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Saturday, January 5, 2013 - 00:18
Friends, family, and members of the church said goodbye to a beloved pastor tonight. Over 5,000 people came to hear Rochelle Nieman's loved ones share their favorite memories and stories of her life.
Church singers honored Rochelle's memory with song. Members of the audience participated in the hymns and said goodbye with prayers and tears.
It was a full house in the auditorium at the Abundant Living Faith Center. People who didn't have a seat, filled the aisles. A table full of flowers welcomed parishioners at the door.
There were church-goers standing in the lobby and sitting outside the auditorium. There were even people watching the services from behind the glass walls outside.
"She was a giant inside. She has a heart of gold. And she loved kids, and she loved this church and she loved the people of El Paso. They could have gone anywhere, but they came here," said church volunteer, Craig Delman.
Rochelle Neiman was the lead pastor and co-founder at the mega-church, which holds more than 23,000 members. Rochelle and her husband, Charles Nieman started the ministry in 1977.
"Rochelle was an innovator and because of her, there are literally thousands of other women worldwide who have stepped into positions of leadership in churches that, previous to my wife, those positions were not available to them. And that has never been recognized in her life, and it's something that should have been," said Charles Nieman.
After a 7 month battle with stomach cancer, Rochelle passed away Sunday morning. She loved her family, especially children. She was the mother of a son and daughter, and grandmother of two. A couple of days before passing away, Rochelle got to meet her second granddaughter.
"She was by far the number one fan of all the athletic games and the students there at the christian school," said Sylvia Esparza, a member of the church.
"In a time of need, she taught me that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but the power of love and a sound mind. So, that's what I remember from her when I was going through a very difficult time in my life," said church member, Victor Garza.
Rochelle Nieman was also the founder and superintendent of Faith Christian Academy. She was deeply involved in her church's numerous charities including the annual toy giveaways and clothing and food giveaways.