A hardy band of Baptist believers gather on a hot summer evening August 26, 1882 in the home of Major W.F. Fewel to hear a message preached by Baptist pioneer Rev. George Baines, Jr. This evening sparked the beginning of First Baptist Church El Paso by fourteen strong-hearted visionary Baptists who claimed this Wild West village for Christ.
Meanwhile seven years later in June 1889 Rev. John D. Robnett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Brownwood set out with a vision to establish a Baptist school in Central Texas. In his tireless efforts to raise the funds he asked his brother-in-law for financial help. E. Howard Payne heeded his brother-in-law’s plead and gave a sizeable gift for the founding of the school. In response to his generosity the board of Trustees named the new school Howard Payne and the rest is history.
This coming Wednesday, August 22nd, our church has the opportunity to join the histories of these two historic Baptist institutions into one story.
HPU President Bill Ellis recently asked our church to join in a dynamic partnership to bring higher Christian education to the heart of El Paso.
HPU has had a presence in our city for over thirty years, but desires to strengthen their involvement and commitment to our city. Part of their strategic plan revolves around moving their classroom facility from the near East side to downtown. This is where our paths crossed. When HPU officials approached me my immediate response was “yes” because I could see the wide variety of opportunities this relationship could bring both of our institutions.
Jerry Sawyer, chairman of our Finance Committee, and Richie Mesa, chairman of our Deacons represented our church in the negotiations and has a proposal for our church to consider at the business meeting.
In order to provide the kind of quality space both of us need for our future, we will be considering a “first-phase” build out of the second floor of Price Hall. This build out will provide six classrooms for our two ministries to share, and an office space for HPU. In addition the entire infrastructure for the complete build out will be laid. The estimated total cost of this phase will be $360,000.
The good news is that most of these funds are available to us through money we have on hand, a generous matching gift from the First Baptist Foundation, and $38,400 provided by HPU as pre-paid rent for the next two years. As a church we will need to raise $136,000 over the course of the next twelve months. This is a challenge, but a challenge I am confident we can meet.
“Why would God want us to do this?” Let me suggest a few thoughts on this matter. This dynamic partnership will enable us to help a Baptist school get a stronghold in our city, plus it will open us to dozens of new relationships with their students. In addition, we will gain a number of accessible classrooms to provide for our future growth. Third, this will be a bold first step in our future commitment to be a strong presence for the Kingdom of God in the heart of our city. Pray about it, join us for the discussion, and do as the Lord leads.