Church Partnership Benefits Multiple Congregations in Garland, Texas

Bedilu Yirga (right), senior pastor of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Garland, visits with Nebiye Kelile, pastor of Pathway Dallas and Orchard Hills Baptist Church, two congregations that each meet in the chapel of the Ethiopian church’s facility. (Photo / Ken Camp)

A growing Ethiopian church, a once-thriving Anglo congregation and a start-up congregation of Millennial and Gen-X Christians share a common facility and vision for reaching their area with the gospel. And two of the three congregations share the same pastor.

Nearly four years ago, Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church had outgrown its home on Jupiter Road in western Garland, just east of the I-635 loop around Dallas.

“There was nothing on the market we could afford to buy” to accommodate the rapidly expanding Amharic-language congregation, Pastor Bedilu Yirga said.

About that time, Yirga learned through Dallas Baptist Association about Orchard Hills Baptist Church in Garland, just eight miles to the east.

Decades earlier, Orchard Hills had twice ranked second among Texas Baptist churches in the number of people baptized in a single year. The congregation built a facility that could accommodate more than 1,300 worshippers.

However, as the surrounding neighborhood changed and the church experienced challenges, its membership had declined to about 100 senior adults, and fewer than 50 were able to attend.

Creating a mutually beneficial partnership

Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Garland now
occupies the facility that originally housed Orchard
Hills Baptist Church. The once-thriving Anglo
congregation continues to meet in the onsite chapel,
as does a new congregation seeking to reach the
rising generation. (Photo / Ken Camp)

For two years, leaders of the two congregations met, talked and prayed together about how their churches could develop a mutually beneficial partnership. Eventually, they crafted an agreement: Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church would assume ownership of the property, and Orchard Hills Baptist Church would meet in its chapel for worship and in newly renovated classrooms for Bible study.

In the meantime, two other key developments took place at Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church. Iglesia Casa de Dio el Todopodersoso purchased the Ethiopian congregation’s property on Jupiter Road, and Nebiye Kelile joined the staff to plant an English-language next-generation church, Pathway Dallas.

Actually, two buyers made offers on the former home of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church—and the Hispanic congregation offered $50,000 less than the other potential purchaser.

However, leaders of the Ethiopian church believed Casa de Dio was more “kingdom-minded” and had a greater passion for reaching the community with the gospel than the other prospective buyer. So, they chose to accept the lower bid.

In gratitude, members of the Hispanic congregation volunteered their labor to help Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church renovate and repair the Orchard Hills building, which had extensive deferred maintenance. The cost repairing, remodeling and repurposing of the facility originally was estimated at $4.7 million.

“It ended up costing $2 million—plus prayer—with the help of the Hispanic group,” Yirga said.

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Source: Baptist Standard