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Author Topic: At Churches Across Area, Central Americans Develop A Devotion They Never Had  (Read 1959 times) Average Rating: 0
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TomS
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« on: January 22, 2006, 01:08:56 PM »

Finding God in Their Adopted Homeland
At Churches Across Area, Central Americans Develop A Devotion They Never Had

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 22, 2006; C01

Months after departing El Salvador in search of work, Maura Marquez was jobless, thousands of dollars in debt and living in Arlington with a brother who barely had time to grunt hello as he rushed out to work.

Desperate and lonely, the petite single mother accepted a ride to an evangelical church in Silver Spring -- Iglesia Restauracion Elim -- that ultimately helped her find a job, a husband and "a feeling of incredible peace" through a fervent devotion to God that she'd never known before.

Marquez's conversion put her in the ranks of a growing number of Central Americans who have become active in church life after moving to the Washington area. Nominally Roman Catholic but not particularly involved with the church in their home countries, they have been drawn by the thousands to Catholic and Protestant parishes by the search for a sense of community in a foreign land and a need for guidance through the labyrinth of American culture, area pastors say.

"Maybe I would also have accepted the Lord if I had stayed in El Salvador," mused Marquez, 41, who works as an office cleaner, her voice slightly hoarse from a late-night prayer session. "But it was like He had a plan for me to discover Him here."

David Ulloa, co-pastor of Restauracion Elim, calculates that more than 75 percent of the church's roughly 600 Central American members were not religious before they came to the United States.

In Falls Church, about a third of the 300 young Central Americans who attend weekly prayer meetings and concerts at St. Anthony of Padua were not practicing Catholics before they arrived here, said Manuel Aviles, head of youth ministry.

"It's very primordial," Aviles explained. "They don't have family or friends here. They are looking for a home, a refuge. And what better place to find refuge than the church?"

Local Catholic and Evangelical churches have strived to keep first-timers coming back by transforming themselves into all-inclusive hubs of Latino culture and immigrant life.

At least twice during the week, evangelicals such as Marquez cram into living rooms to pray in groups of 10 to 15. On Saturdays and Sundays, they pile into vans to get to large formal services at church. When they are not attending church functions, members are often preparing for them, patting out dozens of tortillas and roasting countless chickens to feed their fellow faithful.

Similarly, many area Catholic parishes hold Masses in Spanish in the effusive "charismatic" style popular in Latin America, celebrate religious holidays of particular significance to Central Americans, host weekly Spanish prayer meetings and concerts for young adults in church basements, and offer a range of legal, financial and recreational services through affiliated charities.

St. Anthony is so comprehensive that church leaders jokingly refer to it as "the Republic of St. Anthony."

At St. Michael the Archangel Church in Silver Spring, parishioners found newcomer Jose Rivera a job with a construction company within days of his first visit last fall. Then, after Rivera fell from a platform two stories high last month, they found him a doctor and an attorney to ensure him the medical care and workers' compensation he is due.

Now Rivera, 33, is a regular at the church, attending Saturday-night meetings and studying the catechism on Sundays in preparation for his confirmation.

Although he winces slightly when he walks and worries about making his rent, Rivera insists his spirits are high. "I feel like my life is going easier than before," he said. "That every problem that comes I leave it to God to solve it."

The path he took to this point has a familiar ring in area Latino religious circles: He grew up fatherless in El Salvador, so poor he sometimes had no shoes, and led a drifter's life, dropping out of school, drinking heavily and fathering three children out of wedlock. Three times he tried to sneak into the United States and failed. Shortly before his fourth, successful border crossing, Rivera said he was inspired to make a vow: "I said, 'God, if You get me to the north, I promise You I will change my life.' "

Still, it wasn't until he was encouraged by a family friend a month after his arrival in August that Rivera made good on his oath.

Catholic and Protestant religious leaders suggest that Rivera's experience is typical, with most immigrants being recruited rather than seeking out the church on their own.

Evangelical churches -- which preach that people's souls are doomed to eternal damnation unless they accept Jesus Christ as their savior -- place particular responsibility on members to spread the gospel. Many offer free rides to services and invite as many friends and acquaintances as possible to try to convert them.

Indeed, home worship groups such as those sponsored by Iglesia Restauracion Elim are explicitly intended to serve as entry points for immigrants who might be less inclined to travel all the way to the church, said Ulloa, the co-pastor.

Leaders of the home groups are encouraged to try to double their membership from about 10 people to 20 every three months. The group then is split into two, and the process starts again.

On a recent evening, Maura Marquez's husband, Angel, a construction worker who converted to Protestantism in El Salvador, presided over the last meeting of a group that was about to be divided.

