Waco church embraces change to make sure no one is left out

Tom Guteirrez (right), pastor of Viento Fuerte Church in Waco, assists in a baptism service at Camino de Vida, the Waco church's mission in Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Viento Fuerte)

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WACO—Tom and Elizabeth Gutierrez led worship and children’s ministries as lay members of Mighty Wind Worship Center in Waco. But one night, they both realized God was calling them to full-time ministry.

“God spoke to me tonight,” he told his wife.

“Me, too,” she responded.

Tom and Elizabeth Gutierrez founded Viento Fuerte Church in Waco. (Photo / Isa Torres)

So, the couple began a ministry for Spanish speakers in 2003 that soon grew to become Viento Fuerte Church.

Adapt to changes in community

Along the way, the church has adapted to changes in its surrounding community by offering bilingual worship services for families with second- and third-generation Hispanics.

Worship style also has changed, since the congregation includes members from Caribbean, Central American and South American backgrounds who appreciate upbeat music.

Tom, a Waco native, and Elizabeth, who was born in Mexico, have learned the different mannerisms and ways to relate to Hispanics from varied countries of origin.

“Growing up, I spoke Spanish, but it was a Texan Spanish. So, I’ve had to learn the way other church members speak Spanish,” he said. “The church is not of one culture or of one language right now. I don’t want to leave out anybody.”

The Gutierrezes also have learned to relate to African-Americans, who constitute about 40 percent of the neighborhood surrounding the church.

Adapting to changes can help people to stay engaged, he said. The first step to adapt to changes involves listening, he noted.

Learn to accept support

Another important element is learning to accept support, and for Tom, that support has come from Elizabeth.

“I would not be able to pastor without her,” he insisted.

Support also comes from the church, which he describes as a big family, as well as from the larger family in Waco Regional Baptist Association and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Three years ago, Viento Fuerte moved to a building formerly owned by North Waco Baptist Church and began refurbishing the facility.

Throughout the remodeling process, the congregation has learned an object lesson, the pastor noted. It must continue to repair old things and bring in new ones, he said.

As God adds new members to the church, and as families within in continue to grow, the church must connect with them and learn from them, he emphasized.

“It’s just being relational,” he said. “As long as I can continue to go with the changes, then I’ll still be a pastor.”

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