Connecting Churches for Life Together
This month’s SuperConnector award goes to Pastor Ben Duarte, connecting Iglesia Evangelica Hispana and Woodburn Evangelical Churches of Woodburn, Oregon.
In the past years, Latinos have swelled to 60% of the population of Woodburn, which has a sizeable Russian population as well. The city has a great need for ethnic churches. A native of Mexico, Pastor Ben started Iglesia Evangelica Hispana in his garage in 2012. Like most immigrant pastors, Ben works full-time outside the church and dedicates his evenings and weekends to raising his family and leading his church. Before long, the church outgrew his garage and he began searching for alternative places to worship. After being turned down by several churches, Pastor Ben met Pastor Paul Marquez of Woodburn Evangelical Church. The two became good friends.
Not only did Pastor Paul open his church’s building for worship by Iglesia Evangelica Hispana, he also arranged for Pastor Ben to receive formal training from the Pacific Evangelical School of Ministry. Pastor Ben now serves on the Council of Pastor Paul’s church.
Both churches are concerned for the needs of the community. They have worked together to cook and serve meals at a ministry for the homeless in nearby Salem, Oregon. While Christ is honored anytime an individual church serves its community, the reputation of the Kingdom is even more greatly enhanced when churches of different ethnicities serve together.
An area of Pastor Ben’s ministry that still needs development is English-language children’s and youth ministry. Pastor Ben knows that his young people prefer English, and that there are more Latinos in America that do not speak Spanish than there are that do not speak English. He wants to reach Latinos with both language preferences. The workers of his church are Spanish speakers who can only provide children’s ministries in their native tongue.
In many cases, the American host church opens its children’s ministries to the immigrant congregation. However, Woodburn Evangelical Church is an older church with fewer children. It has shared some of its children’s programming such as Kids’ Bible Club with Pastor Ben’s church, but most of Iglesia Evangelica Hispana’s children’s ministry remains in Spanish.
This is a typical concern in connections between American and immigrant churches. The strongest connections between churches are those with high degrees of relational and ministry overlap. But not every American church has all the resources its guest congregation needs. In some cases, youth ministry can be provided by a coalition of churches working together. Sometimes a larger church with cultural sensitivity opens its youth programs to guest churches. No matter how it is done, the Body of Christ is always better off when churches work together in unity.
The churches co-sponsored a camping event, cultivating strong relational bonds. At Easter, both churches shared a joint bilingual service. Doing this occasionally helps both congregations appreciate the unity of the Body of Christ that transcends racial and language boundaries.
You can visit Pastor Ben’s website at https://en.iehdw.org and Pastor Paul’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WoodburnEC. We congratulate them as they labor together as friends, brothers in Christ and colleagues in ministry.