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New ministries serve as models for reaching Hispanic/Latinos

9/4/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

This report may be used as a sidebar to UMNS story #427.

By Michael Wacht*

ORLANDO (UMNS) - Dramatic growth in Florida's Hispanic/Latino population has spurred the creation of new ministries from the United Methodist Church, including two that could serve as models for other areas of the country.

The number of Hispanic/Latinos in Florida grew by more than 70 percent during the 1990s, becoming the state's largest minority at nearly 17 percent of the total population.

In the Orlando area, two congregations in the United Methodist Church's Orlando District formed an unusual partnership to launch a Hispanic/Latino mission. Meanwhile, in Deltona, a ministry was planted through the combined efforts of two districts and the denomination's Florida Annual (regional) Conference.

Cristo a las Naciones, a new mission in east Orlando, is the result of a partnership between University Carillon and Faith United Methodist churches. Both had worked on developing their own Hispanic/Latino ministries, but each was missing something. University Carillon had the resources and passion to start the ministry, but not the population. Faith is surrounded by Hispanic/Latinos, but the church did not have the resources to reach those neighbors. The two joined efforts.

Jaime Faberllé, pastor of the new mission, has more than 40 people each Sunday and recently started a Tuesday night program for children. He would like to see other churches adopt similar ministries.

"It's something I hope becomes the norm - larger churches with resources helping out other churches," he says. "Ultimately, we're trying to do a kingdom thing, regardless of culture or language."

Before leading the mission, Faberllé served as the youth ministry at University Carillon for four years. When he planned on leaving, the church hired him as assistant pastor "and hoped he would start a Hispanic ministry," says the Rev. Joe MacLaren, senior pastor.

Faberllé did just that, drawing about 20 worshippers a week, but the low density of Hispanic/Latino households around the church prevented the ministry from growing.

In contrast, the community around Faith United Methodist Church has as many as 50 percent Hispanic/Latino households, according to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

The Rev. Deborah McKown, Faith Church's pastor, says members had a vision for reaching new people. "Our congregation … identified that there were people in our community we weren't reaching effectively."

Nearly half the new members Faith had received in the past two years had Hispanic backgrounds or family members who spoke Spanish. Several members started a Bible study in Spanish to begin reaching out to the community. "We wanted to do it; we just didn't know the steps," McKown says.

Hearing about the need, MacLaren and Faberllé met with McKown and developed a cooperative ministry. "We are paying Jaime's salary and all costs incurred by him, including publicity, supplies … ," MacLaren says. "Faith has given us the space. It's costing us and not benefiting us financially. Our part is doing something great for Jesus."

McKown says her church's leadership is "100 percent behind" the mission and is finding ways to be in ministry with Hispanic/Latinos. "We're now able to do things we only imagined doing before," she says. "Children and youth ministry is now actually possible because we're stronger."

In Deltona, Ginny Pearcy says the new Hispanic/Latino ministry at First United Methodist Church is the result of visioning - and a miracle.

While attending seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary's Orlando campus, Pearcy read that Deltona was 20 percent Hispanic. She envisioned a new ministry at her church and wrote letters to the DeLand District, Florida Conference and Asbury Seminary seeking help.

"They told me to keep visioning, thinking, dreaming," says Pearcy, wife of the Rev. Robert Pearcy.

A visit to the Brazilian mission at First United Methodist Church in Kissimmee, Fla., last fall helped her vision become reality. "I ran into (the Rev.) José Carrión, the pastor at the Hispanic mission there, and told him my vision and dream," she says. "It really was a miracle I was at that church."

Carrión, the Orlando District's Hispanic ministry coordinator, put Pearcy in touch with the Rev. Lydia Solis, a local pastor from the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico living in Deltona. Pearcy secured funds from the district and conference offices to pay Solis.

The mission held its first worship service on Easter, drawing more than 40 people. Solis is teaching both English and Spanish and leading Bible study and citizenship classes.

Pearcy says she is amazed to see how people throughout the conference are working to make the ministry possible.
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*Wacht is director of communications for the United Methodist Church's Florida Annual Conference. A version of this report appeared in the conference's Florida United Methodist Review newspaper.

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