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Wyoming Tribune-Eagle Members of Iglesia Bautista Hispana, Emanuel meet recently in a classroom inside Sunnyside Baptist Church. While the Spanish-language ministry is supported by Sunnyside, the congregation lacks facilities of its own and hopes to build its own church. MICHAEL ZAMORA

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Under the thumps of feet scampering through the hallways and ground-level floors at Sunnyside Baptist Church, a soft voice speaking in Spanish echoes through the classroom spaces below.

"Gloria al Dios, Gloria al Dios," the Rev. Genaro Guzman says to a small group sitting in abbreviated rows of short pews.

In the basement area of Sunnyside, a group congregates every Sunday to worship in a language that is much more comfortable for them in a space that can sometimes be uncomfortable.

"Sometime we don't fit in here," said Gracy Calderon. "What we do is just put out more chairs."

Calderon is a member of Iglesia Bautista Hispana, Emanuel, a Spanish-speaking ministry born out of Sunnyside Baptist Church's outreach mission.

It is among many congregations in Cheyenne without a building of its own.

Even though dealing with the difficulties of being a homeless church can be a burden, it's one many churches have learned to live with so they can spread their message.

Pastor Ron Daniel knows those burdens all too well.

As pastor of Calvary Chapel of Cheyenne, Daniel has been running his "church in a box" ministry each Sunday and Thursday for the last seven and a half years.

"It's actually been very difficult," he said.

Daniel started the church out of his living room, trying to establish a church that gave a verse-by-verse teaching of the entire Bible.

After placing an ad in the newspaper, Daniel attracted 12 people to the first meeting and continued to grow from there.

"Within two and half months, we had outgrown the living room," he said.

From there they moved to the Central High auditorium, but eventually found themselves looking for a meeting place when the space was no longer available.

"It was really unstable back then," he said. "Every week we were having to announce to people to please leave their name and phone number because we didn't know where we were going to meet next week."

While it was a challenge, Daniel said churches like his provide a different kind of worship.

"People really have to have the desire to know the Bible if they are going to walk into somebody's living room. They really have to be pursuing Bible study," he said. "It's often not very comfortable. You're looking at having folding chairs in an ugly building that was probably meant for something else. The people that come, they come because they are really hungry for the word."

The church rents space in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. While the church has had that stable meeting place for the last three years, they can only be there two days a week, Sunday and Thursday.

That means before their services they have to load in whatever stage and sound equipment they need, set it up, then tear it down and box up their church once their service is done.

Jack Studley, who helps lead a men's Bible study one Saturday a month at The Egg and I restaurant, said the lack of space isn't always a bad thing.

"There's always the inconvenience of not having your own facilities," he said. "There's a positive side to that too. It is inconvenient, but it also brings out the opportunity for people to serve God in a very pragmatic way."

Daniel also said the smaller, more intimate groups that meet outside of the weekly services further enhance the church experience, even though it happens out of the church.

"There's a lot more closeness that develops in the groups," he said. "The small Bible studies are where relationships are formed."

Plans are in the works for Calvary Chapel of Cheyenne to have its own facilities, which are expected to be complete sometime next year. Even with an end to their homeless struggle in sight, Daniel knows their challenges won't end.

"Our growth has been so steadily increasing, it's been hard to know what size building we needed to build," he said. "It looks like by the time the building is constructed, we'll have to have two services."

But that's a challenge Daniel will gladly face.

"It's a great problem to have," he said. "We just attribute (the growth) to the teaching of the word."

At Iglesia Bautista, Guzman said the burdens as a church haven't been as bad because the resources of Sunnyside have been available to them.

Guzman, who is from Mexico and speaks only Spanish, said no matter where the congregation meets, the message is what is important.

"The feeling and the ministry are always the same," he said through an interpreter. "I don't think there's any difference."

For members with a better grasp on Spanish than English, that ministry is invaluable.

"It's like we're a family," said church member Josa Farris. "I feel comfortable. I understand very good what they say."

Calderon recently put an ad in the newspaper asking for land donations, but got no responses. Through a group in the Southern Baptist Convention, the church has already arranged to have a church built for them at no cost, provided they supply the land.

Unfortunately, Guzman said, that land has not yet been found.

Guzman said their ultimate goal is to eventually be a host church for other Spanish-speaking outreach ministries.

"As Sunnyside has supported Iglesia Bautista, it is (our) goal and God's plan that at some future date when (we've) established a church, another Hispanic church comes out of that," he said through the interpreter. "That is where we're going."

But not every church has its sights set on independence.

The Rev. Rodger McDaniel is pastor of Disciple Path Christian Fellowship, a nontraditional Christian congregation that worships out of First Christian Church in Cheyenne.

"We're trying to do church a whole lot different," he said. "We have no paid staff. We don't have a church board or budget. We just feel if you begin to do those things, you have to put whole lot of energy into the bureaucracy of church."

He said by avoiding their own building and not becoming a traditional church, they can stay focused on their mission.

"(Our purpose is) to reach people who are unchurched, who may not be comfortable in traditional church," he said. "We have several members who are former offenders, who have been in prison. We try to welcome them back into the community."

He said their setup works well, both for his group and for First Christian Church. The group meets for about three hours Sunday night, with access to the chapel and kitchen.

In return, members of his congregation help clean and do work around the church. Any money they receive through donations is offered to First Christian Church to help pay for utility expenses.

"We really have excellent partnership with First Christian," he said. "Their congregation has been very supportive of what we're doing. I think First Christian sees us as part of their mission. It's a good partnership."

No matter what church people choose to attend, McDaniel said the homeless churches in the community provide an important religious outlet.

"When it comes to church, one size does not fit all," he said. "I think churches need to give people more choices, think outside the box," he said. "I think it's a good thing. The more choices people have, the more they will take part in religious services."