Ebenezer celebrates Hispanic servicePublished 10:19pm Thursday, September 19, 2013
This Sunday in North Suffolk, Hampton Roads’s first and only Methodist ministry with services in Spanish will celebrate its first birthday.
Ebenezer United Methodist Church’s Nuestra Fiesta, or Our Party, will be free, festive and bilingual, marking the milestone amid National Hispanic Month with food, performances, games, dancing and music from 1 to 5 p.m.
Pastor David Jimenez was plucked to lead the ministry from Regent University while completing a master’s degree in divinity.
The 30-year-old hails from a city of about 300,000 in the Mexican state of Coahuila.
“The dean of my school at the time attends this church,” Jimenez said.
He was “pretty much the only Mexican” in his cohort, he added.
When Jimenez first moved to the United States, he lived in Dallas for three years. Then he lived back in his native Mexico for a spell before returning to live in America three years ago.
Jimenez started his ministry on Sept. 15, 2012. He joked that the size of his congregation varies “depending on the weather,” but averages 17 to 20 worshippers.
Two are from outside the immediate area but still in Hampton Roads, he said, while the rest are considered locals.
“It’s completely in Spanish,” Jimenez said, “but I try to sneak a little bit of English in there. They start recognizing that we are in the U.S., we need to speak English.”
Getting the word out to start with wasn’t easy. It required some shoe leather.
Jimenez and wife Barbara, a Belgian, started knocking on doors.
“Sometimes it can be hard, because you don’t know anyone and you don’t know what to expect from each visit,” he said.
“With the majority of our visits, we started with, ‘How’s the weather?’ But then that developed into something deeper, and we were able to share the Gospel.
“We were targeting people with no church.”
David Jimenez said his ministry has a musical bent. “We have more music with a little bit more flavor,” he said.
“At least from my perspective, it’s festive rather than just trying to tell them something. It’s to let them know the truth about God. It’s to share that message in a sense that they can feel.”
The Jimenezes wed three months ago and live near the church in the village of Eclipse. They enjoy visiting beaches in Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks and discovering hiking trails in their spare time.
“One of the things we like to do is just be in our neighborhood,” David Jimenez said.
Barbara Jimenez said Eclipse reminds her of her home town.
The pastor is living and working here still under a student visa. “The next logical step will be getting a religious visa,” he said.
“It was a little bit rough and tough to break into a new area, but now, looking back, we can say it was worth it and we can celebrate it,” Jimenez said.
Sunday’s party will take place outside, between the church and its Family Life Center. Children will sing a “Welcome Neighbor” song, and a puppet show is also planned.
Dancers from the Mambo Room in Norfolk will increase the Latin flavor, as will Zumba.
Hispanics or Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the country, with more than 50 million today.
According to U.S. Census Bureau, 3.2 percent of Suffolk residents were of Hispanic or Latino origin in 2012, up from 1.3 percent in 2000.