Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Barrio Infanta Construction

In our first term as missionaries with the IMB (still the FMB actually at that time), we served in the city of Mendoza, Argentina.  I directed a leadership training institute for church leaders sponsored by the Baptist association of Mendoza and also pastored the Guaymallen Baptist Church.  We also launched a new church across town in the neighborhood where the widow of the former pastor of the Guaymallen Church lived.  He had been instrumental in helping many neighbors build their homes in his neighborhood (called Barrio Infanta).  As a result, the municipality did something unprecedented and bequeathed a large lot to the Baptist church with the stipulation that the church had to build upon it within 5 years and offer something back to the community.

With the pastor's death in a tragic accident, together with his son who served as the church's music director, the vision of building on that lot lay dormant and the deadline for building something was quickly approaching.  When I began serving as the Guaymallen church's pastor, his widow, Doña Laura, shared with us about the property in their neighborhood.  We began to meet on Sunday mornings there in a small caretaker's hut (not more than about 10' x 15' total) and soon outgrew it.  We requested and received permission from the adjacent public elementary school to meet under their covered patio while we pursued plans to build.  To make a very long story a wee bit shorter, we encountered public opposition from one prominent individual in the neighborhood who didn't want to see an evangelical church built next to the public school.  He was a devout Roman Catholic and presumably viewed us as a threat.  We eventually got permission from the municipal government to build, but the process dragged out for an entire year.  That was a period of great economic instability in Argentina and building materials rose in price 800% that year due to hyper-inflation.

The result was that we were unable to build what had been drawn up and approved by the city and we had to scale back and construct just what was originally designed to be an entryway foyer downstairs with classrooms upstairs.  We left the walls undone so as to provide a meeting space for our growing congregation.  We dedicated that building and called a national pastor to assume leadership of the church on our final Sunday before returning to the US on our first furlough.  Here's a picture of that original building.

Just this week I received pictures of the interior of the new sanctuary which has been constructed behind this original building--pretty much along the lines of what was originally envisioned.  It's been more than 20 years since this work was begun, but it's a source of tremendous joy to see this church that we helped plant continue to flourish and grow after more than 2 decades.  Here's a picture of the interior of the new sanctuary.  I think the wooden ceiling is absolutely beautiful.

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