BY REV. FERNIE RIVERA
Back in July of 2015, members of our staff met a guy named Benny. Benny was born and raised in Ciudad Juarez, MX, but had recently moved to Baton Rouge, LA. He shared with us that he had attended Lydia Patterson Institute, a Methodist high school in El Paso, TX, where he fell in love with the United Methodist tradition. Unfortunately, now that he lives in Baton Rouge, he has not been able to find a place to worship in his native language. This helped us realize that there is a need in Baton Rouge for a Hispanic worship service. And knowing that the Hispanic community has seen much growth in our city in the last couple of years, our church decided to embark on meeting that need.
After many months of planning and outreach, that journey came to fruition on Easter Sunday. That morning, the Aldrich Chapel became home to “La Capilla: A Hispanic Easter Service.” For the first time, our church provided worship in Spanish for our Hispanic and Latino community. “It was such an amazing experience to get to worship in that chapel and to see how God was active as we gathered for worship,” said Efrain Belmontes. Efrain led our congregation in worship that Sunday. He, along with other members of the band also attended Lydia Patterson Institute where they all met and began to explore their calling into music ministry.
Overall, 26 people from various parts of Latin America, including Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico and Honduras gathered that morning to sing songs, join in prayer, hear a sermon and even break bread. “There were a couple of moments when I wiped a tear or two as I was reminded of my own heritage,” said Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, Bishop of the Louisiana Annual Conference. “And then when I heard the child behind me join in prayer and singing, my heart swelled in even greater joy!”
As our church continues to share God’s love with the Baton Rouge community, we have realized that the love of Jesus Christ is too big to be restricted, even when language barriers confront us. And this Easter, we experienced that first hand.