DALLAS—Pastor Ricardo Brambila of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Dallas encourages members of his century-old congregation to “think outside the box” to reach their community.
Brambila started a program to feed the hungry in the Bachman Lake area about a year ago. Brambila, who serves bivocationally, also is director of the Buckner Family Hope Center at Bachman Lake.
Near Love Field Airport in northwest Dallas, the Bachman Lake community has about 83,000 people within a three-mile radius and is overwhelmingly Hispanic. Most residents live in apartments.
Ministry to food-insecure families
“This is a low-income area, but not one of extreme poverty,” Brambila said. “This district has unskilled laborers who work hard to provide basic needs for their family and put healthy food on the table. They are a proud people.”
Like many areas of Texas, Bachman Lake has a high degree of food insecurity. In food-insecure households, which lack consistent access to enough food for everyone to enjoy a healthy diet, families frequently cut back on groceries to pay for lodging, utilities or medicine.
In response to needs in the neighborhood, Primera Iglesia Bautista distributes food on a weekly basis. Each Saturday morning, community residents gather at the church to receive boxes filled with nutritious food.
“We try to provide boxes for different families each week, which allows us to interact with the community. Presently, we provide food for about 45 families every Saturday or an average of 180 each month,” Brambila said.
Texas Baptist Hunger Offering helps
The food ministry costs about $1,000 per month. In addition to the tithes and offerings of church members at Primera, the program receives ongoing financial assistance from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering. Buckner, gifts from private individuals and community agencies also contribute.
Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas partners with Primera Iglesia Bautista, providing financial support and volunteers to help fill the food boxes with fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, oil, flour, beans, rice and meat.
“Sales and specials make the money go further,” Brambila noted.
In addition to helping finance and fill food boxes, Park Cities Baptist supports Primera Iglesia Bautista in other ways, including festivals and special events.
Objectives of the ministry
Brambila explained the ministry focuses on three objectives:
- Mobilize the church. Organize the congregation to go out into the community and serve the people, showing them that Jesus loves them. “Our goal is to revitalize the church by mobilizing our people to serve the community,” he said.
- Meet basic needs. Food provides a way to connect with people. Brambila recalled a mother who came each Saturday who said: “We have no food to sustain ourselves. Because of you, we now have food for a week. Our five children and I are grateful.”
- Build relationships and share the gospel. When families gather on Saturday for food distribution, they meet their neighbors, talk about events in the community, and share news about their children. Friendships develop. And it’s a time to talk about how Jesus can change lives.
“We don’t only feed people; we tell them about Jesus who can give them eternal life,” Brambila said.
Primera Iglesia Bautista averages about 130 in attendance for Sunday worship services. The church draws worshippers from infancy to age 92, but it primarily attracts young couples with children.
Brambila recognizes even a relatively small church can do big things for Christ. Investing in the community in which you live makes a difference, he said.
The church must adapt to the needs of the area in which it serves, he stressed.
“You must go out and connect” with the people in the community, he said. “You have to move outside your comfort zone. You have to think outside the box.”
Carolyn Tomlin writes for the Christian magazine and newspaper market. She teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writes.
This is part of an ongoing series about how Christians respond to hunger and poverty. Substantive coverage of significant issues facing Texas Baptists is made possible in part by a grant from the Prichard Family Foundation.