The dream began with members of a Prestonwood home Bible study eager to put their faith to work. It culminated a few weeks ago in a glorious Easter Sunday service for almost 200 people, celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
But in the beginning, no one could have imagined all that would take place in this corner of Lewisville, near the steady rumble of traffic on State Highway 121.
The story started a couple of summers ago when a group of Prestonwood women began meeting at the home of Holly and David Shivers for a Bible study. Holly, who led the study, said the women were looking for a change—something new, something different, something beyond their “comfortable Christianity.”
Misty Bevill-Nelson, who had served as a school counselor at Central Elementary School, which serves some of the poorer neighborhoods in Lewisville, had an idea.
A large percentage of the student body at Central came from immigrant families, mostly from Mexico and Central America. And a lot of them lived at the Northwood Trailer Park, hidden behind a wall of trees just off the highway.
“I had already taken on my role as an assistant principal in Flower Mound, but those people in the trailer park had really touched my heart,” Misty said. “I’d go to Sam’s and buy cases of chips and water and they’d see my car coming in and they’d follow me.”
So when the members of the Bible study began brainstorming for a mission opportunity, Misty spoke up.
“Someone said, ‘We can go to Dallas,’ and I said, ‘We can go to Lewisville!’ And I told them about the families and the the needs and the culture of poverty.”
For a group that wanted to get out of their comfort zone, what Misty described was exactly what they needed.
“We realized you can’t always wait (for the ministry) to come to you,” Holly said. “And when Misty told us that a lot of the kids lived in this trailer park community, we decided we wanted to go out there.”
On their first visit, Holly said, “we brought a lot of gently-used items, we brought nail polish to do the girls’ nails, and we had a cookout.”
“We gathered the clothing and we took it up there for a garage sale, except it was free, and people could get what they needed,” added Lesa Ramirez, another member of the Bible study.
David, the Minister of Men & Evangelism, also leads the Living Second Bible Fellowship at Prestonwood. When word spread of the opportunities to serve the Northwood residents, many in the class joined for monthly visits to the trailer park.
“That August, we did a back-to-school event,” Lesa said, “and we bought these little backpacks with school supplies for the kids.
“In October-November, we did coats. People cleaned out their closets,” she said. “For Thanksgiving, we passed out hundreds of bags (of food) and $10 gift certificates to Walmart. We’ve done that for the last three years. And in January, we brought pajamas, some gently used and some bought new.”
But despite the successful beginning, one big challenge remained: communications.
Among the group that volunteered regularly, only Lesa and her husband, Eric, were fluent Spanish speakers.
“And the neighborhood was almost 100 percent Hispanic,” Holly said, “so we reached out to Prestonwood en Español.”
“They came in to help and started the first Bible study in someone’s home there and it kept multiplying,” Holly said. “It’s really amazing! Our purpose was to be right there in the beginning, but Prestonwood en Español owns this now.”
Prestonwood en Español Pastor Gilberto Corredera remembered the first conversation he had about the Northwood Trailer Park and the people living there.
“They called us and said, ‘Can you join us and help us?’” Gilberto said, “so we went with them, and Pastor Orbe (Perez) and I started sharing the Gospel with people in the park. After that, we said, ‘We have to go back!’”
Soon, they met a woman at the park named Marlene Flores and she invited them to visit her home and her husband, Jaime, who had a broken ankle and could no longer work.
“Orbe and some others visited the house and they prayed for the husband and later both he and his wife received the Lord,” Gilberto said. “We asked if we could teach the Bible to them and we went every Friday, and they started inviting their friends.
“We did that for almost a year, working with the couple and their friends and family.”
Eventually, they had to move the class from the Flores’ mobile home—there simply wasn’t enough room—and the Bible Study found a new location in the park’s leasing office.
“In the process, more people got involved and we started looking for opportunities to serve,” Gilberto said, “so we went to CCA (Christian Community Action) to help with their food pantry. We connected with the CEO of the ministry (Chasz Parker).
“He gave me a tour and we went into this new space, brand new space, and I asked him, ‘What do you want to do there?’”
Chasz said he didn’t have an answer. Before his arrival, CCA had received a grant to build the new space to house a program in what had been the warehouse, he said.
“Then we realized the cost of upgrading (the warehouse) was a whole lot more than anyone expected,” Chasz said. “A contract to renovate the building had already been signed, so I went to the contractor—I was trying to be nice to see if he would let me out of the contract—but he had already hired the subcontractors.
“So we built this big building and it couldn’t be used. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know what I’ll ever do with this building.’ We used all the money we had and we didn’t have anything to go into it.
“But Pastor Gilberto came by to take a tour with me, and he said, ‘You can have a church here.’
“I said, ‘I know.’
“And he says, ‘No, you can have a church here! You can have our church here. We can have a church!’ And he told me about the Hispanic congregation.”
Chasz was convinced, and presented the idea to the CCA board. He received the exact response he hoped to get.
“One of the board members said, ‘The space is empty and I’d rather do something than nothing. (Prestonwood en Español) will put in some audio-video equipment and maybe we can use that, too.’
“He said, ‘Offer them six or seven months free rent if we can use the AV equipment.’”
At almost the same time, Chasz got a call from Gilberto.
“Gilberto said, ‘I have an offer to make: Let us use (the space) for six or seven months and you can use our AV equipment.’
“At that moment, I said, ‘This is the Lord! We have to do this! Those are the exact terms I had to offer you today.
“’It was like you were in on the phone conversation!’” Chasz said.
Prestonwood en Español began holding Sunday services at CCA on Easter Sunday of 2016, and the plan was to continue for one year, Orbe said.
“Everything we thought out and planned came to pass,” he said.
“One of the things that really impressed visitors was the environment of the church—they saw the fellowship we have and this was something different for them and something they wanted to be a part of.”
Most Hispanic churches in the U.S. are small, Gilberto said, usually 150 members or less.
But last month, when the location launched officially as the Lewisville Campus, nearly 200 people attended the Prestonwood en Español Easter Sunday service.
“Actually, we had 196,” Gilberto said, “and having almost 200 people in our church is a great number!”
Before that, the largest attendance had been 135, Orbe said, and now he sees more and more people coming and giving their lives to Christ.
“In the last two weeks, we have seen about 10 people come to Christ,” he said.
“Our partnership with CCA has grown and they love having Prestonwood there,” he said.
And though the progress has been greater than anyone expected, there is so much more to do, Gilberto said.
“We need to be ready for whatever comes next. These are open-door opportunities,” he said, “and when they open the door, we need people ready to help.”
And what began with members of a small Bible study who wanted to help kids in need is now transforming hundreds of lives through faith in Jesus Christ.
Published: May 3, 2017
Author: Michael Young
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