Outreach: Churches support a ‘shining star’
Drive through meandering country roads in rural Nash County in North Carolina, and you’ll find a “shining star” designed to meet the needs of the area’s growing Hispanic community.
|The Rev. Lucho Reinoso preaches the entire Sunday evening service at La Estrella Resplandeciente in Spanish.|
La Estrella Resplandeciente, a ministry supported by churches in the Rocky Mount District of the North Carolina Annual Conference, provides Hispanics a place to worship in Spanish on Sunday evenings and also serves as a focal point to meet other needs. For example, from February to May, the ministry opened its doors for twice-a-week English as a Second Language classes for adults, and volunteers provided child care and homework help for the students’ children.
For the Rev. Lucho Reinoso, it was important to tell the Hispanic community, “This is your place. This is something that belongs to you.”
The need for this ministry was clear. The Hispanic population is growing at a faster rate in North Carolina than any other state and faster in Nash County than in any other county in North Carolina, said the Rev. Bill Simpson, Rocky Mount district superintendent.
“The lesson for me has been to do what God’s called me to do and watch how others follow,” said the Rev. Kris Williams, chairperson of the district’s Hispanic Task Force.
Many needs were met to allow the ministry to become a reality. Stanhope United Methodist Church had closed five years ago, so a small building was available. Reinoso, a former district superintendent in Peru who has served in North Carolina for years, retired and took a three-point charge in the district. Many district churches were interested in Hispanic outreach and sent work teams to help with painting, repairs and landscaping the site, and donated carpet, a piano and altar and pulpit furniture.
“It’s really exciting to see a house of God opening back up,” said Reid Hildreth, a member of Gibson Memorial United Methodist Church in nearby Spring Hope.
Lack of transportation is a challenge many of the Hispanics face, and Hildreth drives a van to pick up families living in the work camps and bring them to the church.
“These people are my friends,” he said. “It’s just a great opportunity for me to have a larger church family.”
In spite of the spirit of cooperation among churches and the obvious need among Hispanics, the project faced language and cultural differences, as well as unique challenges that come with serving a population that moves often to follow work.
|During church, children enjoy playing with toys in a room that is also used for homework help.|
“It’s something you have to be patient with,” Hildreth said. “It happens in God’s time.”
On a recent Sunday, nine congregants joined in worship in their native language, singing hymns in Spanish a cappella.
“I like to listen to the Word,” Liliana Vallejo said through Reinoso, who translated. “We feel very welcome when we come.”
Reinoso sees a growing trust among those who come through the doors. He wants congregants to learn there is a loving God for their families.
“If we really sow the seeds,” he said, “it doesn’t matter where they go, they can cultivate that.”
—Freelance writer Kathy Watts is a member of Oxford (N.C.) United Methodist Church.