Kent Spanish Builds Kingdom Relationships

November 24, 2016 | Heidi Baumgartner

Spanish-speaking members in Kent, Wash., go out in their community every Sabbath afternoon in groups of four to six people for neighborhood visits.

The first visit establishes a friendship, the second visit introduces a prayer partner, the third visit offers a small gift (typically fruit, flowers or cookies), and the fourth visit includes a survey and an invitation to a lunch where the neighbor will meet even more new friends from church.

“Most of the time, after the fourth visit people request Bible studies,” says Wagner Cilio, Washington Conference Hispanic ministries coordinator. “With each visit, we want to bring hope. We end each visit with prayer and palabras de bendición (words of blessing).”

The visiting group celebrates birthdays and holidays, invites their neighbors to church-sponsored activities, and participates in a church social at the park where there are games like volleyball and piñatas, plus food.

“We just have fun, and 50 people show up,” Cilio says.

Most of the time, the new friends don’t know anything yet about the church, he says. As friendships develop, the new friends are more willing to join a Bible study and come to church.

This approach helped the newly formed Kent Spanish Church grow from 37 members three years ago and a church plant four years ago to 150 members today — with 170 people typically attending each week. Just this year, 50 people joined the church family.

On Sabbath, Oct. 29, the congregation moved from "company" status to a full church. The celebration started with eight baptisms and testimonies from the congregation about how members had first made contact with the church.

“You are here because you prayed,” says Doug Bing, Washington Conference vice president for administration, in welcoming the congregation into the western Washington church family. “I challenge you to never lose the Holy Spirit. Continue to work in harmony with God’s calling. Be willing to be used by God to love people.”

Kent Spanish Church has so many new members that pastoral leaders — Cilio and Kent’s associate pastor, Francisco Brito — are training their members to serve in local church leadership roles and how to relationally share their faith.

Hispanic ministries in western Washington started six new church plants in the last four years: Kent, Everson, Elma, Lynnwood, Bremerton and Auburn. Many groups, Cilio reports, have 40–50 people. While Kent received the church-growth focus this year, Auburn will be the focus for next year.