The Season of Thankful
By Dianna Trayer
Starting from a handful of people meeting in a home, the nondenominational West Wendover Christian Center has grown tenfold in 8 years.
“It’s all about what God has done,” says Pastor Jorge Espinoza of attendance at worship services Sunday morning and Wednesday evening.
“We have 35 to 40 people regularly and as many as 50,” says Jorge, a native of West Wendover. “For West Wendover, that’s a lot. We’re thankful to be able to serve our community.”
In addition to weekly worship services, the church offers free entertainment at the Wendover Cinema at 7 p.m. on Saturdays, focusing on movies, music, and dramas with a message about Jesus.
To celebrate Thanksgiving, the center collects food at 6 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of November at the church, 510 Mesa Street, to distribute for the holiday. During December, gift boxes are given to families.
Jorge says the congregation is thankful not only during the holiday season but year-round for community support to fulfill their mission.
“The city of West Wendover gives us the opportunity to express our beliefs and respects our freedom of speech and religion,” Jorge says. “The Wells Rural Electric Company offers affordable electrical rates for nonprofits.”
Established in 2015, the Christian Center is affiliated with Christian Fellowship Ministries, founded in the early 1970s in Arizona. The founders’ goal is to “evangelize the world with the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and to enable members to experience 1st-hand the gracious and loving presence of the Lord Jesus Christ,” according to the center’s website. The organization has 2,300 congregations in more than 120 countries.
Jorge and his wife, Elizabeth, were assigned to lead the congregation in 2016.
“Our church is not only growing but we’re able to support others,” he says. “We sent and support a team that started a church in Elko to replicate what God is doing here. It’s not just about planting churches in the U.S. either. We send local team members to help churches in Paraguay, India, Belize, Panama and Japan.”
Jorge says growing up in West Wendover has been a mixed blessing for his ministry.
“I was a troubled youth growing up here, and some people remember seeing me in handcuffs as their last reference point about me,” he says.
His life changed on November 5, 2008, when he accepted an invitation from a friend, Markell Taylor of West Wendover, to attend a Christian church service in West Jordan, Utah.
“I hesitantly agreed to go,” Jorge says. “I’m forever thankful because the living God came down and met me there. 2 weeks later, my wife had the same experience. God healed my heart, my mind, and delivered me from sin and addiction. Jesus repaired our marriage. My hope is to share the same good news with others.”
Jorge says when some local residents see him and recall his youth, “they tell me we’ve become brainwashed with Jesus. I smile and agree and tell them Jesus washed us with his blood—leading us to purity, to live right, to forgive and to love. I tell them to see how the loving power of God changed my life and that God can do the same for them.”
Recalling his dysfunctional youth, Jorge says he understands the importance of local programs and community events for teens, offering them alternatives to drug and alcohol abuse. The Christian center supports the local Wendover Prevention Group, which was established in 2015 to prevent or reduce underage drinking, substance abuse and delinquency among youth.
Jorge says he never envisioned a ministerial career for himself, having studied criminal justice and computer engineering at community colleges in Utah.
He says God had other plans for his life.
“Looking for work, I ended up finding a job providing in-home care services for seniors in southern Nevada,” he says.
This led him to a job as a pastor at a church in Boulder City, Nevada, for 2 years before moving to West Wendover to pastor the Christian center.
He says he and Elizabeth are grateful to have returned to their hometown. “My desire is to reach not only our city but to have a vision for worldwide outreach to send people to the utter ends of the world,” he says.