Archive for Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dios mio: Spanish speakers in Lawrence now have church services to call their own

Pastor Erik Rocha gives a sermon during a recent service of the Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida, which meets at the Clinton Parkway Assembly of God Church.

Pastor Erik Rocha gives a sermon during a recent service of the Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida, which meets at the Clinton Parkway Assembly of God Church.

April 24, 2010


Spanish services in Lawrence

Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida:

6 p.m. Saturday, Clinton Parkway Assembly of God Church, 3200 Clinton Parkway.

Dios Con Nosotros: 1 p.m. Sunday, BridgePointe Community Church, 601 W. 29th Terrace.

Plymouth Congregational, Spanish service: 2 p.m. Sunday, 925 Vt.

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Spanish service: 1 p.m. Sunday, 1234 Ky.

For Christians worldwide, God is God, whether you call him “Dios,” “Dieu,” “Gott” or something else entirely. Same goes for Jesus Christ, the Bible and the other cornerstones of the faith.

But talking to and about God in a language that’s not your own? That can be, well, difficult.

“When you hear ‘I love you’ in English and I say ‘Te Amo’ in Español ... when someone tells me ‘Te Amo’ it’s more familiar. It’s more to my roots,” says Yamil Salmeron Diaz. “It doesn’t matter the language when you’re talking about the Lord, but it’s important for people to feel comfortable in their language and to get the Bible from their language.

“I think it’s more helpful and more effective.”

Salmeron Diaz and his wife, Yarima Dominguez Alvarez, are missionaries from Cuba, and they felt called to Lawrence to make sure the Spanish speakers here were getting a chance to worship with the freedom that is only possible in one’s native language.

And their Dios Con Nosotros ministry is not alone.

In the past year, three Spanish ministries have popped up to offer an alternative for Spanish-speaking Lawrence residents, who previously only had one Spanish service in town from which to choose: a Sunday Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church, 1234 Ky. Now, there’s also a Spanish service at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt., the Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida meets at the Clinton Parkway Assembly of God Church, and then there’s Dios Con Nosotros, which meets at BridgePointe Community Church, 601 W. 29th Terrace.

Thousands unchurched

And while the St. John’s service is still by far the most popular in town — it gets 200 to 250 attendees each week, while the other services have core groups of 10 to 20 — there’s a good chance the people who aren’t attending want options, says Plymouth’s Spanish services leader Rev. Shannon Gorres, who has a master’s degree in Latin American studies and has worked on missionary efforts in Central America.

“Do we expect Spanish speakers to be Catholic? Mostly yes because of the conquest in the 1500s with the Catholic Church, if you know your history, but you know, also there are many indigenous folks who don’t go to any Christian church and practice their own indigenous beliefs and spiritualities,” says Gorres, who also notes a Protestant movement that happened in Latin American countries in the past 50 years. “They have several hundred people that attend (St. John’s) Mass on the weekends. But we know that there are about 4,000 Latinos in Douglas County. So, that doesn’t cover everyone.”

That number is an estimate based on 2000 Census figures and doesn’t mean the county has 4,000 Spanish speakers, Gorres says, but she and the other church leaders estimate that there are most likely more native Spanish speakers than just the couple hundred who attend their services each week.

Getting the word across

The reasons for that are numerous, say the pastors. Gorres points to an influx of Latinos who are indigenous and may not comfortably speak English or Spanish. Salmeron Diaz says that many times jobs can get in the way — he often moves around or repeats his Bible studies to accommodate the work schedules of church members whose schedules are constantly unstable. And then of course, there’s a lack of familiarity in English-language services, says Erik Rocha, a Mexican-born evangelist working toward his ordination who runs Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida.

“Hispanics, we don’t like to bother people. And we hide,” says Rocha who prides his services on being about love and laughter. “Having a service here just especially for Hispanics, they feel comfortable.”

Language can even be a barrier for those in charge of the services. The Rev. John Schmeidler says that when he came to St. John’s six years ago, the Spanish services had already been going for two years and he was happy to lead them, except for the fact that he didn’t know much of the language.

