McMinnville Spanish Opens Doors
for Their Community
All too often, the doors on our churches seem to spend more time locked than unlocked. Of course, they are opened wide on Sabbath and possibly a lightly attended Wednesday night prayer meeting, but for many churches that is unfortunately the extent of it. A year ago, a pastor from McMinnville dared to ask the question to his members, "If our church closed, would anyone from our community even know?" From that point forward, Pastor Juan Miguel Pacheco and a faithful group of church members began to prayerfully seek ways to make an impact upon the McMinnville community.
The soaring unemployment rate has many worried for their job security, and for the last several months has hovered just under 9.0% nationally. For the Hispanic community near McMinnville, the jobless rate is shockingly high at 50%! Pastor Pecheco explained, "This community's severe unemployment crisis led our church family to offer very practical educational programs designed to make their community and church members more employable and have a future of possibilities."
McMinnville Spanish's first offering to the community was an ESL course to improve communication ability, hopefully opening the door to apply for better jobs. When the Hillsboro Church donated seven computers, McMinnville Spanish opened computer training classes geared to building new skills. Pastor Pacheco shares, "The last time many of our community students have been in a classroom was 20 or more years ago, so they start rather shy and quiet. By the end of the program, they are well spoken, participate more openly, and proud of their English abilities."
Just two years ago, Pastor Pacheco earned his ministry degree in Puerto Rico from Antillean Adventist University. Instead of returning home to Bolivia, he answered a call to minister in Oregon where he spent a year as an assistant pastor in the University Park and Hood River churches. Since early 2008, Pastor Pacheco has been the pastor for the McMinnville Spanish Church.
Wilfredo Duran, educational program director for McMinnville Spanish, reports, "In about six months, just over thirty-five have made it through the ESL and computer classes. Before class starts, we offer prayer. Many of them have expressed interest in Bible studies, and we've started 8 new studies so far."
Duran has also been instrumental in forging an emerging partnership with Chemeketa Community College. According to Duran, there have been historically few GED graduates through Chemeketa's McMinnville campus, largely because the test preparation course is only offered once per week in McMinnville, and stretches out for 9 months. Adding the McMinnville Spanish classrooms increased the capacity to teach preparation classes more frequently, and graduate more students. McMinnville Spanish has already graduated one student with their GED, and presently better than 20 are signed up for the course.
For Pastor Pecheco and McMinnville Spanish, making educational and lifestyle programs available to the community is all about building friendships with their neighbors. Modeling their ministry after Christ, this church has found unique ways to connect with the community, and show the character of Jesus. Pastor Pecheco recalls, "A student in our ESL classes a couple months back had recently lost his job. He was without food and quite literally had nothing at all. After the class, the teacher invited him to the church kitchen and provided him several cans of food. She then led him in prayer, and let him know that Jesus was there for him. The very next day, he came back and told the teacher that he was offered three jobs, and now had to decide which job to take! He later invited three of his friends to the ESL class and they are now signed up for Bible studies."
Stories like this have spurred church members into proactively thinking about what more they can do for their neighbors. One church member, who had a difficult time with post-partum depression found there was a lack of local resources, and ended up traveling to Salem for help. She now offers a similar program to the local community in McMinnville, and offers it as a home-based group program. The church is planning a food bank as well as couples counseling.
McMinnville Spanish will soon offer a program to teach leadership, motivation, and personal financial management. To promote the program, Pastor Pecheco visited local factories and farms, and found many business owners welcomed the idea. Several employers have made this course mandatory, and have committed their employees to be in class 2 hours per week for the next three months. In this first leadership class, ninety students will come inside the McMinnville Spanish church, and be provided food and friendship. Upon completion, the student will receive a certification from Chemeketa Community College, and Pastor Pacheco plans to invite them also to a practical family seminar, and then hopefully to an evangelistic series.
Pastor Pecheco beams, "By God's grace, our church will stay open seven days each week, helping others and winning souls for Christ. Please keep us in your prayers!"
In a time when our schedules are filled to capacity with places to be, and things to do, the amount of thought left over for ministering to our local communities seems hard to come by. Busyness aside, it remains critically important for each of us to live a commission culture life, and find creative ways to lead our neighbors to know the Savior. If we are open to His leading, He can use us for His Glory!