Multi-church facility exchange has congregations singing praises

Multi-church facility exchange has congregations singing praises
Pastor Michael Wilkinson, Arlington Baptist Church
Pastor Michael Wilkinson, Arlington Baptist Church

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - What started as an idea between three Jackson County churches about a year ago has turned into an answer to prayers.

Now, growing congregations have room to expand after changing locations in a unique multi-church exchange.

"If you're familiar with churches like ours, a big change like that is almost impossible," said Rev. Michael Wilkinson, of Arlington Baptist Church.

According to Wilkinson, discussions of moving to Calvary Baptist Church's location on Market Street really started years ago after expansions at the old Arlington Heights location on Arlington Street became too expensive.

But, the discussions weren't too serious.

"As we started to grow and the need became real for space, the possibility of moving here became real, too," said Wilkinson.

At the same time, Calvary's membership was dwindling and keeping the campus was becoming more and more difficult for the church. Wilkinson says what really sealed it all was Arlington's friendship with Pastor Ricardo Fuentes and his expanding church, Iglesia Bautista Fuente de Vida, which means Fountain of Life Baptist Church.

Fuente de Vida was outgrowing its temporary location and was looking for a new space. So, an agreement was made: Calvary would give its property to Arlington, and Arlington would give its property to Fuente de Vida, and all that changed hands were the keys.

Neither Arlington nor Fuente de Vida had to pay for their new locations as they were.

"We believe that God's going to do big things in this place. I can't believe it. I just can't believe it. It's wonderful, marvelous. God is good," said Fuentes.

What made the exchange even sweeter was the fact that Fuentes started his church in Calvary Baptist's fellowship hall after he and his family were baptized and saved at the church.

Now, Wilkinson believes God's plan is the only way to explain how this coordinated exchange came together.

"We really, actually, believe that God is the one that does it. We really do. There really is a jigsaw puzzle to it that their church, our church, Fuente de Vida. None of us could have put this together by ourself. But it's just kind of come together for us," said Wilkinson.

Arlington Baptist has an open house planned at its new campus on Market Street next Saturday from two to five. It's dedication service will be that Sunday.

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