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In March of 1983 seven adults (and three children) held the first official “worship service” at our home located on Idaho Street in Laredo. The decision was finally made after months of prayer and discussion about the need of a church where God’s word was taught and followed and where people were committed to living a godly life. Incredibly all seven adults still attend Grace regularly. Very soon other relatives and friends joined us and we decided we needed a trained pastor to lead the church.
We contacted Dallas Theological Seminary but didn’t get much response (I don’t blame them!) but a native Laredoan known to several of the first families of Grace was also attending Dallas Seminary, Alex Mandes. Alex worked at Interstate Batteries at a part time job where he told his coworker, Bob Rowley about the little church starting up in Laredo. Bob had already graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and was searching for the right place to serve as pastor. Alex connected Bob with Tony Ramos and by August of 1983 Bob, JoAnn and their two children, Timothy and Christine arrived in Laredo to become the Pastor of Grace Bible Church. Actually we didn’t have a name until Pastor Bob helped us pick this name.
We first met at Jackson funeral home in downtown Laredo, rent free, thanks to the generosity of Fred Dickey, who now attends Grace! From there we moved to a children’s nursery on Gustavus Street for a short while. Then we moved to an office center at the corner of Springfield and Hillside Rd. for a couple of years. When the rent was too high we moved to a building surrounded by barbed wire (“not too inviting”) located on Meadow Ave. across the street from the Catholic Cemetery. When we could afford to do so, we built the current church building on Alabama Street and moved into it in August of 1993, located on one acre of land. The father of a friend of several attenders, Mr. Oscar Zuniga sold us the land for 50% of appraised value, a price of $1.00 per square foot. The building contains 11,500 square feet of space.
Bob Rowley served as Senior Pastor from 1983 through 2004, with a two year absence when he and JoAnn returned to New Jersey. Roberto De La Rosa served as Pastor for about two years during Bob’s absence. When Bob returned in 1989 he persuaded the church to affiliate with the Evangelical Free Church of America. Our current Senior Pastor, Chad McCartney joined the church staff as an Associate Pastor in August, 2003 and took over the helm as Senior Pastor in January 2005, when Bob Rowley became District Superintendent for the Texas-Oklahoma Evangelical Free Church of America.
Beside Senior Pastor Chad, Executive Pastor Brent Kirkley has been on staff since April 2008 and Pastor Tim Rowley went on full time status as of July 2007 for our student and college ministry. Karen Paulson, Director of Outreach and Small Groups ministries has served in this position beginning in June 2005. Eddie Aranda joined our staff in February 2010 as our Membership and Volunteer ministry coordinator.