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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture

By Isaac Olivarez (5/16/04)

Ebed Molina moved to Fort Collins, Colo., from Chihuahua, Mexico, three years ago. Though Molina held a steady job in Mexico as a specialist in digital electronics, he made only the equivalent of $130 per week. For two months, Molina and his wife, Patty, who have been married since 1998, prayed before deciding to move to the United States to seek a better life.

Despite knowing little English, Molina obtained a work visa and found a job as an electrician. Today he is a foreman for a well-known electrical company and has passed each licensing test in English on his way to becoming a fully licensed journeyman electrician. Molina also has obtained a Social Security number and driver’s license, and he and his wife began filling out paperwork last year to become U.S. citizens.

“God had a purpose for us to come here so we could be workers in His church,” says Molina, 36. Four years ago, the Molinas started attending Templo Betel, a bilingual Assemblies of God church in Fort Collins, and quickly became involved in the music and children’s ministries. Molina says attending a bilingual church has helped him make cultural adjustments as well as learn English.

The Molinas are just two of more than 369,000 immigrants living in Colorado and 32.5 million who have made their way to the United States. Immigrants now account for 11.5 percent of the population.

Though the arrival of 1.5 million immigrants into the United States each year means unprecedented opportunities for churches to fulfill the Great Commission, the road to success for immigrants in America isn’t always smoothly paved.

For the Molinas, the transition has been trying at times — from negotiating rush-hour traffic to trying to secure legal papers for residency. In January, Patty gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Amaris.

The move has also been an eye-opening experience spiritually for the Molinas, who attended a Pentecostal church in Mexico.

“It has helped me see the great need for God in this country,” Molina says. “It makes me miss my cultural roots in Mexico, where people are hungrier for God.”

Indeed, churches in Spanish-speaking countries are experiencing unparalleled growth. And Spanish-speaking churches in the United States are the fastest-growing segment of the Assemblies of God, according to the 2002 Annual Church Ministries Report. From 1992-2002, Hispanic growth accounted for 51.5 percent of total growth in the United States A/G.

“God is sending people to this country to be evangelized,” says Eduardo Perez, 36, pastor of Centro Cristiano La Roca, an A/G church in Anaheim, Calif. “If the church doesn’t do something about reaching out more toward immigrants, we’ll see more churches closing than opening.”

Perez immigrated to the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in 1985. As a child, Perez recalls living in a two-bedroom home with his family of 11. But his parents kicked him out of the house at age 17 after he became a Christian. He decided to leave Mexico, because the most he could make working was the equivalent of $20 a week. Perez wound up moving in with a brother in Fullerton, Calif., where he began attending an A/G church.

Centro Cristiano is near a section of Anaheim called “Little Tijuana” behind Disneyland where 99 percent of the population is Hispanic.

“They may not always bring a lot of funds to the ministry, but we teach them to serve God faithfully and give tithes,” says Perez, who has been married since 1992 and finished his paperwork for permanent resident status in 1995. “Then the church can extend its mission.”

Immigration shows no signs of slowing. More than half of the 32.5 million foreign-born living in the United States are from Latin America. A March Census Bureau report projected the Hispanic population would be 102.6 million by 2050, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the total population.

A 2003 Gallup Poll suggests attitudes toward immigrants may be shifting away from an anti-foreigner sentiment. A decade earlier, 65 percent of Americans wanted to see immigration decreased. Last year’s survey found that 58 percent of the public believes immigration is beneficial for the country.

“As more Americans have the opportunity to become co-workers, neighbors and develop a relationship with immigrants, they discover that they are a blessing to this country,” says Scott Temple, intercultural ministries director for the Assemblies of God.

President Bush drew attention to the nation’s debate over immigration when he proposed a new temporary-worker program in January. His plan matches foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. The program would offer three-year, renewable legal status to immigrants now employed in the United States and to those in foreign countries who wish to participate in the program and have job offers.

“Their search for a better life is one of the most basic desires of human beings,” Bush said in a speech announcing the plan. “We must make our immigration laws more rational, and more humane. And I believe we can do so without jeopardizing the livelihoods of American citizens.”

Jesse Miranda, commissioner on ethnicity for the Assemblies of God, agrees. Miranda is a professor at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., and directs the university’s Center for Urban Studies and Ethnic Leadership. He sees the influx of immigrants into the United States as an opportunity for the church to spread the gospel. And, he says, the Bible is clear on how Christians should approach the issue.

“Jesus was an immigrant and Abraham was an immigrant,” says Miranda, who has served on presidential committees for President Clinton and President Bush to address issues of immigration, religion and the Hispanic culture in the United States. “The church has a mandate through Scripture to embrace the stranger.”

If the church will not see immigrants as a harvest field, Miranda wonders, where else will these new members of our society go? Reaching out to newcomers in the time of transition is crucial, Miranda says, because they are looking for answers to all kinds of questions.

“We can either receive them in church and have new converts with a new life in Christ, or they will continue seeking happiness in materialism and secularism,” Miranda says. “They think they come for economics, but there’s a greater need and that’s the gospel and the peace that only Jesus gives.”

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