A new church home

The Life and Hope Hispanic Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge has been through four different meeting places in the last eight years. Now, it’s found a place that looks like a traditional church, for the first time. There’s a balcony over the sanctuary, a fellowship hall, a kitchen, and even a steeple.

But the important thing, said the Rev. Bien Acosta, is that they now have enough room to have a good Sunday School class.

“We finally moved to our own place, and I hope we won’t have to move again,” Acosta said.

The congregation moved into the former Lighthouse Ministries building at the corner of C Avenue and J street in late November, he said. Lighthouse Ministries had moved across town to the former First Christian Church in January 2012.

“We have more space here than where we were,” he said. “We didn’t have space for fellowship or Sunday School. We feel more comfortable here.”

This year, with the new space, the goal is to develop a fuller Christian teaching program.

“We are trying to start a nice big Sunday school, because I think we have the potential to hold a big Sunday school among Hispanic families,” he said. “A Christian cannot grow spiritually unless he or she knows really well what is the gospel all about, what is the word of God all about.”

“Leadership is born from Sunday school,” he went on. “If we are to have leadership in the future, we need Sunday school. And Sunday school assures the future of the church because it prepares the next generation.”

The church is also at work organizing its departments.

The Hispanic ministry began as a project of First Presbyterian Church eight years ago, and met in that church’s Shalom Center, Acosta said.

After a year, the Hispanic Church moved to First Presbyterian’s chapel. Then they rented half of the Habitat for Humanity building on 12th Street.

First Presbyterian has been very supportive the whole time, he said; the Hispanic Church is still like an extension of First Presbyterian.

“This church was born there. It was our mother,” he said.

The church is not the only Spanish-language Sunday service in town, Acosta said, but he thinks it was the first one. The vision for the church developed when Acosta first visited Fort Dodge in 1996.

“This is a project of Presbyterian Church USA,” he said. “We are ministering to Hispanic families who come to Iowa to work.”

The move was hard, Acosta said, because the church doesn’t have the vehicles to easily move all its stuff.

“But some volunteers came and did a very nice job, which I did not expect,” he said. “All of them came with their pickup trucks and cars, and we spent nights and nights moving everything. There were times when we left here after midnight sometimes.”

The large fellowship hall and kitchen are a nice change from before.

“At the old place, we put a small table and a microwave in the room where the furnace was,” he said. “When we had a meal, we had to wait until after the service and move all the chairs, and use the same space. It has been a very good step to come here.”

The church will develop its basement in the future, he said, to hold more classes.

One thing the church could still use is a way to help all its members get there on Sunday.

“We are in need of a means of transportation,” he said. “If anyone has a van they would like to donate to the church, it would be very welcome.”

Acosta is happy with the way his church is growing.

“We will need to work hard, but I think we have a sense of direction. We know where we are going,” he said. “To me that is very significant.”