ONECO -- Volunteers working on the muddy construction site of Full Gospel Holiness Church huddled under a small shed as the rains came one day this week.
What’s a little weather to a congregation that has been meeting outdoors under a circus-sized tent since 2007?
Through heat, cold, rain and storm, the predominantly Hispanic church has never had to cancel a worship service since it began meeting in a field at 4955 15th St. E.
But times are changing. The yellow-and-white tent was recently removed to make ready for construction of a 6,000-square-foot sanctuary seating 300 on 5.1 acres.
A groundbreaking ceremony is set for 10 a.m. today on the site, and the public is invited to help the congregation celebrate with free hot dogs and hamburgers.
“We never give up,” said Pastor Cesar A. Garcia Sr. of the struggle to build a congregation that started with just two families in 1988.
“We have the faith, the strength,” he said.
And the courage, adds his wife, Yessica Garcia.
“All we need is the paper,” Cesar Garcia said of the money to finish paying for the project.
Banks have been reluc- tant to lend money to the congregation during the Great Recession, Cesar Garcia said.
“We decided to go by faith,” he said. “We are for real.”
Not that Full Gospel Holiness Church started work empty-handed.
The congregation has been raising money for several years, and to go along with its volunteer labor force, has stockpiled donated concrete blocks, roof tiles and more.
Somehow, the little congregation without con-|crete walls -- so far -- continues to feed 900 a month from its Oneco neighborhood.
“I know we are going to do more,” Yessica Garcia said of the day the church has a permanent struc-ture.
Dave Revels, a former Manatee County building inspector, met the Garcias when they were building their home in Palmetto about 2004.
Revels now owns a construction company and is serving as contractor for the project.
“It’s amazing what a little vision can do,” Revels said.
Trains once hauled limestone to the 15th Street East site, where a business cut into decorative sections for landscaping, Revels said.
After congregation members acquired the property, they had to seek rezoning to allow con- struction of a sanctuary, and to remove the old tires and other debris that had been illegally dumped there.
Wednesday, volunteers were setting grade at the construction site, to assist in the drainage of stormwater from the site.
“I’ve been receiving phone calls from people who want to help,” Revels said of interest in the church project.
Members are hopeful construction will be completed by August, but in the interim are worshipping at Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle, Revel’s home church, at 1218 Seventh Ave. E.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at (941) 745-7021.
IF YOU GO
What: Groundbreaking for Full Gospel Holiness Church
When: 10 a.m. today
Where: 4955 15th St. E., Oneco
Worship: While the new sanctuary is being built, the congregation meets 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays at Bradenton Full Gospel Tabernacle, 1218 Seventh Ave. E., Bradenton, and 5:30 p.m. Sundays at G.T. Bray park.
Information: (941) 737-1388