Hispanic Outreach in God’s Time

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2023 Blog #16

April 17, 2023

Hispanic Outreach in God’s Time

Seventeen years ago I received a call to pastor Clinton Avenue Reformed Church. At that time I was told that our local high school had twenty-six different languages spoken by students. We at the church of course spoke only English. Our history has been that of a white protestant middle-class church in a white protestant, middle-class town. It seemed to work for decades until the town changed around us. Beginning in the 1980’s and continuing in decades afterward, we experienced “white-flight” from our town and watched in despair as our congregation shrank and fewer and fewer of our congregants lived in town.

We tried to do outreach to new neighbors who were largely immigrants from the Dominican Republic. We sought a Spanish-speaking student intern from our local seminary but none was to be found. Our consistory sent me to Costa Rica for a Spanish immersion class. I learned a lot of Spanish but am far from fluent. Fresh off this experience we tried to hold a bi-lingual service. No Spanish speakers ever came.

A wise Hispanic minister in our denomination gave me some advice that I needed to hear. He told me that even if I become fluent, Spanish speaking immigrants would never come if a white man was running the services. Immigrants, he told me, will only trust other immigrants. He assured me that this was nothing personal against me, it was simply the mentality of immigrants.

Our consistory had ongoing discussions and we held congregational meetings. Staff members from the Reformed Church in America shared demographic studies with us. All of the studies showed that we were correct; we needed Hispanic outreach. We began a search process to find someone who could do Spanish-language outreach.

We began our search when we were plagued by Covid-19. Our outreach efforts came to a screeching halt as we struggled to keep worshipping without being able to meet in person. We had no time for things other than survival. I was frustrated that we could not do this important work and wondered when the plague would ever end. Whenever I expressed impatience, a faithful Christian woman in our Bible study kept assuring me that in God’s time, all would be well.

Finally Covid-19 diminished and we re-started our search process. We were diligent but had few candidates. We prayed and interviewed people. Near the end of what seemed like a hopeless project, we received a new profile. He was a second career seminary student. He lived just a few towns over and was an immigrant from Columbia.

After prayerful consideration, we hired him to begin this new ministry. He has been working with us for four months now, building contacts and talking to people. He is running an ESL program as well as a Bible study. Recently we began to advertise these programs with a banner and soon a postcard mailing will follow.

We prayed hard and worked hard but ultimately God gave us the resources we needed in God’s time, not ours. And so our walk to outreach that will bring our congregation into similar demographics with our community has really begun. This has been decades in the making and led us to many dead ends and many reversals from our course. Yet, we have begun and I pray that God will bless the work that we have prayed for and worked for all these years.

It was all done in God’s time.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#Outreach                                                                 #HispanicNeighbors

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please look at his website:


Published by pastormarkauthor

I have been a Reformed Church in America pastor and Christian Author since 1984. In addition I am certified Crisis Counselor, certified Disaster Chaplain and have two units of Clinical Pastoral Education.

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