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Local pastor helps form new church and shares his story of conversion and faith


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IDAHO FALLS — Pastor Alipio Amaral is passionate about teaching the word of God. He has a unique perspective on faith and how worship services should be administered.

The Gathering, a new church that began holding worship services inside the Westbank Convention Center at 525 River Parkway in Idaho Falls several weeks ago, is a group of about 150 nondenominational Christians who come together every Sunday to worship God in their own way.

Amaral describes the team of more than a dozen pastors who administrate the church as “geniuses” whose vision is to love God, make disciples and impact the world.

“Everything is filtered through that vision,” Amaral tells “There’s a lot of different systems of belief that condemn people and say you can’t be good enough, you can’t be right enough, you can’t do enough and that’s not Biblical. God wants to minister acceptance to people and so we want The Gathering to be a place where people can embrace and learn of God’s acceptance.”

Another thing that sets it apart from other churches, according to Amaral, is its focus on “investing the word of God in people” rather than growth.

“When your purpose is growth, that’ll dictate everything you do. You’ll do everything you can to grow and then when people are offended … you’ll compromise in order to keep people. Jesus made it very clear that’s not the purpose. The church’s job is to invest the word of God. If we’re not investing the word of God, who’s going to?”

Amaral says those involved in running the church collectively have decades of experience in business, administration and finance. Each person uses their talents and strengths to “empower people to do what God’s designed them to do.”

Teaching is the skill Amaral brings to the table.

Cameron Warner, who helped form The Gathering, says the church was many years in the making and stemmed from a discipleship school Amaral started several years ago.

“The very foundation of the discipleship school is going into the core of The Gathering church, which is inductive Bible study, biblical counseling and evangelism,” Warner says.

Others involved in the church’s formation include Cameron’s wife, Amanda, Ross and Amy Mangum, John and Tami Darfler and Tim Stearns.

the gathering worship services
The congregation during a worship service at The Gathering. | Courtesy Cameron Warner

A calling dating back to childhood

Amaral’s conversion to the Lord and passion for ministry began when he was a little boy growing up in Hawaii. When he was five years old, he was hit by a truck while riding his bike.

“I was catapulted 25 feet in the air before coming down headfirst where a stop sign meets the ground. I shattered my skull, bit off my tongue,” Amaral recalls.

He was flown by helicopter to the hospital. As Amaral lay comatose on life support, doctors put a screw in his head to repair it and hold it together. They later determined he was paralyzed on his right side.

His mom arrived to sit and pray for him at his bedside.

“The doctors came and told her to pull the plug. She quoted to them Romans 4:17, which says ‘Even God, who quickeneth the dead and calleth those things which be not as though they were,'” Amaral says.

Amaral woke up nine days later. His mom learned the news and came to see him. After regaining her composure, she asked him if he remembered anything.

“I said, with my tongue that had grown back … that God told me he wanted me to tell people how he healed me,” says Amaral.

After a two-month stay in the hospital, Amaral regained full mobility with no long-term side effects. Over the next 13 years, he was involved in 15 car accidents. He wasn’t driving during any of them and was never seriously hurt, but it played a huge role in his desire to lean on God.

Through the years, he immersed himself in the Bible and went on to graduate from Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California and Milstaat, Austria. He served multiple missions around the world for about 15 years before returning to the U.S. to take care of his mom who was dying of cancer.

About seven years ago, he and his wife moved to Idaho Falls for a job with Calvary Chapel.

After all these years, Amaral says he is a living witness of Christ’s miraculous healing power and he’s honored to share his faith and testimony with others in eastern Idaho.

“I’ve had the opportunity to share my testimony with so many people for so many years. Every time I get to do that, it’s a literal miracle,” he says.

Amaral says he and his team are “in their groove” teaching people. They would eventually like to have their own church building to meet in one day. They’re inviting anyone who’s interested to come and worship with them.

Services at The Gathering are held every Sunday at 10:30 a.m.