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20120901 LDS Church Groundbreaking lg-25 featurePictured at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Mission chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are, from left with shovels, Darrell Davis, member; Manuel Thompson, second counselor in the stake presidency; Brice Chandler, stake president of the McAllen Texas West Stake; Richard Young, first counselor in the stake presidency; Carmen Solis, member; and Rolando Garza, bishop of the Mission 3rd Ward. Progress Times photo by Luciano GuerraApproximately 200 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered at the corner of Bryan Rd. and 2 Mile Line last Saturday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new chapel. Construction is expected to begin next week and will take about 12 months to complete the $3,500,000 facility.

The church has not had a church building in Mission for over 40 years, when small congregations all across the Rio Grande Valley were consolidated into more centralized churches. The small chapel in Mission was closed and the members have since held church services in buildings in McAllen.

“I’m excited,” said Bishop Jason Smith, pastoral leader of the Mission Second Ward (congregation). “This is a great day for the members of our congregation, and for the City of Mission, our community.”

Smith said logistically it is of great importance, since members of the church currently meet in a chapel in McAllen that was designed to house two congregations. Currently, there are four congregations meeting there, he added.

“So you can imagine there’s scheduling problems – we’re pretty tight. So this chapel provides immediate relief for our overcrowding.

“I am excited for the members of our faith that reside in Mission that are able to worship and minister in the Gospel of Jesus Christ here in Mission.”

The new chapel will accommodate two congregations, which will share the 17,217-square foot building. The chapel will seat approximately 250 and the multi-purpose meeting area will seat an additional 133 for overflow purposes. The building will include 17 classrooms, a library and bishops’ offices.

CLICK HERE for a full gallery of images from the groundbreaking ceremony.

The property will be heavily landscaped with low water use native plants, using xeriscape landscaping, according to architect Danny Boultinghouse of Boultinghouse Simpson Gates Architects of McAllen. The general contractor is Parkway Construction of Lewisville.

Brice Chandler, stake president for the Church’s McAllen Texas West Stake* and a resident of Mission, said the building will serve approximately 600 families and 1100 members. Two congregations will meet there, with services being held in English and Spanish. (*A “stake” can be compared to a diocese.)

Chandler said, “The members of the Church in Mission have always had to travel to McAllen or elsewhere to attend worship services.  Having a local chapel will be a great blessing to the members.  This will decrease travel time and thus relieve a burden for many families.  More importantly, a local chapel will help to foster a sense of religious community.  This will not only help to strengthen the members but also our community.”

Rick Young, a Mission resident and the first counselor in the stake presidency, said, “This is a historic event. We have been looking forward to it for so long, and it’s going to bless the lives of so many members. Not only just the members, but those who live in the area as well, to see such a beautiful building and the spirit that comes through the people who attend it.”

Just prior to Saturday’s ceremony, Tomas Martinez, 80, reflected on the growth of the church in the Valley since he was first baptized in 1964. He said there were 14 small branches, or congregations, of the church scattered across the Valley—one in Mission, one in Pharr, two in McAllen, Mercedes, Harlingen and Brownsville.

Before that—in the 1940s—members from across the Valley traveled to Harlingen for Sunday meetings.

“I knew of a family who said they took the bus from McAllen to Harlingen and back to attend church, for many years,” said Darrell Davis in his remarks during Saturday’s ceremony. He also has been a member since 1964. He said that in the early days of the church here the district president was Robert F. Pool, a resident of Mission. The district ran from Corpus Christi to Laredo to Brownsville.

Martinez said that 8 to 10 years after he was baptized, the mission president who presided over the area at that time “admonished us that unless we have local leadership, we would never grow. We were dependent at that time on missionary couples who came from other parts of the country to preside over these units as the branch president. So, he told us that if we worked harder…and dedicated ourselves to the Lord, that we would flourish in due time.”

Other early leaders of the church in this area included C.T. McKassen, who was district president in the 1960s, and Birch Larsen, who became the first stake president when the McAllen Texas Stake was formed in 1975.

The Rio Grande Valley now has three stakes to serve the church’s members –

the McAllen West, McAllen and Harlingen Stakes. Corpus Christi has a stake and Laredo is a district.

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