Elephants, faith, and focus: Notes from the Almuerzo

Pastors and church planters come forward for prayer at the close of the Almuerzo. Photo by Jan Fischer Bachman.


The Almuerzo, a Spanish-language lunch event sponsored by Discipleship Ministries (formerly Congregational Life Ministries), took place July 5 during Annual Conference in Cincinnati, gathering 51 people including more than 20 pastors and church planters.

The Spanish word “almuerzo” comes from the Latin “morsus,” or “small bite.” It has the same root as the English word “morsel.” The Almuerzo event offered numerous “small bites” of inspiration, with a number of speakers sharing thoughts.

Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries, welcomed the group, with translation by Cesia Salcedo Morrison. Kettering mentioned “the elephant in the room,” difficulties not being discussed widely or openly. The first speaker, Gilbert Romero, said, “The elephants are here and they have had babies!” He described immigration issues and problems renting church buildings: “What happens when the building is sold? They don’t want to sell to us.”

Daniel D’Oleo presented 10 things Hispanic ministry offers the Church of the Brethren:

1. A young and growing community.
2. Passion in praise, which the church needs.
3. A multicultural, very rich culture, including an indigenous presence.
4. Bilingual, even trilingual capability. “There’s a myth that we don’t speak English.”
5. Passionate evangelism. “The gospel is not a program or an agenda.”
6. Strong family values.
7. A radical, biblical faith.
8. Understanding of the authority of the scriptures. “We don’t have theological arguments.”
9. Opportunities for local ministry.
10. International blessings.

Ricardo Zapata added that bicultural children seek out Spanish-language churches. “We want to grow as a church!” he said.

Becky Zapata said, “We are always ready to learn.” Eric Ramirez talked about the desire to impact the “Anglo Saxon” community–and the benefits of using the skills of each group and person.

Jaime Diaz quoted Proverbs 3:5-6, adding, “Christ is first. Christ is second. Christ is third…. We are a people of prayer and fasting…. The elephant is Satan, who wants to intimidate us. We have a God of power who wins the battle.”

Lydia Gonzalez exhorted the group to recognize the power of God, read the Word, and live the parables, so that others can see Jesus in our lives.

Roxanne Aguirre, coordinator of Spanish-language ministry training programs for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, shared her story. “Racism exists,” she said. At age 14 she was spit on and told “go back to your country”; she was born in the US. She encouraged the group to continue their education, to be at the table where changes are made. “Sí, valemos mucho”–our contributions are valuable, we matter, we are worthy.

Cesia Salcedo, a member of the Church of the Brethren’s New Church Advisory Committee, said, “We are full of the Spirit. Let’s spread it to everyone!”

More than 20 pastors and church planters came to the front for prayer at the close of the event.

Those interested in closer connections can join the Facebook group Iglesias Hispanas Unidas COB-USA at www.facebook.com/Iglesias-Hispanas-Unidas-COB-USA-111756213038067 .

— Jan Fischer Bachman contributed this report.

For more coverage of Annual Conference 2018 go to www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage .

The news coverage of Annual Conference 2018 is made possible through the work of communications staff and a volunteer news team: Frank Ramirez, Conference Journal editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Alyssa Parker; youth team member Allie Dulabaum; web staff Jan Fischer Bachman, Russ Otto; Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services; Wendy McFadden, publisher. Contact cobnews@brethren.org.

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