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“Hispanic Ministry Growing in Olive Branch”

By Brittney Cloyd

Olive Branch Hispanic ministry photoBecause they share a heart for evangelism, new church plants across Mississippi often prove most successful in reaching their communities and starting other church plants. One such plant is Comunidad Cristiana Pacto de Gracia, a Hispanic church sponsored by Longview Heights Baptist Church of Olive Branch.

When the church opened its doors this January, it averaged 12 attendees each Sunday.

“I’m proud to say we now average 80,” said church planter Gustavo Salazar.

The church holds the highest rate of growth among Hispanic churches in Mississippi.

“We’ve always thought the church needed to minister to the community. That’s part of the Great Commission,” said Wayne Marshall, senior pastor at Longview Heights.

Longview Heights was founded in 2002 and has since been involved in at least two new church plants.

“We had a chapel we weren’t using, and there was room to expand,” Marshall said.

Since Hispanics form the largest minority population in Olive Branch, the church decided to extend its reach there.

Approximately 20,000-25,000 Hispanics live in Desoto County.

“The potential is here, and God is good enough to start a strong ministry,” said Salazar. “It’s difficult to evangelize door-to-door, but our people are dedicated to passing out flyers and sending personal invitations.”

The church also reaches out through local newspaper advertisements.

“We have a dynamic worship style with a nice mix of Latino, folk and traditional music,” Salazar said.

Perhaps this contemporary style attracts the church’s young crowd. About 30 children and youth currently attend their Sunday service, and that number increases regularly. The church also meets for Sunday school, Thursday night Bible study and a Saturday women’s class.

Salazar is no stranger to church planting. Before coming to Olive Branch, he helped start churches in Mexico and in Hattiesburg and Laurel, Mississippi. He believes this church can start three more churches throughout Desoto county in 2009.

“Our ongoing goal is to expand the mission in the area,” he said.

Mississippi Baptists have formed 74 new churches since 2002, according to Ed Deuschle, Director of Church Planting for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. Some of these churches now average over 500 on Sunday mornings and have started church plants of their own.

“The Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering provides financial support to start approximately 12 churches per year in matching funds for church plants in Mississippi,” said Deuschle. “It also helps financially sustain 35-40 plants annually including Anglo, African-American, Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, Choctaw, and multi-cultural church plants,” he said.

The North American Mission Board partners with Mississippi’s church planting department to provide support materials and training resources for church-planting leadership teams. For more information about church planting, contact David Michel at 800-748-1651, ext. 233 or