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Hispanic caucus focuses on youth, outreach

 
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6:00 P.M. EST Sept. 3, 2010 | SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (UMNS)

The youth drama team shares a witness during opening worship for the MARCHA meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. From left are: Saul Montiel, Jonathan Ramos and Aarendy Gomez. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
The youth drama team shares a witness during opening worship for the MARCHA meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. From left are: Saul Montiel, Jonathan Ramos and Aarendy Gomez. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
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Young Latino Methodists are eager to take the church’s message into the world and be advocates for change, a youth leader said.

“We are active people; we want to have a voice, to have a presence,” said Freddy Bermudez Jr., a college student and member of San Pablo United Methodist Church in Waukegan, Ill. Young people want to work for God and make a difference outside of the church, he said.

“The youth can’t sit still,” he declared.

Young people energized the annual meeting of MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans). Speakers emphasized the need to engage young people as well as to break through racial and economic barriers to reach those who are marginalized in society.

That call resonated with Bermudez, co-chairperson of MARCHA Youth. He believes God has called him to do more than what he does in his local church.

“There is much to be done outside of the church in the communities,” he said in an interview.

Bishop Rafael Moreno Rivas of the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico set the tone for breaking through barriers in his welcoming remarks to the 150 people at the August gathering.

Freddy Bermudez Jr., co-chairperson of MARCHA Youth, says young people see the church as multicultural.<br/>Youth “are active people; we want to have a voice, to have a presence,” he said. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Freddy Bermudez Jr., co-chairperson of MARCHA Youth, says young people see the church as multicultural. Youth “are active people; we want to have a voice, to have a presence,” he said.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
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"Whom should we invite to a banquet with Jesus?" he asked. “Let’s invite Jesus to the banquet with all, where blacks, whites, brown, yellow and red sit together. Or are we not going to let some participate in this banquet?”

Walking on the margins

The Rev. Vance Ross, a staff executive with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, said the Latino population is leading in ministry with people on the margins — economic margins, citizenship margins and educational margins. 

“The energy here is so amazing,” Ross said. “We need to be a part of this, to know what’s happening here so we can move forward.”

The Rev. Thomas Kemper, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, recalled that as a missionary in Brazil, he found the reality of the living Bible in the places – and through the lives – of the people he served.

“We should walk along with those who are on the margins of the kingdom of God,” Kemper said.

He emphasized the importance of working alongside people despite difficult circumstances, and cited the example of Dan Terry, a United Methodist aid worker killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, as someone fully committed to work for the kingdom of God.

Changing communities

Bishop Rafael Moreno Rivas of the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico blesses the elements for Holy Communion during opening worship at MARCHA. Behind him (from left) are United Methodist Bishops Minerva Carcaño, Joel Martinez and Elías Galván. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Bishop Rafael Moreno Rivas of the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico blesses the elements for Holy Communion during opening worship at MARCHA. Behind him (from left) are United Methodist Bishops Minerva Carcaño, Joel Martinez and Elías Galván.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
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The large contingent of MARCHA Youth focused on leadership and outreach to bring positive changes to their communities. For example, some participants in the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy are organizing an immersion visit to the southwestern United States to understand better what immigrants experience when crossing the desert.

The MARCHA Youth also heard ideas from Just-Us-Youth, a  group of young African-American men and women trained by the Board of Global Ministries’ Community Developers Program.

The National Plan for Hispanic Ministry mentors and supports young people who participate in MARCHA Youth. The interaction offered “a good time for Hispanic youth to have the opportunity to learn about the work and techniques for leadership in community development,” said Dionisio Salazar, Global Ministries’ executive for Hispanic/Latino Ministries at Global Ministries. 

Other sessions and workshops at the MARCHA gathering focused on advocacy for immigrants as well as other areas of need. Advocates voiced concern for young people unable to enroll in college either because of financial concerns or because of their immigrant status.

The Rev. Rev. Jola Bortner (center) visits with Toña (left) and Rafael Rios during MARCHA. A UMNS photo by Amanda Bachus.
The Rev. Jola Bortner (center) visits with Toña (left) and Rafael Rios during MARCHA. A UMNS photo by Amanda Bachus.
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An opportunity to learn

In addition to outreach, the gathering afforded an opportunity for pastors and church leaders to network with one another across cultural divides.

The Rev. Jola Bortner is an Anglo pastor serving a Latino congregation, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Stockton, Calif. “This is a great opportunity to come here and learn how other pastors work in their ministries with Hispanic congregations in other conferences,” she said.

Several top staff executives of United Methodist agencies brought greetings to the gathering in Spanish, and at least one – the Rev. Stephen Sidorak of the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns – gave his full speech in Spanish. His audience gave him a standing ovation.

*Bachus is director of Spanish Resource Ministries at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Amanda Bachus, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5113 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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