Rogers Hispanic Mission celebrates launch

By Amy Forbus
Editor

A cooperative effort among multiple United Methodist congregations has created a more inviting ministry with the Hispanic population in northwest Arkansas.

Members of Rogers Hispanic Mission, Grace UMC Rogers and other sister churches receive Holy Communion together at the mission’s July 12 service. COURTESY PHOTO

Members of Rogers Hispanic Mission, Grace UMC Rogers and other sister churches receive Holy Communion together at the mission’s July 12 service.
COURTESY PHOTO

Leaders from four Rogers area churches—Central, First, Grace and Oakley Chapel—were on hand July 12 to participate in the opening worship service of the Rogers Hispanic Mission.

The Rev. Ramiro Lizcano, the mission’s pastor, is excited about what many persons connected with the ministry see as a homecoming. After being founded in 2003 as Betel Mission and meeting at Central UMC Rogers, the congregation moved to Springdale when an opportunity arose to share a facility with Wesley UMC Springdale. That English-speaking congregation eventually closed, and the mission continued there, at what is now the Agape Campus of First UMC Springdale.

Over the years, though, most of the mission’s congregants continued to come from the Rogers area, which is home to a greater Spanish-speaking population. Members of the mission continued to hope for a way to move their worshiping community back to the Rogers area.

“If the people are coming from up there, it makes sense for there to be a ministry up in Rogers,” said the Rev. Stephen Coburn, who became involved in the process as senior pastor of First UMC Springdale, and now serves as the superintendent of the Northwest District, where all the partnering churches are located.

Then-district superintendent the Rev. Bud Reeves and Coburn met with clergy and lay leaders from four United Methodist churches in Rogers. Those leaders began to work together with the Rev. Maxine Allen, the Arkansas Conference assistant director of mission and ministry for mission field engagement, to develop a ministry plan for the new arrangement, including SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Oakley Chapel, Central and First UMCs agreed to provide funding and other support, and Grace UMC is investing by sharing its space with the mission.

An older congregation with a desire for action, Grace UMC Rogers already hosted a food pantry and had joined Oakley, First and Central UMCs in a rotation to provide on-site community meals on Sundays.

“Everything we’re doing at Grace is being done with the other churches,” said the Rev. Shane Pair, who serves as pastor for both Oakley Chapel and Grace. “I just think it is living out United Methodism at its best. It really is.”

After the July 12 opening worship, which was conducted in English and interpreted in Spanish, worshippers moved outside for a “church fiesta” that included food, games and music to celebrate the beginning of this ministry. People from the other partner churches joined the fiesta after attending services at their usual places of worship.

Rogers Hispanic Mission holds weekly worship 11:30 on Sundays (deliberately set at a later time to accommodate those who work late on Saturday nights), and Bible study on Tuesday nights. The people of Grace UMC Rogers worship at 9 a.m., and plans are coming together for joint worship with Rogers Hispanic Mission on fifth Sundays.

“The members are so happy that they are going to go out and evangelize because this is their area,” Lizcano said. “They used to do that when we were in Springdale, but many people would say, ‘Well, it’s so far…’” Now those people don’t have an excuse to not get involved, Lizcano says, because the mission is nearby once again. And in the first month since returning to Rogers, the congregation has gained three households.

Coburn points out that this new arrangement is an example of mission field ministry as set forth in Step 5 of the Bishop’s Mission Plan, “Look Like the Neighborhood.”

The Revs. Ramiro Lizcano of Rogers Hispanic Mission, Stephen Coburn of the Northwest District office and Shane Pair of Oakley Chapel and Grace UMCs pause for a moment during the “church fiesta” that followed the mission’s first worship service in Grace UMC’s sanctuary. COURTESY PHOTO

The Revs. Ramiro Lizcano of Rogers Hispanic Mission, Stephen Coburn of the Northwest District office and Shane Pair of Oakley Chapel and Grace UMCs pause for a moment during the “church fiesta” that followed the mission’s first worship service in Grace UMC’s sanctuary.
COURTESY PHOTO

“I’m very appreciative of the cooperative effort of these churches,” he said. “To me, as a superintendent, this is an example of this mission field ministry that we’ve been talking about—churches coming together for the sake of the mission field.”

The mission field will soon benefit from a back-to-school kickoff, planned as a joint venture among the partner churches and Rogers Hispanic Mission.

“I think the best way to do ministry is to do it connectionally with other churches that have the same vision,” Lizcano said.

Pair agrees.

“What [the cooperating churches] said is, ‘We believe as we invite the Hispanic community and we infuse life into the Hispanic community and to Grace, we also are infusing life into all our other churches,’” he said.

“That’s really what they’ve all said: ‘We see this as a way of enhancing the ministry of all the United Methodist churches in Rogers, Arkansas.’”