“I just kind of sit with a little lady that I talk with and I kind of speak in Spanish my homily to her and then she makes sure that it’s saying what I want it to say,” Schmeidler says. “Sometimes I have to clarify because ... we use idioms and things that they don’t really use or would understand the way we would.”

Working together for clarification and learning seems to be the name of the game with these ministries, which are all working out in their own ways to reach the Spanish-speaking community. Plymouth and St. John’s have joined together with Centro Hispano for a recent communications workshop. Meanwhile, Rocha is working to counsel those in the community who need help with their family life or drug and alcohol problems. And Salmeron Diaz says he’s just happy to bring the word of God to the community, no matter an attendee’s background, former religion or country of origin.

“From all of Latin America,” Salmeron Diaz of his congregants. “We have Peru. We have Chile. We have Guatemala. We have Mexico. We have Puerto Rico. We have Cuba. ... Some of them, they are Christians, some of them come from other religions. I think they’re looking for being close to God and kind of worship God together.”


Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

This is rude as hell to point out, but you have a grammer problem with English. Put "the" in front of US and you would then have the correct grammer.

geekin_topekan 8 years, 1 month ago

Official Language is US be anglish!!

The bible was written in what language? Thus the language of the almighty? Wern't anglish I gurentee ya that.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

For the record, the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

While we're being picky, it's "grammar," not "grammer."

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

cheeseburger - you can bet he's working on it, but it might be a tough problem to solve. Might have to switch to a "five flags you're out" policy, rather than removing every one by hand.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

Not all people can learn a new language easily, especially when they are older. While learning a new language, it's nice to be able to have some tradations from home.

Fact is, America is a nation of immigrants, except for the Natives. Many cultures have added a lot of things to the polyglot country we call the USA. And a lot of words that are now part of English were originally borrowed from Spanish and other languages.

Many churches use languages other than English, especially for new immigrants. The first example that comes to my biased mind is the Roman Catholic Church, which until 1978 used Latin in the litergy.

If you want everything here to be "American", first let's ban spaghetti and pizza. Then maybe we can think about banning other things some people think are "American". We'll be back to eating buffalo soon. That's about as American of a food as you can get.

So, If you don't like the idea of a Spanish speaking church, don't go there.

tomatogrower 8 years, 1 month ago

marcosfnj (anonymous) says… What's the official language in US ?

Hey, Marco, why didn't your ancestors learn Iroquois or Navajo, or any of the other languages that were "official" when they arrived in this country. There are still plenty of English speaking churches for you to go to. If you don't go to these services, what business is it of yours anyway?

ivalueamerica 8 years, 1 month ago

There is no official language for the USA.

And to criticize people for worshiping in their native language is simply very stupid and ignorant.

If you go to most any country around the world, you will find that people will worship and get their news in their native language whenever possible.

As an American living in Peru, I am fluent in Spanish, but I attend English language church services and listen and read English Language news most of the time. There are, in fact, no fewer than 5 English language churches here in Lima, and there are services in French, German, Koran and Chinese as well as a synagogue that offers a service in Hebrew.

In Lawrence there has been Korean services for decades...I have been and find that almost everyone there speaks English as well.

Why? Even though I am fluent in Spanish, sometimes there are things I do not understand, or the newscasters speak to fast. There is a comfort in it. I also buy English language books most of the time.

To freak out about a Spanish language church is simply ignorant.

verity 8 years, 1 month ago

Traditions that were handed down to me from my forbearers from the "old country" are a big part of what makes me what I am today---even though they came to the United States over 100 years ago. Without this history, we don't know who we are or where we came from. It also binds us to those with the same traditions. Without this, we become orphans.

Different and diverse traditions are one of the things that make this a great country to live in. We pick up things from other traditions (food, music, even ways of thinking) mix it up and make it into something new and unique and often exciting. Hopefully it makes us more tolerant of other's differences.

I welcome being able to learn and participate in other people's traditions.

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