Students Lead Sabbath Services at Hispanic Churches

"Bien venidos! Feliz Sabado!" A warm greeting welcomes anyone who steps into a Hispanic church in the Pacific Northwest.

This school year, three Hispanic churches in Washington and Oregon are extending those greetings to Hispanic ministries team members of Walla Walla University (WWU) who are there to present Sabado Joven worship services, with students leading the entire church service.

After a fall visit to the Tacoma (Wash.) Hispanic Church, Rubi Perez, senior religion major and Hispanic ministries coordinator, says she was amazed by the positive reaction the group received from the church. "We received invitations to come back as often as possible," she says. "It's a lot of fun. Even though we're there for just a short period of time, it feels like we're able to create that relationship where we know that if we ever came back, they'd welcome us as part of their church family."

Perez heard about the Sabado Joven program while visiting California a couple years ago. She had never seen it done in the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) before, but she has been excited to implement the idea at WWU. "It's a program where youth can be motivated and encouraged to participate in the church," says Perez, "considering that they are going to be the ones taking on those leadership roles in the future."

Hispanic ministries operates as part of campus ministries and welcomes anyone to join them in ministry. The group aims to foster spiritual growth and minister to others, especially those of Hispanic descent. In addition to Sabado Joven, the team holds weekly worships on campus and coordinates outreach programs.

The growth of Hispanic ministries on campus reflects the increasing number of Hispanic church members in the NPUC. Hispanic members in this region numbered 10,665 in 71 churches in 2011, a 43-percent membership increase since 2006. The growth of the Hispanic work is a significant reason for the Adventist Church's robust growth among Christian denominations in North America.

At WWU, the number of self-reported Hispanic students has increased from 118 in 2004 to 194 in 2011.

The Hispanic ministries team is just one of several student groups that present Sabbath programs in NPUC churches. Churches interested in having a student group present a program can send request to wwuhappyfeet@wallawalla.edu.

May 01, 2012 / Walla Walla University
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