Training for Hispanic Ministry
The latest Spanish Language Institute in Ministry (SLIM) conference took place Apr. 14-15 at Ebenezer CRC in Berwyn, Ill., and proved to be an event filled with God's presence and divine purposes.
SLIM is a Spanish-language program for pastors and ministry leaders who wish to affiliate with the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It is usually offered twice a year for the Consejo Latino, the CRCNA’s leadership team for Spanish-speaking congregations.
This year’s event began with a presentation by Rev. John Harold Caicedo of Iglesia Cristiana El Sembrador CRC (Fontana, Calif.), who said, "We are people called by God; we meet to praise God, listen, and respond.”
Susanna, a participant at the event and a member of the host congregation, had an immediate response. "I'm hungry; I want to learn more," she said. She voiced the feelings of other SLIM attendees, who regularly raised their hands to ask, comment, and express their gratitude for being there.
In fact, "hunger" was a keyword of the two-day learning event – hunger for God, hunger to serve, hunger to learn, and hunger for divine connections.
Several participants noted a divine connection that had taken place the night before the conference began. During a time of fellowship, some of the participants gathered at a local restaurant, where God orchestrated a meeting that would have been almost impossible to coordinate.
Pastors who had served in several different countries of origin and had not seen each other for more than 20 years ended up sitting at the same table. What’s more, they all had the same goal: to plant churches and to serve the Hispanic community in Illinois.
"Even if we had planned it, this would not have happened," those at the table said about the experience.
Altogether, eight nations were represented by the 12 participants at the SLIM event: Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Panama, Nicaragua, the United States, and Canada.
"How can you love each other if you don't know each other?" Caicedo challenged those in attendance. "God comforts us to comfort others, loves us so we can love, forgives us so we can forgive. We receive to give; we are blessed to bless."
He urged attendees to get to know the members of their churches and communities and to unite and bless one another, regardless of where they come from.
With the same call to unity, Rev. Mirtha Villafañe, coaching network developer with Resonate Global Mission and a member of the Consejo Latino, guided participants through the history of the Reformation, helping them see that God had a marvelous plan: since the beginning of our history, the Lord has used people for his divine purposes.
The price for some communities to gain access to the Word of God was very high, said Villafañe, but even in those times, God has been in control and works through circumstances for his purposes. She encouraged participants to reflect on the creeds and confessions of the CRCNA.
“It was exciting for those gathered in a church building that was over 150 years old to recite the Apostles’ Creed and know that this declaration of faith had been said there for generations,” said Villafañe. “They noted that in Chicago and Florida; in Latin America and the United States; in Spanish, English, Korean, or Cantonese; the same thing unites us – that we believe in one God, Almighty Father, in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, conceived by the Holy Spirit.”
This message was especially poignant in the physical space of Ebenezer CRC. Not only has the church been around for over a century, serving as a witness to God’s love in Berwyn, Ill., but it is also a living demonstration of how God unites people. Currently Ebenezer has two services every Sunday – one in English and one in Spanish. Church leaders also work hard to ensure that fellowship time between the services is used to unite people across languages. They have also created a weekly, bilingual prayer time where people can pray together in English and Spanish.
“Meeting for the SLIM conference reminded us that we are a universal church, where God is writing a story in which we are all participants,” said Villafañe. “In the years to come and with the people who will follow us, God’s name will continue to be praised in many languages.”