Hispanic Alabama Pastor Sees Church Planting as Lifelong Mission
By Mark Butzow
Pastor Elbin Morales is a man on a mission, and his plan seems to be coming together. He and his wife Angie lead Iglesia de Dios Fuente de Salvacion (“Church of God Source of Salvation”), which has been operating for 18 years in Decatur, Alabama. Three years ago, they launched a new church about 25 miles away in Huntsville with Elbin’s father José and his wife Luvia becoming the pastoral team. One year later, they launched a Spanish-speaking church near Harvest, Alabama.
Their latest church plant took place this spring about an hour south when Jasper’s Memorial Park Church of God shifted from an English-speaking church to a Spanish-speaking one. José Morales has moved from Huntsville to lead the new church in Jasper, and his son says things are going well.
“When we started the Huntsville church, it took about five months until we had a family start attending, and now about 40 (people) attend. It took time till people could open their hearts.” Elbin says it has been even more of a struggle to grow in Harvest, a rural town north of Huntsville, but Jasper’s church is off to a strong start.
“It has two families attending already. We checked around the church to see how close Hispanic families live. There are 24 houses close to the church, so we go to houses and knock on doors to tell them what we want to share with them.” He says the two families are already sharing that the church is here and that they’re all welcome to come.
Elbin says his parents also searched out Hispanic businesses in the city of 14,000 and have spent some time handing out written information about how the church hopes to serve the community.
The state pastor for Church of God Ministries, Rev. Milan Dekich, says he sensed that God was in the Jasper transition from the start. “One of my goals was to strengthen the local churches. Memorial Park had just a few people there (from an apex of about 50 people 10 years ago), and they didn’t have a pastor. They came to me and said maybe they’d have to close.”
Simultaneously, Elbin Morales had communicated his vision of planting churches for Spanish-speaking Alabamans. He had asked Dekich to keep an eye out for churches that became available. “I’m very excited about the church continuing to serve in ministry,” Dekich said. “I participated in a transition service April 30. We wanted to celebrate the ministry that they had provided and say, ‘Thank you,’ for the service.”
Elbin Morales’s Decatur church is busy discipling more pastors and has several ready. A fifth church is taking root this summer in Hartselle, a small town just south of Huntsville. In Hartselle, it is more of a church-sharing arrangement, with the existing English-speaking congregation welcoming in the Hispanic church plant, which will hold Spanish-speaking services on Thursday evenings and Sundays from 5 to 7 PM.
These five churches are all clustered in northeastern Alabama, but Elbin Morales says he would love to add a Hispanic church in every city and town in the state. And this has been his mission since he was a teenager.
“I was 14 when the Lord called me to serve him,” he recalled. “I started as an evangelist, invited into others’ churches, and at 17, I got invited to pastor one that was without a pastor.”
He declined, but in 2004 he was ordained into Church of God ministry at the Decatur church. “The day I got ordained, the ministers started praying for me that I would be a pastor of pastors.” For the next 15 years, as he’s traveled from city to city, he’s prayed in many towns that “one day we would have a church here.” Now, in the past three years, his efforts are bearing fruit.
“We will see a good transformation of people in these cities. The gospel will be shared, and the light will shine in them.”
Mark Butzow operates Mark My Words Ink, a freelance writing and editing service, and is a former journalism instructor, broadcast journalist, newspaper reporter, and copy editor. He lives in Madison County, Indiana.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.