For three years, Buechel UMC (Louisville District) has offered English classes to our area Latino residents. Currently we have 22 adults and 11 children registered for classes each week. This enrichment program has been well accepted, and the students have bloomed in the church environment. In addition to our English classes on Thursday, our Sunday afternoon services are translated into Spanish via headsets by native speakers. Although this has been a good start to a program, we felt God was pushing us forward to take our outreach to the next level.
After meeting with Pastor Dwight Hughes and Pastor Alfonso Rodriguez in September about how else we could better serve our community, we developed a plan where we could feed our friends both spiritually (through the Word) and socially (by providing a safe place where new relationships could develop for those who are so far away from home).
Our first event was in October as we celebrated Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day). This is a very special celebration in the Latino community. There are special foods, decorations, games, and bright traditional dress. Pastor Alfonso taught scripture that was related to the celebration, and we welcomed 51 visitors into our community.
In November, we chose “We're thankful for our Latino neighbors” as a theme. Fare for the event was a typical Thanksgiving dinner—but spiced up Latino style. Believe me, you just haven't tasted turkey until you have tried it a la' Mexicana! Visitors from the October gathering brought their friends, and 79 people listened to Pastor Alfonso preach on being thankful for God's provision.
A beautiful Latino tradition for Christmas is Las Posadas, which was our focus for December. The story of Mary and Joseph seeking a place to stay is told in a dialogue format between those inside the church (who represent the inn owners) and those outside the walls (who represent Mary and Joseph). This interactive process brings new meaning to being in the cold and seeking shelter when you are a participant in the event. The Sheldorfs shared with the children on how to make the traditional Papel mache (the beautiful cutout tissue flags that you see in most Mexican restaurants). Of course there were pinatas filled with candy, but more importantly than the treats Ginny was able to speak on the Christian beliefs that are celebrated in the breaking of the pinatas. Five pots of hot traditional soups warmed the 100 new friends who braved the cold to come and celebrate with us this night.
2009 is off to a wonderful start. The Celebration of the dia de Reyes (day of the Kings) was our fiesta for January. The traditional cake (Rosca de Reyes) is not only a dessert- but its own celebration. This beautiful round cake is topped with colorful fruits and traditionally has a symbolic baby Jesus placed inside. We all shouted in joy as six persons received the gift of the babies in their cake slice. Those who receive the gift are believed to receive the blessing of finding Jesus. Traditionally, anyone who finds the baby in their piece of cake has the responsibility for having everyone who was at the January celebration with them over to their house on February 2. This tradition was honored at the church in February where everyone was offered the tamales and Atole (a delicious hot beverage) that would normally be prepared by the winners of “finding Jesus.”
Buechel has been so blessed since opening our hearts and doors to the Hispanic community. Everyone who has participated in serving in this ministry has had their lives enriched as we have learned more about the cultures and traditions that make up this rich faith community. We are celebrating in joy as we see more Latinos coming to our Contemporary Service at 1:00 on Sundays after being connected to BUMC through this outreach program. Geographic and cultural barriers have been broken down as we all search to find Jesus together.
Eliseo Mejia closes his emails with a quote from John Maxwell which sums up the foundation for our ministry: “Touch a heart before you ask for a hand.” There are no “quick fixes” in an outreach ministry. It is only when we connect to others as Christ would, touching them with an open and loving heart, that they will join hands as together we all search for Christ.