This year, Viento Fuerte Church celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a 5k run, complete with trophies and free food for all who attended. Last year, they did a drive-thru celebration, handing out candy and Mexican treats to children in cars and singing Spanish songs. For the church, the events were less about what happened and more about reaching their community for Christ.
For the last 15 years, Viento Fuerte Church has been dedicated to ministering to Hispanics in Waco. Two years ago they relocated from south Waco to west Waco, partnering with Woodway Baptist Church. Initially, Pastor Tom Guttierez was apprehensive about the move, until he realized that there were nine Hispanic churches within a mile of their south Waco location and none in West Waco.
“From there, it was a no-brainer,” he said. “We had to come out here.”
Bringing people in
Since then, Viento Fuerte has been invested in getting to know their new community and building up trust with those that live nearby. Gutierrez explained that one of their primary ways of engaging new people is through the various events they do throughout the year.
These events include the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, a pooch parade and dinners after each Sunday service. Guiterrez and his team plan events around what they see the community wanting to participate in. They are not just about providing fun for the church family, they are about drawing in people who would not go to the church otherwise.
Guiterrez shared the story of one reluctant church-goer, Jaden, who came to Viento Fuerte at the invitation of some friends from school. He was from a Catholic background, and he only came to the church to be with friends. Knowing this, Gutierrez asked Jaden to play a role in their annual Passion Play at Easter. Jaden would knock the nails out of Jesus’ hands and wrap a white cloth around the cross. Excited, Jaden agreed. Not only did he participate, but his whole family came to the church for the first time to watch him perform. Gutierrez explained that for many people, attending outreach events is the first step to connecting with the church and hearing the Gospel.
“You build those relationships with them, and once they know who you are and what you’re about it breaks down those walls and gives you the chance to share about Jesus,” he said.
The Passion Play drew approximately 350 people this year. Several families were so impacted by the play, they have now visited the church and kept in contact with church staff.
Going beyond the church walls
Though Viento Fuerte puts on many events at the church, they also go outside of their walls and into the communities. Gutierrez explained that in order to reach people who may be distrustful or uninterested in church, forming relationships somewhere they felt comfortable was essential. That is why he and some of the church members go to apartment complexes around Waco, bringing a grill with free food for all.
As residents enjoy the food, church members get to know them and form relationships. Once again, Gutierrez emphasized that in order to bring people into the church, they first had to prove that they were someone the community could trust.
Last year, Gutierrez and some church members were at a Mexican breakfast restaurant in Waco and were told that if they paid for everyone’s food, they could stand up and share the Gospel every 15 minutes. So, for an hour and a half, they offered free food to anyone at the restaurant. Word got around, and the restaurant said it was one of their busiest mornings. For Viento Fuerte, it was all worth it knowing that more people heard about Jesus.
Church members also mentor students at a local school, taking them to lunch and reading with them. They volunteer translation services to parents at parent-teacher conferences so that they are able to be active in their children’s education.
“You can preach and preach, but you have to build those relationships,” he said. “We’ll do whatever we can to reach the community, especially with evangelism. We’ll do anything.”