DOWNEY ‚àí In a joyful, hour-long ceremony on Monday, hundreds of community members, including both political and spiritual leaders, gathered together to celebrate the dedication and grand opening of Downey's newest church, Iglesia de Cristo Ministerios Llamada Final.After 10 years of stop-and-go construction, the 4,000-member Spanish congregation led by Pastor Otto R. Azurdia, at last completed renovations to a multi-million dollar church facility, which includes everything from a new 3,000-seat sanctuary to a 24,000-sq.-ft. radio and television production studio. As enthusiastic church members gathered outside for the ceremony, one-by-one church leaders and government officials praised the new state-of-the-art facility and the congregation, which spent 10 years hosting fundraisers in order to collect the money necessary to finally complete the building. Split into three main sections, the expansive church facility includes multi-level administrative offices, a smaller secondary sanctuary, the radio and television studio, and the 75,000-sq.-ft. main sanctuary, which can house a maximum of 4,600 people. Church leaders boast the house of worship is 100 percent digital, complete with pristine sound and lighting capabilities, multiple video cameras, and a large white backdrop behind the stage that can be used to project graphics and scriptures. Church leaders say Ministerios Llamada Final is one of the first churches to own the innovative multimedia system. The church has also embraced several green technologies on the property including a water-recycling feature that reuses all rainwater and redirects it into the irrigation of the plants and grass near the church. During Monday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, Congresswoman Lucille Royal-Allard presented the church with a resolution of recognition and thanked the congregation for its dedication to see the building project through until the end. "The fact that it took 10 years to build this is a testimony of your faith," she declared in Spanish, drawing cheers from the audience. "You never gave up until the dream of your church became a reality. Now this state-of-the-art facility in Downey is finally your home." However, Azurdia's vision of a large Christian temple came 24 years prior when the then-young immigrant from Guatemala was just starting his ministry. In 1988, Azurdia moved to Huntington Park and founded a small church, which started with just 70 or 80 people. After less than two years, the congregation had grown to more than 800 people. Soon the church building in Huntington Park was too small so the church moved to a new facility in Inglewood. Azurdia said the church saw miracle growth and eventually Iglesia de Cristo Ministerios Llamada Final, which translated means "Church of Christ Last Call Ministries," was welcoming nearly 2,000 people every week. Throughout the years, the church has planted more than 150 churches around the U.S. and Latin America. In 2002, the church purchased more than seven acres of land in Downey at 12145 Woodruff Ave. and over the course of a 10-year period sold everything from food to Christian merchandise in order to help raise the $43 million needed to fully purchase the property and complete the renovations. In addition to weekly activities for men, woman, and youth, the church offers a music school for members. In the future Azurdia hopes to launch a primary and secondary school teaching Kindergarten up through 12th grade. The church also plans to eventually host live prayer services at the church seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This week, the congregation celebrated its grand opening with seven services, one each night this week featuring the church's band, choir, and 60-piece orchestra along with special guests. Mayor Roger Brossmer, who also presented the congregation with a certificate of recognition, thanked the church for choosing to bring its ministry here. "This church could be located anywhere, but we're blessed you chose Downey," he said. "The city had 92 churches, but wow, look at number 93. Welcome to Downey." Just before his prayer of dedication, Pastor Azurdia stressed that the new facility was wonderful, but ultimately what really matters is what will happen inside every week. "The most important thing is not the building, but who dwells," he said. "We offer it to the Lord today."
********** Published: February 23, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 45