Although Gina and Lauro Reyna started broadcasting Sunday services and hosting a women’s group online in February of 2021, their church, Agape Church of the Open Bible, will hold its first official service Sunday, August 8, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa, at a venue called Starts Right Here (SRH). (SRH is a program designed to serve inner-city youth in a supportive, empowering environment.)
We asked the church’s co-founder, Gina Reyna, some questions about her and her husband’s new venture.
Message: What drew you and your husband, Lauro, to Iowa?
Gina: We were working with INSTE Mexico and living in Denver, Colorado. We had already visited INSTE’s global offices here in Iowa a couple of times. The plan was emerging for us to move and the Lord confirmed this. We saw His hand in the way everything happened from our children’s willingness to move again to the grace and favor with which our visas were approved. We crossed the border into Iowa with our two youngest children at night on February 1, 2019, driving our truck and pulling a big U-Haul with some belongings (mostly books). It was quite an adventure crossing over the mountains during a blinding snowstorm.
Message: What made you decide to plant a church?
Gina: We have served the local church for more than 30 years in different ministries and as associate pastors. In January 2001, the Lord brought us to this country with a religious visa, and we settled in Colorado, where we co-founded and co-pastored a church. When the Lord brought us to Iowa, we knew that part of His plan was for us to start a Hispanic church again, and He has confirmed this.
Message: What types of promotion have you done to announce the launch?
Gina: We have used our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube) and our web page to promote Agape. We published information about our workshops in a Hispanic magazine and on two radio stations in Spanish, and we have met and invited people to be part of Agape Church.
Message: What are some of the outreach events you have done?
Gina: In addition to serving as pastors, Lauro and I are psychologists, so we developed professional, biblically-based workshops for families and couples, which we held at Journey Church of the Open Bible on Saturdays throughout the month of July. (Journey Church, our home church before the launch, has helped support us in this venture.) These workshops covered interesting topics such as how our spouse’s brain works, how to resolve marital conflicts, the tools to improve communication with our children, and the importance of having a family life project.
We also invited families to an outreach held Sunday, July 25, at Pete Crivaro Park in Des Moines, which is very close to SRH. There we gave away hot dogs, snow cones, and sodas. We passed out flyers, invited people to our meetings, and offered to pray for their needs.
Message: Describe the people you are most trying to reach.
Gina: We want to reach Hispanic families that have migrated to Iowa, especially those who do not have extended family here. Iowa has a total of 39,791 Latino families, and most of them are from Mexico. According to the Iowa Data Center in 2020, Mexicans represented 74.8 percent of the Hispanic population. In 2019, Latinos constituted 6.3 percent of the state’s total population, and according to the 2020 Woods & Pool Economics Inc., Latinos are projected to constitute 12.1 percent of the state’s total population by July of 2050. Most are young, so we want to focus on discipling youth along with their parents. We have a lot of work to do!
Message: What is your vision for the church?
Gina: Our vision is to be a relevant church, a place where there is love and grace for all, regardless of who they are, a place where everyone can know the Lord, praise Him, and serve Him freely and understand that they can know what God’s will is for their lives and do it.
We want to reach Hispanic families, disciple them, and challenge them to live their faith and share the good news, spreading the kingdom of God. We desire that they will identify themselves as citizens of heaven and part of a spiritual family they can trust, love, and care for.
Message: What excites you most about Agape?
Gina: The great challenge is getting Hispanics from different countries, backgrounds, and traditions to unite as brothers and sisters in the faith so they can worship God together. Our desire is for them to know the Word deeply, to serve one another, and to take their place as part of the body of Christ in this country. We want to be a spiritual home that is a true family in the faith. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19, ESV).
Message: How can we pray for you?
- For the Lord to give us greater wisdom and discernment to reach out to our Hispanic brothers
- For people who will be part of our team who have a heart willing to serve the Lord and the Hispanic community
- For the restoration of Latino families that are geographically separated
- For a unity among Hispanic believers and those of other nationalities
- For God’s provision during the church planting and for our dream of having a place of our own in the future where we can have activities during the week such as workshops, ongoing biblical counseling for couples and families, classes, and prayer meetings.
Darrick Young, pastor of Journey Church of the Open Bible, said, “Like many other communities in America, the Hispanic population in Des Moines is growing, as the nations are coming right to our doorstep. We are excited that God brought Lauro and Gina Reyna and their family to our community and to Journey Church. As we send them out to plant Agape Church, we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to celebrate lives being changed in the Hispanic community. We, along with Fort Des Moines Church of the Open Bible and West Des Moines Open Bible Church, are so pumped to partner with Agape and see what God will do!”
Central Region Church Planting Director Kevin Starkey said, “Laura and Gina have grown modest ministries into large ministries, have helped plant churches, and have a lifetime of both scholarly and practical preparation for this moment. Their blend of family outreach, community training, and counseling will undoubtedly endear them to their target audience. Moreover, they genuinely love people who may be initially drawn by the Reynas’ infectious joy but won over by the love of God that emanates from them. Laura and Gina truly make the job of a church planting director easy.”
To learn more about Agape, visit their website at www.agapeobc.org