By Pamela J. Nielsen
HOUSTON — Leaders in LCMS Hispanic ministry gathered here July 24–27 in triple-digit heat for the Sixth National LCMS Hispanic Convention.
Participants — including a majority of pastors, deaconesses and lay leaders from LCMS Hispanic congregations; several LCMS district presidents; a handful of LCMS missionaries from Latin America and the Caribbean; and the Rev. Isaac Guadalupe Garcia Castillo, president of the Lutheran Synod of Mexico — were eager to exchange ideas, encourage one another and be fed by God’s Word.
Pastors, lay leaders, Synod ministry directors and heads of LCMS Recognized Service Organizations led plenary and interest sessions, exhibited resources and compared notes on LCMS Hispanic ministry in the United States.
The triennial event is organized by elected representatives of LCMS Hispanic congregations and exists primarily for the benefit of those congregations and their pastors and lay leaders.
The newly elected and installed board members, who will support the community and organize the next convention, are:
- Rev. Germán Novelli Jr., president.
- Rev. Juan Zamora, vice-president.
- Rev. Nelson Rodriguez, secretary/treasurer.
- Deaconesses Erica Jofre and Cristian Morales, members-at-large.
Outgoing President Rev. Adolfo Borges, pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Orlando, Fla., preached at the opening service on the convention theme, “Discipleship 4K,” and introduced the four plenary topics: Koinonia (fellowship), Kairos (opportune time), Kerygma (proclamation) and Kyrios (Jesus as Lord).
As with past conventions, the Center for Hispanic Studies (CHS) at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, offered two pre-convention education opportunities: a continuing-education course on marriage and family, and a seminary-level course on pastoral care and counseling.
“One of the most important values of this gathering is to connect with and support one another and to see that the challenges that we face … are [faced] in other parts of the country,” said the Rev. Sam Gomez, who serves with Christ Latino Ministry in Escondido, Calif., and as an advocate/recruiter for the Cross-Cultural Ministry Center at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif.
The Rev. Stephen Heimer, pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in El Paso, Tex., said he makes it a priority to attend. “Because I’ve come in previous years, I’ve met other pastors that I have been able to work with. … The relationships we build are … vital,” he added. “It’s easy to feel alone in Hispanic ministry.”
Heimer said that both Hispanic and non-Hispanic people “need to hear God’s Law and Gospel and to receive the Sacraments.”
Still, there are particular challenges in Hispanic ministry.
“The language divide is real,” he continued, pointing to the differences among first-, second- and third-generation Hispanics.
Office of National Mission
The Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM), shared ONM resources and addressed the challenges faced by Christian denominations.
“Because of sin … the growth of unbelief … the love of pleasure, many of the resources that we have relied on for years are harder to find. There is less money for the church … less respect for the church … fewer people in church,” said Zagore. “Even so, the work of our church goes on all over the world.
“We, the church, are all a part of it. … We look at these times as motivation to work together, to think together, to plan together, to pray together. We need to ‘be wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ ” (Matt. 10:16).
Following Zagore’s effort to address the crowd in Spanish, outgoing President Rev. Adolfo Borges said, “You did a good job.”
The ONM provided a grant to help make the conference possible.
Every One His Witness® en Espanol
The Rev. Mark Wood, director of LCMS Witness & Outreach Ministry, previewed the upcoming Spanish-language version of Every One His Witness (E1HW)®, a program designed to “put sound doctrine into practical action for sharing the faith with people in our everyday lives.”
LCMS missionaries and seminarians in Latin America and the Caribbean are currently field testing the material, with the final version to be printed this fall.
Speakers address theological, practical topics
Plenary speakers Rev. Dr. Leopoldo Sanchez, Dr. Carlos Sosa Siljezar and Rev. Dr. Eloy Gonzalez brought theological understanding to the convention theme. Session topics included:
- How to start a Hispanic ministry.
- Resources from Lutheran Women in Mission, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Editorial Concordia (CPH) and Lutheran Heritage Foundation.
- Technology and ministry.
- Sentido Latino, a new radio program from Lutheran Hour Ministries.
- A Spanish-language master’s degree offered by CHS.
- Course offerings from the Lutheran Hispanic Missionary Institute.
Lay and pastoral delegates from Hispanic congregations discussed and voted on a number of matters, including strategies for sharing bilingual worship resources, support for including Puerto Rico as part of the LCMS Florida-Georgia District and methods for staying connected between conventions.
The outgoing officers — Rev. Adolfo Borges, president; Rev. Juan Zamora, vice-president; Deaconess Ligia Borges, secretary/treasurer; and Rev. Lincon Guerra and Deaconess Noemi Guerra, members-at-large — were recognized.
Convention-goers participated in worship and enjoyed meals and times of fellowship to round out the week.
“Excellent days, shared with friends, colleagues, brothers in Christ,” posted one participant [on Facebook] — a sentiment expressed by many.
Posted Aug. 20, 2018