"It's kind of emotional, because the people in the group are so nice and you get attached to them," Angel Marquez said just before straightening his tie and walking from his Manassas home to the townhouse where the prayer session was to be held. "But I also feel joy because this is what the Lord wants me to do."

The newfound devotion of previously unreligious immigrants is adding to a heavy influx of Latino worshipers in area Catholic and Protestant churches. The past two decades have seen explosive growth in evangelical churches geared toward Latinos, with hundreds of churches boasting thousands of members established across the region.

Similarly, the Arlington Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church is among the fastest-growing in the country, with the number of registered Catholics increasing almost 40 percent to 400,000 during the past decade. The Washington Archdiocese is expanding almost as fast.

Although exact statistics are not available, church leaders in both jurisdictions attribute most of the growth to Central American immigrants. The church leaders point out that more than half of the parishes in the Arlington Diocese and nearly one-fourth of those in the Washington Archdiocese hold popular Spanish-language Masses, compared with only a handful a decade ago.

Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Arlington Diocese, the son of Sicilian immigrants, sees parallels with the boost that the Catholic Church got with earlier waves of newcomers from such predominantly Catholic countries as Ireland and Italy.

"The church was a focal point for those early immigrants," Loverde said. "It was a place to find people of like-minded faith and culture and to preserve what they knew while getting involved in the community. Now, in many ways, it's happening again today."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Leaders of the home groups are encouraged to try to double their membership from about 10 people to 20 every three months. The group then is split into two, and the process starts again.

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How pathetic ! Actually going out and trying to convert people! Thank God the EO don't do this type of aggressive prostelytizing. They might be mistaken as Heretics and Schismatics!
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« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2006, 02:38:10 PM »

About 12 years ago I used to go with my ex girlfriend (Salvadoran) to the charismatic young adult group at St Anthony of Padua.  That Church is what got me going towards being Catholic, which of course resulted in me finding Orthodoxy.

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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2006, 07:09:52 PM »

How pathetic ! Actually going out and trying to convert people! Thank God the EO don't do this type of aggressive prostelytizing. They might be mistaken as Heretics and Schismatics!

Wow, Tom...way to take an encouraging post and turn it around to bash the Orthodox...what a shock.  Tell you what: since its such a scandal for you that we don't do this sort of thing on a massive scale (btw, neither do the Evangelicals or Catholics as a whole; these two parishes do so individually, and there are pockets of this around the country, but it's hardly a churchwide mandate for either RCs or Evangelicals), I want you as an individual to go ahead and do this.  Invite at least one person to come with you to at least one service a week.  Set a goal for the number of people you want to "bring in," then go about doing everything you can to make that happen.  You can't blame the bishops or priests for what is, primarily, something the laity do with their own involvement and effort, so instead of cursing the darkness, either work to make this sort of thing happen, or kindly refrain from yelling at "the EO" for not doing as a whole what you're not doing as an individual either.
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2006, 09:34:13 PM »

Wow, Tom...way to take an encouraging post ....

And encouraging post !!!??? You find it encouraging that these poor souls are being led to a FALSE CHURCH ?!?!?

I am appalled, dismayed, saddened, and discouraged by such a statement from a fellow Orthodox. I can only assume that you are one of those E*%$umenist orthodox.
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« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2006, 09:49:33 PM »

And encouraging post !!!??? You find it encouraging that these poor souls are being led to a FALSE CHURCH ?!?!?

I am appalled, dismayed, saddened, and discouraged by such a statement from a fellow Orthodox. I can only assume that you are one of those E*%$umenist orthodox.

K...when you decide to respond seriously, I'll be here.
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« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2006, 10:34:28 PM »

Dear Tom S:
ÂÂ  I`ve been reading your posts for almost a year now and at the risk of being laughed off of this forum I have to ask (in all honesty,really help me out because I am confused,not joking,no offence intended,forgive me if I have,this is not a baited question..etc..) are you a fellow Orthodox? Just curious. I enjoy(most) of your posts regardless.
  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚ Moses
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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2006, 04:27:50 AM »

Tom,

This is not meant to be an anti-missionary post, but regarding people "being led to a false church," I think Met. Philaret (who can hardly be called an ecumenist!) put it best:

Quote
...It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth... They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, "Who will have all men to be saved" (I Tim. 2:4) and "Who enlightens every man born into the world" (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.With reference to the above question, it is particularly instructive to recall the answer once given to an inquirer by the Blessed Theophan the Recluse. The blessed one replied more or less thus: "You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them."

