As we look ahead towards the future of our Latino/Hispanic UMC congregations, we must carry in our hearts the struggles and dreams of not only our parents whom we dearly love but also of our migrant forebears. Many of us were brought to the U.S as children by immigrant parents. Hence, our sense of belonging has dwelt between the Old World and the New World. Personally, I feel as American as the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon who was born and raised in a southern city like Albany, Georgia, and as Salvadorian as my uncle who has lived all his life in Usulutan, El Salvador. These claims, though, could easily be proven wrong if you were to see my own perplexity when Salvadorians use certain regional colloquialism in conversations, or if you heard my constant questioning regarding American Football to my native co-workers. Nonetheless, it’s this shared experience of living “in between” which has become the narrative for many first and second generation immigrants.
The Third Consultation on Latino/Hispanic Ministry is a great step to promote awareness of other developing ministries that attempt to embrace our rising numbers English-speaking Latinos. The consultation in itself will be a great opportunity to see our vast and diverse ways of being Latinos, either as foreign born or U.S born. As we engage in a risky dialogue about our connections with ourselves, the church, our culture and our world, I hope that we can also reach practical ways in which we can use our “in-between” narrative to become bridge-builders and conscious mediators. Becoming conscious of our limitations, as we reap the whirlwind of our own multicultural and multiethnic backgrounds and histories will not be an easy task. Yet, we cannot make the mistake of thinking that we will solve all the issues pertaining to our Latino communities in so little time. There just isn’t one simple solution to our unsuccessful system of doing ministry with our fast changing Latino population. Instead, the consultation, as a divine dialogue, has great potential to produce many strategies in which we can all reaffirm our commitment to support and accompany the changes in the coming years, as America also grows into its new self.
At a larger level, I hope our consultation can focus on more attainable goals that surpass sudden epiphanies or personal realizations. These goals must be based on a gradual development of not only UMC institutions but also other partnerships that serve our Latino/Hispanic communities. It is my wish that at the end of our consultation we can look at each other and see ourselves in those who resemble us the least. I hope to learn from people who are pioneering different ministry models, so that my way of thinking and doing can be also challenged. Finally, I pray that through all this innovative process of “caminando juntos,” we can realize that, yes, we can work together to reach perfect union, because our God is with us each step of the way inviting us – for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.