TULSA—The first steps into Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida could not have been anything short of a miracle for Pastor Raul Bermudez or for the church itself. From the outside, Nueva Vida, which in Spanish means “new life,” had its fair share of glitches.
Looking at it, one would not know that is was the first Hispanic mission in Tulsa under the wing of Tulsa, Immanuel or that it was, and still is, the only Hispanic congregation to own its property rather than rent it.
In March 2011 when Raul stepped in to fill the role of lead pastor, Nueva Vida had only 15 members, a small property on Atlanta Blvd. purchased after the church had ventured out on its own from Immanuel and the remnants of a rich history to work with. But, Raul saw the potential.
Within months of Raul’s arrival, church membership had increased from 15 to 90 members made up of 60 adults and 30 children. Tulsa’s oldest congregation was increasing, and with this type of growth, the church was again forced to start looking for another property. It was then that Raul stumbled upon the Catholic Charities building, circa 1910, inside the Brady Heights District of Tulsa. The building had all of the historical attributes appealing to the congregation and was situated in a neighborhood that reflected these same qualities.
Because the Atlanta Blvd. property had been purchased with cash, and the church had not built up much in reserves since, Raul called the Tulsa Metro Association to get advice on how to proceed. He was introduced to The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma’s Church Building Loan program and said he didn’t have to think twice.
“The money goes toward the work of the Gospel; why would I look anywhere else?” he said.
Securing a loan through the Foundation has allowed the church to move into a larger building that will allow for more educational space, which is important to Nueva Vida primarily because of the size of a typical Hispanic family. Some members at Nueva Vida have up to 11 children. The new building also has a larger worship center that will accommodate the growing congregation, as Raul is now preaching two services; one in Spanish and one in English.
One of the most important aspects of the loan was that it allowed Raul to not only purchase the new property but also purchase three adjacent houses. These houses are being fixed up as rental properties to generate additional income for the church, though the mission to restore these homes goes deeper than the extra money.
Raul is using the remodeling of the Catholic Charities building and the homes as a way to reach out to a fallen community where he can not only help restore the neighborhood, ultimately driving prices of homes upward, but also give these community members, who are newly reformed Baptists, a place to worship.
Raul describes it best: “I attend a community prayer breakfast every first Saturday of the month so that I can meet the neighbors and get them interested and excited about the potential revamp of the neighborhood as well as the convenience of worshiping in their backyard.”
All because of a simple loan, Raul and his extraordinary church have been able to perform God’s work and breathe nueva vida into the congregation as well as the surrounding community.
To learn more about the Foundation’s church building loan program, contact Jerry Vaughan at 800/949-9988, ext. 108 or visit www.bfok.org.
Jayme Glover is assistant to church services with the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma.