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In Kansas, the fields are ready for Hispanic spiritual harvest

SUBLETTE, Kan. (BP)–In a small town in southwest Kansas, neighbors are reaching out to neighbors and, in the process, transcending cultural barriers.
At Sublette (Kan.) Southern Baptist Church, basically two congregations exist in one building. One group primarily speaks English and the other speaks Spanish. Yet they both function harmoniously together and are actually bridging the gaps between the two cultures and becoming a stronger congregation as they reach people for Jesus.
“It started out difficult, but after three years, God has blessed us,” said Enrique Bluvan, pastor of Sublette’s Hispanic church. “But when you see one Mexican and one Anglo washing dishes side by side, well, I love it. God has blessed us.”
Abraham Aldape, former pastor of the church in Sublette and now director of Hispanic work for the Kansas- Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, understands the challenges of reaching the growing number of Hispanics coming into Kansas and Nebraska.
“God is helping these people see they have a mission field outside their front door,” Aldape said. “We can fly over an ocean, but what are we doing to reach people here? The mission field is right here.”
Sublette’s Bluvan is an example of what it will take to reach many of the people from Mexico settling in this country. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, he immigrated to the United States and accepted Jesus in 1981. Later he felt called to reach other people from Mexico by going into the ministry full time.
“As people are growing in the Lord, pastors and other church leaders are going to have to raise up more people from their own congregations who feel called to serve in the ministry,” Aldape said.
In three years of establishing a work that specifically reaches out to the Mexican families moving into Sublette, the church has seen amazing growth in a town of 1,500 residents, nearly 350 of whom have Hispanic roots. In the first year of establishing a Hispanic church, 20 people attended the church. In the second year, the number grew to 35, and in the third year, the number is now close to 50 people each week.
Step outside the church building and you immediately see a small mobile home park. It is in areas like this that Bluvan is finding hurting people, each searching for answers and needing someone to tell them the good news that Jesus loves them.
In the mobile home park, Bluvan found Roland Chavarria returning home from his job at the Case Tractor dealership, located directly across the field from his home. Recently, Roland and his wife, Martha, began attending Bluvan’s church. Martha led the way by attending a Bible study and then convinced Roland to attend as well.
“At first I made excuses not to go, but she kept bugging me, so I gave up and went to church,” Chavarria said.
On his first day at church, Chavarria recalled listening to the words being spoken, but his mind was miles away. Then the music started and it immediately got his attention. He’s been faithful ever since.
Hearing hymns in Spanish opened his eyes and suddenly the sermons began making sense as well. Going to church became a habit for Chavarria.
“Since I have been going to church, I have made changes in my life,” he said. “The church has done some wonderful things for me, including helping me stop doing some of the things I was doing, including drinking.”
“If I had not started attending church, I would probably be trying to find a drink or be somewhere I am not supposed to be,” Chavarria said confidently of his church experience.
Success stories are being told all over southwest Kansas as other Mexican-born men with stories similar to Enrique Bluvan assume leadership roles as pastors and church leaders.
Enrique Alvarado pastors the Hispanic Southern Baptist church in Liberal, Kan. By taking a step of faith, Alvarado moved from a very stable pastorate in Texas to become pastor of a small church in this growing Kansas border town near Oklahoma.
“Through prayer, the Lord told me I needed to reach more Mexican people for Christ,” Alvarado said. “I came to Liberal for a visit and saw the opportunity to grow in my ministry and reach people for Jesus.”
His faithful work in reaching the growing Hispanic population in Liberal has seen 35 people being baptized in four years. Attendance has grown from 36 to nearly 100 each week. Having outgrown their present building, the church recently bought property in another part of town and will begin building a new church soon.
The growth is simply miraculous, Aldape said of the work in Liberal. But he is quick to point out growth is still slow due to traditional Catholic influences. When you visit people, they say they are not interested because they are Catholic, although they may not have stepped into a Catholic church since childhood.
“Even after many accept Christ, they are slow to become baptized in fear of being excommunicated from the [Catholic] church,” Aldape said. “Many believe in Christ but have to learn to trust Christ.”
Travel northwest out of Liberal and visit Manual Perez, pastor of the Hispanic Southern Baptist church in Ulysses, Kan., and he will tell you that changes are afoot among Hispanics in this town of 5,000, and with the changes people are accepting Jesus as their Lord.
“Mexicans are putting down roots, becoming less itinerant, and are taking on more stable employment,” Perez said. “This means we can now work with people who are going to be a part of our community. … [I]t means we must not just establish preaching points as we did when people were just doing farm work, staying a short time and passing through after a few weeks or months.”
“Evangelism must now go into discipleship,” Aldape noted. “The problem, though, is there are not enough trained leaders to disciple the new believers.”
As pastor, Perez has given 22 years as the leader of the church in Ulysses, a role he would not trade. But finding pastors like Perez is rare and as the number of people moving to the area from Mexico continues to grow so does the need for trained church leaders.
Just as it is in South America, China, Europe and around the world, the fields in Kansas — in Garden City, Liberal and Sublette — are ready for harvest.

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  • Steve Achord