The Eastern PA Conference Latino Commission held its annual Latino Convocation May 23, during Pentecost weekend, at Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth) UMC in Lebanon. About 75 clergy and lay attendees heard about the experiences and lessons learned by the Rev. Owen Ross, pastor of the 12-year-old Christ’s Foundry (la Fundición de Cristo) UM Mission in Dallas, Texas.
Ross, who is Anglo but fluent in Spanish from serving in the Peace Corps, explained the vital elements of successful Latino Ministry. This included having a core objective, which is: “Hacer Discipolos” (to make disciples). His mission church, also called “La Mision,” makes disciples of all people but has a primary focus on doing outreach with the poor.
Members reach out to children, youth, families and people with disabilities. Their service to people around the world includes operating feeding ministries, sports teams, children’s fiestas, youth work projects, youth music classes, Early Head Start, women’s ministries, and a mission in Zimbabwe through the Fairfield Outreach Children’s home in Mutare. (Ross spent a semester teaching at nearby Africa University.)
Key to their success is acquiring and balancing resources from several sources, including the North Texas Conference, supportive congregations, grant funders and tithers. The church is also politically active, as it speaks out on behalf of the poor and for people with no voice.
Worship is spirited with broad participation, full of music, with passionate preaching and a bold call to members and visitors to commit to following and serving Christ. The church also makes good use of technology, using social media, video clips for Bible studies and worship, and active promotion of their ministries to the community.
Worship during the convocation was led by the praise music and dance group of Nuevo Nacimiento and the Rev. Elena Ortiz, host pastor (left). Ross preached a sermon about the calling of Peter, and he encouraged listeners to do all that they can to serve God through Christ who strengthens them.
The Latino Commission also had a board meeting and business session following a lavish luncheon provided by the church members at Nuevo Nacimiento UMC.
By Bishop Peggy Johnson, Eastern PA Conference
The Rev. Esdras Seda, Eastern PA Conference Latino Ministries Coordinator, also reported on the Rev. Owen Ross’ remarks and on the Latino Convocation, which he helped organize with members of the Conference Latino Commission.
Seda met Ross and first learned about Christ Foundry UMC in March at the National Hispanic Ministries Convocation at Duke University, Durham, NC. Introduced by the Rev. Irving Cotto, Northeast District Superintendent, Ross shared with Seda what he later told the Eastern PA Conference Latino audience.
After working in Ecuador for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, he earned his Master of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, and in 2002 he began La Mision near Love Field in Dallas. Members met initially in Ross’ home, as he knocked on doors to meet residents in the heavily populated, mostly low-income Latino community.
With strong community support and ample help from local donors and other churches in the North Texas Conference, the congregation grew to more than 200 members and built a $2.5 million church with a distinctive bell tower debt-free in 2013. The sanctuary offers a flexible-use space to house community services, programs and activities. Today Christ’s Foundry is the largest Spanish-language United Methodist congregation west of the Mississippi River.
Ross, who preaches in fluent Spanish and calls himself a “pastor/missionary,” is a savvy networker and organizer–and now a ministry coach–with a heart for ministry among the poor. He was inspired to not only recruit a praise band and choir for his church, but to also offer free music instruction, mostly in guitar, to neighborhood children and youth. He told the Latino Convocation how he got donations from a Japanese company located in Dallas and other sources to buy guitars for the children, whose joyful involvement also drew their parents to the church.
In addition to bi-lingual and Spanish-language worship, Christ Foundry also sponsors a youth soccer team, community events, a “workers association” to do community projects and repairs, advocacy for undocumented immigrants, Christian education and other ministries to attract, support and nurture the many youth and adults who proudly call the church their own. Learn more about this thriving church’s members and ministry from their Website and Facebook page. Also view UM Communications’ video about the church’s music instruction ministry.
Ross answered questions for an hour, and his wife, Xóchitl Medina Ross, also spoke about her role as the pastor’s spouse, said Seda. Ross then preached for the convocation’s Communion service about Jesus directing Peter to fish on the other side of the boat and then inviting him to come help fish for new disciples.
There was much celebrative music and dance, and Bishop Peggy Johnson, who was prompted to join in the dancing, served Holy Communion. She also prayed the “Great Thanksgiving” in Spanish. She encouraged the participants to take home what they learned and follow the role model of Rev. Ross and his Dallas church.
During their ensuing business meeting, members discussed the Eastern PA Conference’s Latino PATH 1 training in developing strategic new-church starts scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 3. They also elected new commission leaders: Manfredo Martinez, pastor of La Hermosa UMC, Allentown, as president; Joel Ayala as treasurer, and Sharon Rivera as secretary.
In September the commission will hold an assembly for leaders of the seven Latino churches and four Latino faith communities in our conference. They will assess progress, problems and possibilities for new church development, according to Seda, while also evaluating the commission’s new structure.
By John Coleman, Communications Director, Eastern PA Conference
Top featured photo: (From left) The Revs. Esdras Seda, Alicia Julia-Stanley and Irving Cotto, Bishop Peggy Johnson, and the Rev. Owen Ross and Xóchitl Medina Ross.