By Kara Witherow, Editor
Georgia is home to nearly 1 million Latinos. But the Church hasn’t done a great job to reach out and welcome them, said Rev. David Thompson, superintendent of the South Georgia Conference’s Coastal District and chairman of the Conference’s Task Force on Hispanic-Latino Affairs.
“This isn’t just a Methodist problem; the Church in general isn’t great at recognizing the sojourner in their midst,” he said.
Originally formed in 2016, the Task Force on Hispanic-Latino Affairs consists of lay and clergy members who are passionate about and involved in Hispanic-Latino ministries in South Georgia.
Regrouping after pressing pause during the pandemic, the task force recently met in person to discuss its goals and priorities for the next several years.
The purpose of the task force, Rev. Thompson said, is to create and manage the vision and strategy for reaching the Hispanic population in South Georgia and bridge the gap between communities.
“Scripture is really clear about how you’re supposed to treat the foreigner in your midst, the sojourner in your land,” he said. “We really don’t do a good job of that in the American church, of embracing people who are here from foreign countries and showing hospitality, kindness, grace, and assisting them. It’s a huge, huge need, and frankly, it’s a terribly missed opportunity to share the gospel in some really practical ways.”
During the meeting those gathered also discussed what can be produced, made available in Spanish, or translated to better equip and resource Hispanic-Latino congregations.
Just a couple of weeks after the March 19 meeting, several South Georgia lay and clergy members filmed a Safe Sanctuaries training module in Spanish. They’re exploring ways Conference events can be made available in both English and Spanish, and have utilized the platform in Zoom that offers a bilingual track.
“This task force group comes to encourage the work and provide the resources our ministers and lay need and thus share concerns, goals, and joys,” said Rev. Daniel Medina, who serves as pastor of Nueva Vida United Methodist Church, associate pastor for Hispanic Ministries at Warner Robins First United Methodist Church, and as the South Georgia Conference’s associate director of Hispanic Ministries. “This is a group we needed to expand and strengthen our ministries and make this important community visible in our area and our conference.”
While the Task Force on Hispanic-Latino Affairs will provide vision, mission focus, and support to pastors serving the Hispanic-Latino community, the call to reach out, love, and serve is for everyone, Rev. Thompson said.
“This is everybody’s work. This is not just the task force’s work. Each community should be looking around and asking, ‘Who are the people who aren’t being reached with the gospel and how can we reach them?’ Look around your community and find the needs and meet them.”