Mennonites in the News: Worship feels better in a familiar languageby Associated Press
The two-story white house at 510 S.E. Second in Newton, Kan., looks like any other family home on the block, but a different kind family has made this house a home—a church family.
A Hispanic Mennonite church is meeting in the house, which is owned by the First Mennonite Church across the block.
The church offers the only Mennonite service in Spanish in the state, according to its members, and allows people to feel closer to God by worshipping in their native tongue.
"When I pray, when I sing and have my devotion with God, I feel better if I do it in Spanish," said Rosa Flores, a member of the church.
Flores came to the United States 15 years ago from Guatemala with her husband, who was a Mennonite minister and now works for Mennonite Church USA.
Flores is a member of First Mennonite Church in Newton, but her English is not good, and she said she found it difficult to understand sermons in her own church.
Other churches in the community offer Spanish services, but Flores said she believes in the nonviolence and service doctrines of the Mennonite church and wants to continue worshipping in this tradition.
Flores and another church founder, Norma Stoltzfus, said many families from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Central America grew up in Mennonite churches established by missionaries in those regions.
Stoltzfus is originally from Puerto Rico. She came to the U.S. 33 years ago when her sister was studying at Hesston College and met her husband here.
Her parents recently came to live in the United States from Puerto Rico.
They were attending Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston, but they too struggled with the language, Stoltzfus said.
"For them, because they understand everything (in the Spanish church), worship feels like God is there," Stoltzfus said.
Stoltzfus' parents grew up Catholic, but they joined the Mennonite church when Mennonite missionaries traveled to Puerto Rico in the early 1940s and '50s to establish churches and hospitals and do work to improve sanitation and agriculture on the island.
"They feel more at home and a part of a family in the Mennonite church," she said.
Stoltzfus attended a Mennonite church and taught at a Mennonite school before she immigrated to the United States.
The church's first service was March 30, and the dedication was recently conducted at Bethel College Mennonite Church.
The church has only three families at this time, but its founders hope to publicize and expand the congregation.
The church does not have a full-time pastor. A minister from Texas, Marco Guete, is helping get the church started and has been traveling back and forth to assist the new congregation.
Until the congregation has a full-time minister, members will take turns leading worship. Founding members like Flores and Stoltzfus hope someday they will be able to have a full-time minister and their own church building.
But for now, just being able to come together and sing and praise in Spanish is an answer to a prayer.
"This is what we were dreaming for, to have Mennonite services in Spanish," Stoltzfus said.
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