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Ohio’s Akron Group Achieves Mission Church Status
Story by Heidi Shoemaker; Photos By Sue Kirschbaum
Nelida and Juan Garay (foreground) enjoy Sabbath School class at the Akron Hispanic Mission church.
This fall the Ohio Conference Executive Committee voted to grant the Hispanic group meeting at the Akron First church “mission church” status. “This is an important step for our Hispanic brothers and sisters who are following a dream of bringing the three angels’ messages to the Hispanic community in Akron,” said Jerry Chase, pastor of Akron First.
For years the Akron church’s Hispanic members held a separate Sabbath School class in Spanish then joined the English congregation for worship. For a time, the church experimented with providing Spanish translation of the English service over wireless headphones, which proved quite challenging.
In fall 2007 at a regional Hispanic rally in Youngstown, Akron First Hispanic leaders discovered a self-planted Hispanic group in the North Hills area of Akron that met in the basement of an area home under the leadership of Neri Aguilar. Until that moment, the groups didn’t know about each other. Cheryl Calderon, Akron First Hispanic Ministries leader at the time, began meeting with and assisting them as needed.
Soon area leaders wondered how to best encourage the new group and re-energize and grow Ohio’s Hispanic membership. After much prayer and reflection, the two groups decided to converge for an experimental, combined Hispanic Sabbath School and worship service. Both parties enjoyed the collaboration and, therefore, decided to explore forming a combined Hispanic group.
In spring 2008, conference leadership unanimously voted to form a single Hispanic group within Akron First. They began conducting regular Sabbath School and worship services in Spanish at the Akron First facility, and began tracking their group’s attendance and tithes and offerings.
At the close of 2011, the Akron Hispanic group expressed their readiness at becoming a mission church. In January 2012, after examining conference guidelines for mission church status, the group developed a mission statement and soon finished required paperwork.
Recently Oswaldo Magaña, the conference’s director of Hispanic Ministries as well as Clergy Care and Leadership Development, met with the Hispanic group to conduct a final assessment of the group prior to bringing his recommendation to the executive committee. The group is now known as the Akron Hispanic Mission church, and has nearly 40 regular members.
Click here to read this article in Spanish.
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