By Faith Hoyt and Connie Jeffery
Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) began last month across the United States. In the Pacific Southwest, the contributions of Latino and Hispanic church members were honored with special church programs and events.
Currently, the Hispanic population in the United States stands at more than 56 million, making it the largest racial or ethnic group in the United States.1 Members of the Pacific Union Conference administrative team took time in mid-September to share some of the many ways that Hispanic and Latino churches are making a difference. In a recent episode of All God’s People, the production team spoke with Alberto Ingleton, the director of Hispanic and Portuguese Ministries for the Pacific Union, about the significant contributions that Hispanic churches are making to ministry in the West.
“The majority of our Hispanic members come from Inter-America and South America,” Ingleton shared. “They come with a unique passion. We have a couple of churches—the San Bernardino Spanish church and the La Sierra Spanish church, for example—who are doing a wonderful work with the homeless.” Ingleton described how these churches feed the homeless, give them an opportunity to shower, and provide them with clothing. “We have the Blythe Spanish church, which has been very effective at helping immigrants transition to a new life in the United States,” he continued. “Helping those that have been processed, providing shelter for them, and helping them get in touch with friends and relatives who can accommodate them.”
Ingleton described how other churches are also providing different services, such as offering cooking and English classes, hosting soccer tournaments, and presenting seminars on various topics for the immigrant community. “They find different ways to be relevant and to be present,” he said. “They are always looking for ways to do what they can in their own communities.”
For the Seventh-day Adventist church in the West, Hispanic roots are deep and strong. The first Hispanic Adventist church was founded in Sanchez, Arizona, in 1899. The founding of the church came about after Abel and Adiel Sanchez, while studying their Bibles, discovered that the day of worship was the seventh day, sabado. They learned that Marcial Serna, the pastor of the Tucson Mexican Methodist-Episcopal Church, had become an Adventist through the work of Adventist colporteurs, and they contacted him.
Eventually so many of the Methodists in Sanchez became Adventists that the Methodists gave them their church on the condition that the Adventists help them build a new one—and the church in Sanchez became the first Hispanic Adventist church in the U.S. Pastor Serna continued to share his newfound beliefs with those he knew in Tucson, and many of them became Adventists, forming the second congregation of Hispanic believers. The following year the Methodists deeded their church in Tucson to the Adventist group. Marcial Serna was granted a ministerial license by the General Conference and so became the first Hispanic ordained Adventist minister.
Learn more about Marcial Serna and other Adventist pioneers in the west in episode #337 of All God’s People! Visit Adventistfaith.com.
1Pew Research, Hispanic Trends Project Statistics & U.S. Census Bureau.