Mission Colleyville — Reaching the Hispanic Community for Christ
The seventh annual Mission Colleyville October 25 resulted in 285 decisions for Christ and forty baptisms on the spot as 3,722 people from more than nine hundred families registered for free toys and heard a presentation of the Gospel.
"It was a more effective meeting this year than in years past, in my opinion," Freddie Gage, cofounder of the event and staff evangelist at First Baptist Church in Colleyville, Texas, said. "The Holy Spirit of God came down and touched many people through the preaching of Homer Martinez," a Hispanic evangelist based in Dallas.
Gage's vision for Mission Colleyville dates back seven years ago when he was witnessing door-to-door in a low-income community near the church. He worked with Ron Cogburn, who was chairman of the deacons at the time, to start a Christmastime ministry to the church's neighbors who are primarily Hispanic.
"What we did is we had a big Christmas dinner — turkey, dressing, the whole nine yards," Cogburn said of the first event in 2001. "We had over seven hundred volunteers from our church. We had a toy store that we set up that was subsequent to that event. We also gave out sacks of groceries and turkeys.
"Over the years, it has evolved now to something that probably to me is a little more effective just by the sheer numbers we have coming," Cogburn said. "We bused them in the first few years, and now we don't bus them in; because it's a known event we have three or four thousand people show up."
Craig Etheredge, pastor of First Baptist Colleyville, said this year's event also was different because it was simplified and integrated into a larger evangelism strategy. In the past, Etheredge said, the church reached out to people as far as forty miles away, but the new idea was to focus on people in their own backyard.
"We were really concerned to blitz the trailer parks that are in some cases three miles away from our church, which is in a pretty affluent area," he said. "Some of them, I didn't even know that they were there."
Before the event, hundreds of volunteers canvassed the local trailer parks and poor neighborhoods, Etheredge said. Then, between 400 and 450 volunteers ran the event, doing everything from registering families and parking cars to overseeing the carnival and bounce houses to manning the makeshift baptistery.
"The church has made this a real priority over the years," Etheredge said. "... We have been blessed to be able to spend between $40,000-100,000 per year on toys for these children."
Families registered during the event on October 25 to participate in the toy distribution which took place November 14-15. One reason for asking the families to show up again to receive the free Christmas toys is that it gives the church a second opportunity to develop relationships with the people they've met.
"The toy store event is separate because it is a whole different look and feel. A family will show up at the venue on the campus and it's like walking into a toy store," Cogburn said. "They'll have three or four children, and we'll have a personal shopper go with them and they can select among any of maybe 150 different types of toys. Then we wrap the toys for the children, for the parents, and then somebody's sharing with them the Gospel message while we're doing all this."
Etheredge said there's no question the toys are the big draw to Mission Colleyville, but the church offers them more than that by presenting the salvation story in Spanish and English. And people respond, he said, adding that he wants to see them find a church home that will help them grow as disciples.
"This year we really focused on those closer in to be able to partner more effectively with local Hispanic churches," Etheredge said. "We look at this as an opportunity to build the Kingdom of God. The churches that partner with us in this event are almost guaranteed some prospects, which is exactly what we want to see happen. Given the demographic changes going on around us, we want to encourage these churches to remain viable aggressively."