Alas de Aguila (Eagle's Wings), a Hispanic church plant on the north side of Holland, Michigan, has experienced dramatic growth during its short life. The church held its first formal meeting in April 2007. Since then, 41 people have made new commitments to Christ, and worship services now average 70 to 75 people each week.
Alas de Aguila's parent church is Beechwood Reformed Church in Holland. The idea to plant a Hispanic church on the north side of Holland was born out of Beechwood's partnership with Woodside Elementary School through Kids Hope U.S.A. Kids Hope is a national program that matches at-risk kids with Christian mentors from a local church.
"We had more than 30 mentors who were involved with kids at that school through Kids Hope," says Jim Lankheet, Beechwood's senior pastor. "We began to study the Kids Hope kids at the Woodside School and discovered that a large percentage were from Latino families. Eventually, we realized that there were very few churches or groups reaching the large and growing population of Spanish-speaking people on the north side of Holland. We knew then we had found the next group of people the Lord was asking us to reach."
Alas de Aguila's pastor, Hugo Vasquez, believes that the church's emphasis on fellowship draws in new believers. "Our goal is to create a community of faith where we can live our Christianity throughout the week, not just on Sundays," he says. "We get to know each other. My goal is to have the DNA of the church be reaching out."
The church is especially focused on reaching out into the surrounding community, which is about 30 percent Hispanic. This past summer, Alas de Aguila held a vacation Bible school geared toward unchurched children from the community. "We talked to the congregation and said, 'This event is not for us. It is for reaching out. We want you to enjoy it, but the main goal is to reach out to community children," Vasquez explains.
The VBS was very well received--at the end of the week, 94 children were attending, only 20 to 25 of whom were regular attendees at Alas de Aguila. At the end of VBS, all the children invited their parents to join them for Sunday worship, where each child received a diploma for his or her participation, along with crafts made throughout the week. "It's a great way to get the families of the children to come to church," says Vasquez.
Alas de Aguila hopes to plant another church in May, just two years after its own start. Vasquez says, "Our goal since the beginning is to set up the DNA of the church so that it will be easy to multiply. Otherwise we focus just on ourselves--that is not healthy. We need to understand that the church exists to reach out."
The new congregation will be located in Wyoming, Michigan, in an area with a large Hispanic population. "We need to multiply the Hispanic movement here. There is a big Latino/Hispanic population in West Michigan and few churches reaching out to that population. Someone needs to tell them about Jesus Christ, and how to change their lives for good."
Since Beechwood Reformed is Alas de Aguila's parent church, it will be the grandparent of the new plant. "Parenting a church--and grandparenting, too--is a special joy which, I suppose, is not unlike the joy of parenting children," says Lankheet. "I think of the psalmist, who says, 'Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them' [Psalm 127:3-5a, NIV]. We are asking the Lord for a quiver full of church plants. That future will be truly blessed."