Primera Baptist Church has been hosting Christmas performances for years, decades even, but this year it literally starts with a bang—a drummer’s solo leading into a rendition of the “Little Drummer Boy.”
Pastor Eli Sanchez said the goal is to have a Christmas party, not another program.
“We wanted to make it fun, but we also wanted to have a message,” he said.
Church leaders recruited talent from across the congregation, and the result is heavy on percussion with three drummers who dominate the party, an adult choir and dancing children. The entire church is represented well, Sanchez said, which reflects their stance that church is for everyone.
Sanchez, who has been pastor for five years and served as youth pastor more than a decade before that, grew up at the church and can remember when he himself felt accepted even though he only spoke English at the predominately Spanish-speaking church.
His grandfather once served as pastor and his father was saved at the church during Vacation Bible School, but sitting in sermons each week, Sanchez didn’t know what was being said except for the notes his dad wrote for him in English.
But at 19, a pretty girl asked Sanchez to Super Summer, a Christian summer camp aimed at developing future leaders. At that point, Sanchez had grown up in the church and understood the concept of Jesus Christ having died on the cross for his sins.
“But I didn’t know the depth of my sin,” he said. “I didn’t know that blood applied to me. I didn’t know that hope and love was there for me.
“We have a series now called ‘More than a Story.’ Christmas is more than a story; it’s a promise. I’ve always known the story, but it wasn’t ever mine.”
At 19, Sanchez also didn’t know at Super Summer everyone was split into groups, and he wouldn’t get to spend the week with the pretty girl who invited him. (That girl later became his wife.) Now at 35, he believes God chose that time to prepare Sanchez to serve in the church.
“When the story became mine, everything changed. I came home, and I wasn’t the same person,” Sanchez said.
Back from camp, Sanchez asked church leaders how he could serve. They had an opening as the hymn leader. The only problem was Sanchez didn’t speak Spanish … or sing. Still, he wanted to serve. Sanchez began reading the words in the hymnal and then singing them.
“I had no idea that many years down the road, I would be leading the same church, preaching Spanish services,” Sanchez said. “We’re in care of obedience, God takes care of the outcome. I obeyed, God took care of the outcome.”
Primera Baptist Church aims to minister to everyone, the pastor said, and his story is proof of it. And that’s one of the reasons they wanted to shake things up during the Christmas season with a party filled with music with a beat and a message.
“Our job is to love people and the rest of it is up to God,” Sanchez said. “At the end of the day, that’s what we’re called to do.”
Primera Baptist Church’s Christmas party is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m Sunday at the church, 408 E. Sixth St.
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