Miracles Still Do Happen

August 01, 2003

The growth of the Spanish work in the Northwest is nothing short of amazing as Adventist members share the good news with their family members, friends and co-workers. As small companies of believers have grown into large congregations, so has their need for adequate church buildings in which to worship. Sensing the need and grateful to their Hispanic employees for their dedicated service, the family of Glenn and Viola Walters has been instrumental in the purchase or construction of four churches within the Oregon Conference.

When Elder Eliseo Orozco arrived with his wife, Priscilla, in Hillsboro, Oregon, in October 1988, he saw an old church building that was unfinished, for sale and located in the center of Hillsboro's Spanish-speaking population. Every time Eliseo passed by, he would tell those with him that one day it would be their church. They needed a church badly, but they didn’t have the funds to purchase it.

Then Eliseo heard of someone in the area who had the means to help the church. Glenn Walters, an active church member in Forest Grove, owned and operated the Glenn Walters Nursery. Glenn was planning to help in another project, but his wife, Viola, asked, “Why don’t you help the Spanish Church?”

Glenn offered to give two dollars for every dollar the church raised. Members were ecstatic and felt blessed. The church borrowed money from the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) revolving fund, and the other needed funds were received through the Hillsboro Spanish Church, the Oregon Conference and the Walters. A new era began for the Spanish work in Oregon.

The Hillsboro Spanish Church was purchased in 1991. This never could have happened had God not moved upon the hearts of Glenn and Viola. There is no doubt that the Lord was behind the project. From that day forward, the Hillsboro Spanish Church grew and was immediately filled.

The idea of building a church for the Hispanic Adventists in the Forest Grove community originated with the Walters. They have spent most of their lives operating a thriving nursery business in that area, employing more than 400 Hispanic laborers. The Walters recognized that their business could not have been as successful had it not been for the blessings of God and their many faithful Hispanic employees. Upon the sale of the nursery, They decided to help in the construction of a beautiful church for the Hispanic Adventists in the Forest Grove area. Their objective was to glorify God and to provide a facility for the advancement of the Gospel within the Hispanic community.

The four-acre, blackberry-covered building site was purchased in 1998. Immediately after the purchase, the land was cleared and the process to obtain building plans and numerous permits began. From the outset of the project, the Oregon Conference gave full approval to the Walters and agreed to cover the cost of building permits and the expense of plan revisions to comply with local building codes.

Ground was broken in July 1999, and construction progressed with Glenn as superintendent of construction and Viola as accountant and interior decorator. The Walters not only paid for the land and all the building costs for the 33,000-square-foot church but also provided all furnishings, equipment and musical instruments, like the magnificent electronic pipe organ.

The church has equipment to link with the Loma Linda Broadcasting System, which provides programs and services via satellite. The sanctuary seats 600, and the fellowship hall accommodates 400. Utilizing the youth chapel and fellowship hall for overflow, the total seating capacity is approximately 1,100.

Approximately 15 years ago, a small group of Hispanic believers started gathering in the fellowship room of the McMinnville (Oregon) Adventist Church. The group grew so large, they moved to the McMinnville Adventist School gym, where they remained for 12 years. A remodel of the gym forced a return to the church fellowship room, but both the English- and Spanish-speaking congregations had grown, and they did not have sufficient parking space. Once again, they were forced to look for another place of worship and were welcomed at the First Christian Church.

From the beginning, the group organized many fund-raising activities to buy their own building. But no matter how hard they tried, the donations were not enough to buy a church building due to the high costs of construction and the lack of churches for sale in McMinnville.

But the Lord saw the need of His people and impressed the Walters to donate the necessary funds to buy a church building. The property is strategically located in the heart of McMinnville and includes the entire block. The sanctuary accommodates 150 people, and there is room for later additions. It also has a kitchen and a fellowship room for 200 people, a pastoral office and five classrooms.

This is the reason the McMinnville Hispanic group praises the Lord continuously and thanks the Walters for their willingness to donate their funds for the acquisition of this building. The Oregon Conference has also played a role by giving their support and direction in facilitating the acquisition. The church dedication is scheduled for December 13, 2003.

Several families left Woodburn in 1992 to form the nucleus of the Salem Hispanic group. Thanks to the vision and energy of the group leader, Magoo Estrada, this small group grew and by 1998 had almost 100 members. They needed a church and, through sacrificial efforts, they were able to save $60,000. As they looked for land to build their church, they realized how expensive the properties were. But the Lord had something special planned for them: five acres with cherry trees.

When the group explained to the owner their need to build a church, the owner reduced the price to $150,000—still a lot of money for the group. They heard about the generosity of the Walters and contacted them for help. Glenn challenged the church leaders to raise more funds in just 10 days.

Members cancelled international trips to see loved ones, some children sold their bicycles, and family savings were given in order to reach the amount that was needed. With some assistance from the NPUC Hispanic department, members came up with the additional funds requested by the Walters, who also then gave funds to make possible the building for the church.

But the hard work had just begun. The cherries produced on the property were sold to raise more money, then the site was cleared for construction. More funds were raised, and the members started to ask about the permits and construction. But they still needed more money.

They continued in faith, remembering that if God had led them to the property, He surely would provide the building. The architectural plans were finished and the foundation was poured with no certainty about the future of the actual construction.

The Walters family again made a generous donation to the Salem Hispanic Church. Finally, eleven years after the original group had formed, the dream became a reality. The new sanctuary was inaugurated on June 7, 2003, with a membership of more than 300 people.

The Walters not only saw the spiritual needs of the Hispanic believers in Oregon, but they have also seen to the future of the church by building a new gymnasium for the youth of the Forest Grove English and Spanish churches as well as the youth of the Hillsboro church.

The Walters' dedication shows that amazing miracles still happen when we are willing to invest our time, money, hearts and souls in God's work.

Ralph Orduno is the North Pacific Union Conference assistant to the president for Hispanic ministries and writes from Vancouver, Washington.