Spanish faces - you see them everywhere in stores and malls, bent over fields of tomatoes and strawberries, working in hotels, yards and rooftops. From Florida to Alaska, Spanish-speaking immigrants of all nationalities have made their home in this great continent. They are motivated by the pursuit the American dream of personal and financial growth through hard work and ingenuity. Their numbers continue to break all records, solving their legal status is a continuing challenge, and the Spanish tongue has become so common that businesses and schools have accommodated Spanish speakers. The first generation of immigrants maintains strong roots in the national language and culture, but the second generation straddles two, moving easily between futbol and football, salsa and rock, tacos and steaks, to invent a cross-cultural lifestyle unique in the world. What is the church to do faced with this cultural phenomenon?
Not a problem, God has equipped and sent men and women for such a time as this, with eyes full of vision and hearts burning with Holy Ghost desire to reach the lost. Some of them are Hispanic, while others have adopted Spanish ministry as their calling. Together, they have worked to achieve the greatest growth and revival in the UPCI in the last 30 years. Since 1978, Hispanic congregations and ministers have grown from a handful to over 500licensed ministers and over 400autonomous churches and daughter churches according to records maintained by the Church Division. Spanish Ministry regional records indicate that there may be an equal number of unreported Spanish congregations, and there are many men laboring under an English-speaking pastor who will apply for license in the UPCI in the near future.
This unprecedented growth began in 1978, when a small group of Spanish-speaking Apostolics met in the Bronx, NY, where John Hopkins pastored a Spanish-speaking church. Present were Superintendent N. A. Urshan, Jack Yonts, Director of Home Missions and other leaders from the Home Missions Division (HMD). A retired missionary from Colombia, Lewis Morley, was appointed to be the Coordinator of Spanish Ministries, and a new initiative began under HMD. Several years passed, and churches began to spring up in regions of the country with significant Spanish population. A national Spanish-language conference was established, and in1981, during the Houston Conference, Daniel Scott was appointed as the Coordinator of Spanish Ministries.
Some years later, in order to accommodate growth in the ministry, a national Spanish Evangelism Board was established, and leaders were appointed - Elias Limones, of Concord, California, as Director, and David Cantillo, of Tampa, Florida, as Secretary. The appointed positions eventually were changed to elected positions, with Elias Limones being reelected as Director, and Jerry Miranda being elected as Secretary. The current elected leadership consists of Sergio Vitanza as Director and Marvin Reyes as Secretary. Throughout these thirty-some years, Spanish Ministry has continued to grow and its structure modified to accommodate the growth.
Spanish Evangelism Ministries (SEM) has developed as an evangelistic and revival ministry. Initially, there were churches in New York, Texas, California and Florida. But now there are Spanish-language congregations all over the 50 states and Canada. Leadership and maturity have developed along with numerical growth, so that many districts have an established Spanish Ministry Department with an appointed or elected Director. There are many Spanish churches with membership in the hundreds, with the largest church located in Los Angeles, where approximately 4,500 faithful meet in the multicampus church La Senda Antigua, under the leadership of Senior Pastor Raul Orozco.
The national Spanish Evangelism Conference continues, but there are Regional Conferences, District Camps and Conferences, and local Conferences and Seminars that minister to the Spanish people all over the nation. There are incredible opportunities for service, and Spanish churches seem to grow rapidly. Everywhere pastors are asking for men that will come and labor in the local church to start Spanish congregations.
Spanish Evangelism Ministries continues to grow and develop to meet the great challenge of reaching Spanish-speaking people in the US and Canada. This multi-ethnic, multi-national ministry has been anointed by God to reach those hungry for Acts 2:38 salvation. Thank God for the work of visionary leaders in the Home Missions Division and in Spanish Ministry, who have devoted their lives to this great harvest. And the best is yet to come...