Primera Iglesia in Dallas accepts challenges after disaster

Pastor Ricardo Brambila led worship at Primera Iglesia Bautista de Dallas in a tent, one week after a tornado destroyed the church's sanctuary. (Photo / Isa Torres)

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Meeting in a tent near the wreckage of their former building on Oct. 27, members of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Dallas gathered to worship and accept the challenges ahead.

A tornado that ripped through Northwest Dallas one week earlier not only caused substantial property damage affecting many families and businesses, but also destroyed the sanctuary where Primera Iglesia Bautista de Dallas had worshipped for 40 years.

Although the congregation lost a building, Pastor Ricardo Brambila called the congregation to see the loss as an opportunity to grow in their walk with God.

The natural disaster was not the first giant challenge the church faced, Brambila said. By trusting in God’s power and plan, the congregation understands this is an opportunity to see “how great is our God,” he noted.

Looking ahead

Francisco Flores went into the Primera Iglesia Bautista de Dallas building on Oct. 20 to prepare for a children’s class he planned to lead. “Everything happened in a matter of seconds,” he said. In the photo, Flore stands near the hall behind the sanctuary platform where he found refuge. (Photo / Isa Torres)

Volunteers had removed seven tons of debris in seven days, Brambila said. And in the midst of that chaos, he added, the church already is looking ahead.

The church remains in crisis management mode now, he acknowledged. But in the next 30 days, Brambila expects the congregation to develop a plan for the future, he said.

Royal Haven Baptist Church in Dallas invited Primera to meet at its missions house for worship services on Wednesdays, and Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas offered its Ellis Chapel for Sunday services. Other temporary options also are available—including a few closer to the congregation’s property, he noted.

The disaster did little to prevent the church’s ministries from continuing, Brambila said. With the support of Dallas Baptist Association, Texas Baptist Men, Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association, Lake Pointe Church en Español in Rockwall, Park Cities Baptist Church, Royal Haven Baptist Church and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the church has received everything it needs to continue responding to the needs of the community, he noted.

“We don’t feel alone at all,” Brambila said. “Three hundred volunteers came to help pick up debris, while our church went out to give shoes and backpacks to the community.”

Brambila, who also serves as director of Buckner International’s Family Hope Center, noted Buckner also deployed staff to help the church after the disaster and with their future plans.

Soon, Brambila announced, the church will set up a mobile office, which will serve as its headquarters. The church also will add staff so the ministries of the church continue functioning while Brambila provides pastoral ministry for the congregation affected by this natural disaster.

One more challenge in a long series

Primera Dallas has a long history of taking on challenges, enduring and pulling through them, he observed.

Pastor Ricardo Brambila called on members of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Dallas to mourn the loss of their sanctuary but also look ahead to what God has in store for the church. (Photo / Isa Torres)

In 1918, the year the church began, the Spanish flu began spreading through Dallas months before the church opened its doors on Nov. 3, 1918.

When the church began construction of its most recent building in 1980, the country experienced a financial recession.

“Every time the church has done something, it has been against the odds,” Brambila said. “This is one of those times, so we feel encouraged.”

As the church begins to look at reconstruction, the congregation will decide what changes are needed as they know more of their needs, Bramibila said. Primera owns its property, so the reconstruction will take place there, he added.

And while plans may not be set in motion until next month, Brambila hopes the church will have a new building in a year and a half.

In the meantime, the church plans to gather with neighborhood residents for a dinner in early November, he added.

“One thing is to lose your church, but another thing is to lose your house,” Brambila said.

While the congregation mourns its losses and reflects on the memories made in the building that was destroyed, Brambila said the church will take the opportunity to be the people God has called them to be.

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