In April, Moravians from across the Southern Province met to discuss and learn about the church’s growing efforts in Latino ministry.
The Latino Ministries Conference is a ministry of the “Advocacy and Missions” Taskforce of the Board of Cooperatives Ministries of the Moravian Church Southern Province. The 2013 Conference Working Committee members, including Rev. Tripp May, Rev. Wilma E. Israel, Sis. Paddy Wigney, Bro. Gregorio Moody, Rev. Judith Justice and Sis. Leibia Willis planned this year’s conference for more than half a year.
Welcomed and embraced by the Salisbury Road Regional Conference of Churches, the Fourth Latino Ministries Conference was held at New Beginnings Moravian Church in Huntersville, N.C. and at Peace Moravian Church in Charlotte.
A Welcome at New Beginnings
In welcoming the conference attendees who travelled from churches in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, New Beginnings’ Rev. Pastor Chris Thore said, “It is with sincere excitement and enthusiasm that we greet you as you come together to celebrate, discuss and learn from each other about emerging Latino ministries in the context of shifting local communities. We too are excited about your capacity to continue to share your knowledge and call with the larger church and her affiliates as we seek together to ‘prepare the way…and make straight paths for the Lord’ for all of His people.”
During the opening worship service, Chris meditated on John 17:20-25, pointing out the inclusiveness of the high priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he was asking on our behalf to the Father, saying, “That they (We, the church) may be one,” and “May be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you (the Father) have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Unity and inclusiveness is a powerful testimony of the church to the world, stressed Chris, and this is what we envision and try to encourage within our Moravian congregations through the Latino Ministries Conference events.
On to Peace
The conference resumed on Saturday at Peace Moravian Church in Charlotte. During the opening worship service, led by Bro. Gregorio Moody and Rev. Tripp May, participants followed bilingual hymns and liturgy as usual along with songs of praise and worship with Uncion Fresca (Fresh Annointing), a praise band from Florida. The closing was featured a multilingual benediction by Rev. James I. Doss, pastor of Peace Moravian (English), Rev. Israel (Spanish) and Br. Moody (Miskito).
During her message to the conference, Board of Cooperative Ministries Executive Director Ruth Cole Burcaw helped focus the vision of the conference:
“We know that the vision of a multiracial, multilingual and multicultural community of faith is as old as the story of creation…and that scripture promises this multicultural journey will continue even beyond this life. As we read from the book of Revelation: ‘after that I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.’ (Revelation 7:9-12).
“Let us fervently hope and pray that the church seizes the growing diversity in our nation as an opportunity for bringing about this wonderful Pentecostal reality,” said Ruth.
Working in Mexico
Keynote speakers Phillip and Eunice Rayford, from Oaxaca, Mexico shared their personal experience in church planting among the Mixe people in San Juan Juquilla Mixes, near Guatemala, where they planted the first Moravian church. With the help of Eunice, Phil’s wife, who is a doctor, they minister to the community through prayer and health service and run a private clinic as a family business.
Phillip, a lifelong Moravian from the Winston-Salem area, explained that his journey began in a village called Yoloxochilt or Yolo, some years ago. There he arrived knowing no Spanish, to be trained in Church planting at a discipleship training school led by Robert Thiessen, his mentor. After one year of training, his language proficiency and cultural awareness and approach grew, just as the church in Yoloxochilt did with his help, and baptized 13 people in a community well known as a place of witchcraft.
He summarized his training experience with three principles that helped him in his journey, which could be of importance for anyone preparing for or working in church ministry:
- Letting the people teach you how to live and do things
- Allowing to humble ourselves
- Bonding with people and the community
He also pointed out and even demonstrated with a group of participants at the Conference, that language learning is a big part of apprenticeship in a cross-cultural ministry.
Eunice Rayford shared how they work, build relationships and witness in San Juan Juquilla Mixes, known as a village of Pistoleros (pistol duelers). They run a self-sustaining clinic as a resource for their ministry. The principles on which she focused for ministry were self sustenance; empathy and understanding with the people; and real balance to relationships.
In closing, the Rayfords reminded us that in ministry we always need to keep in mind that “We won’t be permanent. What is permanent is God’s work in this culture or community.”
We also had the chance to hear from other speakers developing Latino Ministry opportunities within our church and other denominations.
Sister Hilda Regalado, director of Latino Ministries and Mission at Bethabara Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, introduced a Youth Group from Friedberg Moravian Church who shared their Mission Experience at Chiclayo and Lambeyeque, in Peru last summer.
“It all started two years ago,” the group members explained, “when in our youth group we prayed for God’s leading to do what he wants us to do. And we decided that we wanted to do mission work. We didn’t know how or when, but we were sure that this is what we wanted to do. We kept working and praying, until last summer when we received word of an opportunity for young people to do mission work in Peru. This was the answer to our prayer.”
One by one, the members of this young mission team shared insights about their trip, the schools they visited, the audiences they reached and the things they experienced with brothers and sisters in Peru. It was very touching to hear how they felt that, at the same time they were ministering the people in Peru, they were also being ministered by them.
Rev. Russell May, who helped create Anthony’s Plot, an intentional ministry in the Winston Salem area, spoke about “the informal Moravian fellowship in a diverse neighborhood where 30% of the population is Anglo, 30% African American and 30% Latino, with a predominant Mexican background.”
“The goal of Anthony’s Plot is not being with one group or another,” said Russ. “It is about reconciliation, it is about people identifying, it is about being the church across, to, and with Latinos.”
Russell summarized the work of Anthony’s Plot in four key ideas for us:
- It takes a village to do effective Latino ministry: “We need to start living as a village around the congregation. We need to share meals, do neighborhood gardens, exchange goods, and share living as in a village.”
- We need opportunities to lift up our celebrations. Celebrations draw people together. Anthony’s Plot draws people together with events like a meal that the neighborhood shares on Great Sabbath day, the sharing of garden crops, the singing of “Las Posadas” at Christmas season in the neighborhood, reading and sharing books with the children, providing basic school materials for kids, etc.
- The church can ‘caucus.’ The church can and should engage in social and personal matters and seek to work for shared goals on problems in the community, helping to create solidarity among its diverse members.
- Latino ministry is church development in changed neighborhoods. The Moravian Church Southern Province should understand the importance of this kind of ministry. We should help the Moravian churches or congregations understand they are serving in places with a growing Latino population and give special encouragement and support to those congregations that are stepping out to do Latino ministry.
Results of the Open Forum and Closing
Rounding out the conference was an open forum in which ideas were shared about hopes, dreams and concerns. Out of this time of sharing came a four points proposal for Latino ministries:
- That we continue to function (remain) as a conference (the Latino Ministries Conference).
- That we continue to seek provincial affirmation via the Provincial Elders’ Conference and Board of Cooperative Ministries for the work that needs to be done.
- That the committee consider and work on the possibility of convening the 2014 conference immediately prior and at the same place where the 2014 provincial synod, is to be held, in order to facilitate a wider participation.
- That the committee insists that at least one representative from each congregation be present at the 2014 Latino Ministries Conference.
And, as the words of the closing hymn “Pass It On,” used at the opening worship service, say: “It only takes a spark to get the fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love…”
We, the Latino Ministry Conference want to be that ‘chispa,’ that starting ‘spark’ in Christ’s name. So, pass it on, my brother. Share the word my sister. Invite the youth, amigo. We’ll see you at the 2014 Latino Ministries Conference.
Gregorio Moody serves at the King of Kings Moravian Church in Miami, Fla. Photos by Charles Beaman
From the June/July 2013 Moravian Magazine