By Kara Witherow, Editor
Sunday, Aug. 26 was a day of celebration for Arca de Fuego, the Hispanic congregation of Americus First United Methodist Church, as they opened the doors of their new facility.
About 270 members of the Hispanic congregation gathered in the downtown Americus location and sang songs, worshiped, and thanked God for their new home.
While the congregation is 15 years old, Sunday, Aug. 26 was their first service in the Clarence Jorden Center on Habitat for Humanity’s campus on Millard Fuller Blvd. A satellite campus of Americus First UMC, Arca de Fuego is moving towards autonomy but will always be part of the Americus First UMC family, says senior pastor Dr. Jerry Roe, Jr.
The need for a new home became apparent when the Arca de Fuego congregation – previously meeting in Americus First UMC’s social hall – regularly filled its former space. With little room for growth, Rev. Noel Perez, who leads the congregation, and Dr. Roe knew it was time to find a new place to meet.
“It became really apparent that this was to be a growing congregation,” Dr. Roe said.
After several fits and starts, nearly three years of prayers, and a lot of patience, a new site was found and the congregation is excited about the opportunity to grow and minister in a new location.
“It has proven to be a marvelous, perfect place for them to worship and minister out of,” Dr. Roe said of Arca de Fuego’s new home on the Habitat for Humanity campus. “This has been really terrific.”
Sponsored by Connectional Ministries, Americus First UMC, the Northwest District, and Congregational Development, Arca de Fuego is a vibrant, faithful community of Spanish-speaking United Methodists led by Rev. Perez. While they will gather in their new location in Americus, they will continue to minister to and serve the whole community of Sumter County, says Rev. Daniel Medina, director of South Georgia’s Hispanic Ministries.
Their ministries include a worship center with a contemporary, vibrant liturgy that responds to the Hispanic and Latino culture and a worship service in Spanish, English, and Haitian Creole languages; community ministries including a clothing closet, a food pantry, a shelter, and a soup kitchen; outreach programs including after-school ministries, health fairs, immigration clinics, on-site mobile consulates, clinics, and courses of certification; youth and children’s ministries; and social events.
Arca de Fuego’s ministries serve the entire community and Rev. Perez has the unique ability to minister to all Hispanics, Dr. Roe said.
“(Arca de Fuego) is really a melting pot for the Hispanic community, and I think the real key to his success are the relationships he has with all the different Hispanic cultural groups.”
The growth of Arca de Fuego and its move to a new home have been a work of the Holy Spirit, Dr. Roe says, and he’s proud of both the Americus First UMC congregation for its prayerful support and the Arca de Fuego congregation for its faithfulness.
“It’s been an extraordinary movement of the Spirit. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched the Spirit move, very subtly but powerfully, at just the right times and in the right way.”