Praise the Lord for growth and unity. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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