Angelus Temple Hispanic Foursquare Church
Instead of five loaves and two fishes, when Adriana Barahona started a community outreach she took a couple of gallons of punch and some donated cheesecake to a local park. Fifty people gave their lives to Christ. Since then, Adriana’s vision of taking the gospel “outside our four walls” has expanded to festival-style events featuring activities, games and prizes at parks throughout Los Angeles. As a result, 5,000 decisions for Christ have been recorded, and two churches have been started. An assisting minister at Angelus Temple Hispanic Foursquare Church, the 44-year-old minister urges others to “start with whatever they have … It doesn't matter how small it may be.”
Fernando Castillo Jr.
New Hope Diamond Head (Diamond Head Foursquare Church)
Fernando Castillo Jr.’s missionary call to the United States from his native Colombia has overturned traditional thinking about ethnic ministry, as it is “not just to the Hispanic community, but to all nations.” From a church plant with 40 people just eight years ago, New Hope Diamond Head has grown into a vibrant, multiethnic congregation with around 1,200 people attending six weekend services on two campuses. Last year saw a church planted in Taipei, Taiwan, with plans for another soon in Sendai, Japan. The church also partners in missions projects in India, Thailand and Haiti. Castillo, 39, says: “We must have a God-sized vision for ministry.”
Centro de Vida (Storm Lake Foursquare Church)
Storm Lake, Iowa
If you want to grow something, first you must plant. That simple truth has powered Centro de Vida to the halfway stage of reaching its 2008 goal of planting 10 new churches in the state. “Sometimes we look at our cities as deserts,” says Senior Pastor Saul Cortez, 50, But “people are there waiting for a word.” He does evangelism in parks, near lakes and stores, and passes out recorded gospel messages. An entire family came to Centro de Vida after receiving a copy, bringing others with them. “Let’s give the word,” Cortez urges. “The results can be late, but they will come.”
Center of Restoration Lily of the Valleys (Bethlehem Hispanic Foursquare Church)
Virginia Gonzalez, who pastors at Center of Restoration Lily of the Valleys with her husband, Juan, has raised up many young leaders in their Bethlehem, Pa., congregation. Virginia is now sharing her ministry experience with others as Hispanic representative for the Mid-Atlantic District and a member of the National Hispanic Council. While encouraging new ministry partnerships that bridge the gaps of language and culture, the 60-year-old minister champions an unchanging foundation for them. Having pastored in an urban area, she and her husband have seen many people set free from drugs, prostitution and alcoholism by the simple power of the gospel. “It is still true today: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes, and forever,’ ” she affirms.
Yaseer and Monique Handall
El Kiosco (San Bernardino North Hispanic Foursquare Church)
San Bernardino, Calif.
Having a vision that extends beyond their own immediate congregation drives ministry partners Yaseer and Monique Handall (37 and 36 years old, respectively). As part of a monthly prayer gathering with other Hispanic pastors in the area that began 10 years ago, they have seen the power of unity. “We learned to make the enemy ‘back off’ by fighting together,” they say. “Our congregations have become sister churches who care about each other.” Additionally, they focus on their members’ identity as citizens of the kingdom of God, not Hispanics, so they don’t get “trapped in the mindset that we are only to reach our own.”
La Promesa & Josiah Project Foursquare (Fresno Spanish Foursquare Church)
A love of food and futbol, as Hispanics know soccer, unite them as much as their language—and draw a weekly crowd to the park near Bryan Milian’s church. Encouraged by his championing a reevaluation of what it means to be “church,” members started playing with spectators not good enough to make the regular soccer teams. Then they started “sharing a meal and a soda, and watching God show up in interactions and conversations.” Such an organic approach infuses Bryan’s ministry philosophy: authenticity trumps religious tradition. Bryan, age 37, states, “We have been convicted that eating, drinking and conversing with those who are sick is an art form the church must relearn.”
Woodburn Foursquare Church
Volunteering to help in local school programs as a coach or mentor is just one of the kinds of informal community outreach efforts encouraged by Luis Molina—who with his wife, Luz, also buys appreciation meals for law enforcement personnel. The couple believes different ethnicities can be successfully integrated, shepherding a multiethnic congregation flavored by Spanish, Russian, Indonesian and Anglo members. As Spanish representative for the North Pacific District and a member of the National Hispanic Council, Luis, 44, advises: “Learn another language; you never know what doors the Lord can open to you to reach out to other cultures.”
Playas de Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico
Local civic leaders have welcomed the community transformation efforts led by Juan Muzquiz, age 50, whose La Hermosa congregation has helped more than 3,700 people break free from gangs, drugs and alcohol through two rehabilitation centers. As district supervisor of 84 churches and 74 help centers involved with children, prisoners and seniors, Juan looks for “every opportunity to win people for Christ, without losing focus; Jesus is the only Savior.” With most of those involved in ministry from poor backgrounds, Juan insists lack of resources is no barrier. “Pursue your dreams,” he says. “Nothing is impossible, because our God is the God of the impossible.”
Editor's note: Since the compilation of these profiles, Fernando Castillo Jr. has been appointed district supervisor of the Hawaii District.
By: Andy Butcher, a freelance writer living in the Orlando, Fla., area