Pastors and leaders from the American Baptist Churches of Nebraska gathered to learn about establishing a Latino ministry in their churches and communities Nov. 21-22 at Moses Merrill Camp and Conference Center at Linwood, Neb.
Salvador Orellana, national coordinator for intercultural ministries of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, and Raul Ruez, senior pastor of the Spanish American Baptist Church in Union City, N.J., shared their experience and expertise.
The fastest growing people group in the United States is the Latino population, they said. The United States is now the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world. Hispanics make up 16 percent of the total U.S. population.
Attendees of the “Training Center for 21st Century Leaders” learned Hispanics only make up 4 percent of the American Baptist Churches USA.
“There are no Hispanics outside of the United States,” Ruez explained. “[O]utside of the United States, all are known by their originating countries.”
He said that immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries come to the United States first for the work; church comes far down the priority list.
Those who come share similar family values and need the gospel, he said. His suggestions for ministering to such immigrants includes helping with networking for job placement and housing and with conflict resolution. All efforts should be marked by compassion and quality, he said.
“The United States is quickly becoming a mission field,” Orellana said. “We used to assume we had to send missionaries to faraway countries; now the mission field is at our front doors.”
The harvest is plentiful and the work of establishing relationships with others is available in every area of life, he said.
Attendees learned that Abraham Montalvo has established a Latino congregation as a part of the ministry of First Baptist Church of Norfolk, Neb. Started as a small group Bible study, it has a weekly worship service with 30-40 attending.
“We believe we have been sent by God to share the gospel in our neighborhoods. This certainly includes sharing with those who have come from Spanish-speaking countries to Nebraska,” said Robin Stoops, executive minister of American Baptist Churches of Nebraska.
“We are excited for this new adventure and the depth of faith our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters bring to us in the kingdom.”
First Baptist Church of Omaha, Neb., has begun a ministry with the Latino community surrounding their church property. Under the direction of Matt Toupin, it is called “Mesa,” after the Spanish word for table.
The ministry invites the community to join church members for a meal and Bible study in both English and Spanish. They will help Hispanics network for employment, English as a Second Language courses and support.
Robin Stoops is executive minister of American Baptist Churches of Nebraska.