Good news for Hispanic people

Published 12:23 am Saturday, September 21, 2013

With America embroiled in a sometimes-bitter debate about immigration, one Suffolk church this weekend will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of a ministry tailored to a community of immigrants in one of the city’s fastest-growing ethnic categories.

Nuestra Fiesta, or Our Party, set for Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., will be Ebenezer United Methodist Church’s way of celebrating a ministry that serves 20 or so Spanish-speaking congregants each week and a way of sharing its fruits with the community at large.

The event is timed to coincide with National Hispanic American Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and will be free, festive and bilingual. There will be food, performances, games, dances and music. 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.

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Pastor David Jiminez has been in the United States on a student visa while studying at Regent University, and he plans to get a religious visa to extend his stay. Considering the situation with immigration in America, it’s likely that some of his congregants do not share his legal status here. But the Church was built for sinners and law-breakers, and everyone needs a place where they can worship and hear the Good News. In Suffolk, “everyone” includes a Hispanic community that has tripled in size as a proportion of the population during the past 10 years.

The descendants of Abraham, wandering in the wilderness and probably picking up stragglers and hangers-on from the places through which they passed, received direction from God through Moses about how to treat foreigners. As recorded in Leviticus 19:34 (NIV), God told them, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

Whatever one’s position on immigration, the Biblical (and moral) position is clear, and the folks at Ebenezer United Methodist Church are to be congratulated for taking that position so seriously.