In the midst of planning his retirement and trips to enjoy with his family, Jose Luis Hernandez never imagined he would receive a call from God that would change the course of his life.
God began to prepare the way for this change when Hernandez and his family decided to move to a small, rural town in Texas — taking him from a life in the city that he loved to living and ministering in a rural setting for the first time in his life.
“I always liked to be surrounded by people and the hustle and bustle of the city,” Hernandez said, “but today I love this place.”
Hernandez and his family moved to Itasca and are planting a church about an hour’s drive away in Mexia, a town with a population just shy of 7,000 people located about 40 miles east of Waco.
Before planting in Mexia, Hernandez received an offer to pastor a church in Fort Worth. That same day, he sought direction in prayer to find God’s plan for his family and him.
An hour after praying, Hernandez received a call from the leader of an association of churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention expressing interest in starting a Mexia church plant.
That phone call led Hernandez to plant Iglesia Bautista Alcance Hispano (Hispanic Outreach Baptist Church). The church plant is part of a larger vision that aims to plant more Hispanic churches among the 22 Anglo churches in the small towns bordering Mexia.
Hernandez says he had never worked in a rural area before, but after discussing the idea with his wife and their children (who range in age from adults to teenagers) and continuing to pray about the opportunity, he felt God’s call and accepted the challenge.
Chuy Avila, SBTC en Español’s lead associate, encouraged the Hernandez family to look for intentional ways to meet and interact with the people of Mexia.
“We didn’t know anyone,” he said. “We were just told to start working and get to know the people in the area.”
They started in January 2022 and for two months dedicated themselves to driving around the streets of Mexia, praying and declaring the Word of God around town.
Every Sunday, they visited different churches in the city and surrounding towns to make connections and let them know about the new church they would be planting.
“At first it was hard for me, but looking at the life of the apostle Paul, we see that he intentionally went and talked with the people and stayed with them,” Hernandez said. “The people got to know him until he could teach them the gospel, they accepted Jesus, and then they did what Paul had taught them.”
Beginning in March, Hernandez and his family handed out evangelism tracts at gas stations, laundromats and outside stores for several months. On other occasions, the family would play music in parking lots where people were gathered and offer to pray for those who passed by.
It wasn’t long before they began to see God move.
“People began to accept Jesus and were asking where our church is, but we still had no place to meet,” he said.
They began to pray for God to provide a place while they continued to do evangelistic work, until one day they had a special meeting with four young men at a Walmart parking lot. As he had been doing for months, Hernandez approached the young men to give them a tract and to pray for them.
This time, something different happened.
One of the young men asked Hernandez if he would be willing to lead a Bible study at his apartment. Hernandez happily agreed, and in that apartment, the seeds of what could be known as Iglesia Bautista Alcance Hispano were planted.
Later, already in urgent need of a place to congregate before holding a block party, Hernandez established contact with Nic Collins, the minister of youth and education at First Baptist Church Mexia. Through that contact, and a subsequent meeting with the church’s missions ministry, FBC Mexia provided a house that could be used as a meeting location for the church plant.
Alcance Hispano holds prayer meetings on Fridays and worship services on Sundays. The church already has about 25 people, many from different countries, who have gone from death to life by accepting Christ, meeting every week, growing in faith, and reaching other Hispanics.
“This is not easy. There is a lot of work, tears and joys,” Hernandez said, “but we are very excited about what God is doing. I know that God has great things for these little towns.”