Rev. Marco Avila left his home in Paterson, N.J., earlier this year and drove several hundred miles. His mission: to pick up dozens of cots that had been donated to help further his vision of holding two-day weekend evangelistic retreats.
People come to hear Avila preach the Word of God at New Horizon Christian Reformed Church in Paterson and will sleep on the cots for one night so they can hear and learn more the next day.
“We invite friends and people that we know, and we go through the Bible and the gospel with them,” says Avila. “We want to help people to grow up in the Word and to bring more people to church.”
Located in a classic old brick building, New Horizon is a busy place. It offers classes in English as a Second Language and in music, and develops evangelism ministry groups to go into the largely Hispanic working-class neighborhood with the Bible message.
“We have a priority for reaching unchurched people,” says Avila. “We have plans to do a lot more things for the community.”
Avila has been able to offer these ministries because New Horizon has a new home in a former Methodist church purchased with support from Christian Reformed Home Missions and the Christian Reformed Loan Fund. The CRC’s ministry shares program helped as well.
Ministry shares is an arrangement by which large, medium, and small CRC congregations in the United States and Canada contribute a per-member assessment to help fund the work of their denomination. Ministry shares provide a steady stream of funding without the costs associated with multi-million-dollar fundraising campaigns, says John Bolt, director of finance and administration for the CRC.
New Horizon, a Home Missions church plant, met in a variety of places until the congregation was able to buy a building. Since then, members have worked to clean, paint, and install new windows in the church. A parsonage and educational center on the property also needed to be updated.
“We are so thankful to God for the churches that contributed money to help us get financing for this church,” says Avila. “I feel blessed by being part of the CRC.”
Avila, 43, who began working with Home Missions soon after he graduated in 2000 from Calvin Theological Seminary, says that even though his church is small, with about 100 people attending every week, it has set aside part of its budget for ministry shares.
It is a way of giving back to the denomination that has given so much to him and to his church, he says. “As a small church, we are not contributing fully yet. But we plan to increase the amount we give over the next few years.”
New Horizon already means family to many of its members.
“Since I arrived to this beloved community I found a place to praise Jesus my Christ, warm feelings, friendship, and a place to grow in my faith and in my human relationships,” says Miguel T. Roca. “It is clear to me that we are not perfect but we understand that God puts all here to love and forgive. Thanks to the council and Pastor Avila who are leading us to this narrow way between happiness, sadness, troubles, joy, and compassion for all.”
Carl Gronsman, director of the CRC Loan Fund, says he is excited about the ministry possibilities that New Horizon can now undertake with the assistance of the Loan Fund and Home Missions. The loan from Home Missions was from a special fund (the Missions Facilities Loan Fund) established to provide assistance to new church starts to help them purchase or construct their first facilities. “We have a wonderful relationship with the Loan Fund,” says Allen Likkel, ministry teams director for CRHM. “It is a great partnership.”
“The New Horizon church is an effort of many years and it had cost a lot to the denomination,” says Avila who came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago from Central America.
“My dream is that we can become a church that assists other church planters to open churches,” he says. “However it comes, we’d like to be more involved with church development.”