Met. Philaret had very strong words for people who left the Orthodox Church, but he had only mercy and hope (not triumphalism) for those who had never been Orthodox. But when considering missionary activity, don't you think that both ecumenism and triumphalism (or exaggerated exclusivism) should be avoided? Isn't their a royal path in between, where we can talk about Orthodoxy as the true Church, without casting pejorative epithets at others? Ha, I guess I'm one to talk, but just thought I'd post this little bit.
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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2006, 09:44:39 AM »

K...when you decide to respond seriously, I'll be here.

 Wink
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« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2006, 09:46:44 AM »

..are you a fellow Orthodox? Just curious. I enjoy(most) of your posts regardless.
  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚ Moses

Thanks. Yes, I am - but I came from a Protestant background so still hold tightly to my bags.

Basically, I kid.
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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2006, 12:13:28 PM »

Dear Tom S:
ÂÂ  I`ve been reading your posts for almost a year now and at the risk of being laughed off of this forum I have to ask (in all honesty,really help me out because I am confused,not joking,no offence intended,forgive me if I have,this is not a baited question..etc..) are you a fellow Orthodox? Just curious. I enjoy(most) of your posts regardless.
  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚ Moses

It's ok, Mo.  Several of us have already asked him the same thing.  I'm just suprised that he has contained himself so well of late and how infrequent he has been posting.
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« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2006, 02:42:07 PM »

It's ok, Mo.ÂÂ  Several of us have already asked him the same thing.ÂÂ  I'm just suprised that he has contained himself so well of late and how infrequent he has been posting.

You must have been away - I was moderated for about 2 months! Anyways, I really don't have much to contribute lately.
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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2006, 07:25:14 PM »

Thanks. Yes, I am - but I came from a Protestant background so still hold tightly to my bags.

Basically, I kid.

 ÃƒÆ’‚  ÃƒÆ’‚ Thanks for answering, Tom. BTW, those bags are supposed to go under the seat in front of you Tongue!!
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« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2006, 08:24:12 PM »

And encouraging post !!!??? You find it encouraging that these poor souls are being led to a FALSE CHURCH ?!?!?

I am appalled, dismayed, saddened, and discouraged by such a statement from a fellow Orthodox. I can only assume that you are one of those E*%$umenist orthodox.

As one of those Ecumenist Orthodox, I am quite appalled when I find proselytism, whether it's being committed by the protestants, the Orthodox, or any other religion.
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« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2006, 08:46:09 PM »

As one of those Ecumenist Orthodox, I am quite appalled when I find proselytism, whether it's being committed by the protestants, the Orthodox, or any other religion.

Why?
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« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2006, 08:52:15 PM »

Why?

Because it's disrespectful to the culture and religion of the subject of your proselytism, it's degrading to your own religion which apparently can't stand on its own merits, because you tend to end up with converts who convert just because it's the new cool thing to do or for the socialization, and finally because any proselytization programme is usually operated at the expense, both spiritually and economically, of those who are long established members of your community.
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« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2006, 08:55:12 PM »

But what if the person doesn't know anything about your religion? I didn't even know Christian Orthodoxy existed prior to meeting my wife. What's wrong with telling others about what you have found that makes you happy?
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« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2006, 09:00:50 PM »

But what if the person doesn't know anything about your religion? I didn't even know Christian Orthodoxy existed prior to meeting my wife. What's wrong with telling others about what you have found that makes you happy?

Nothing wrong with living a christian life, discussing religion with a friend or someone who wants to, or even helping them to convert to your religion if they desire to do so. What I do object to is actually proselytism, establishing campaigns to indoctrinate your community and actively convert them to your religion, often by whatever means necessary. Or even worse, those organizations that offer 'free' food or other services to the poor, while requiring them to go through an indoctrination session.
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« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2006, 09:23:50 PM »

Nothing wrong with living a christian life, discussing religion with a friend or someone who wants to, or even helping them to convert to your religion if they desire to do so. What I do object to is actually proselytism, establishing campaigns to indoctrinate your community and actively convert them to your religion, often by whatever means necessary.

Do you condemn St Vladimir then, since he sent his people to be baptised en masse in the frigid waters of the Dnipr without much of a choice? The Church praises him for this action, so it would seem that strong campaigns are admirable.
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« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2006, 09:29:30 PM »

Do you condemn St Vladimir then, since he sent his people to be baptised en masse in the frigid waters of the Dnipr without much of a choice? The Church praises him for this action, so it would seem that strong campaigns are admirable.

What an Emperor/King/Prince does to his subjects is one thing, what you do to your neighbour is another...it's the same idea as a parent insisting his child goes to Church/be Baptized/etc.
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« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2006, 09:49:10 PM »

Is Archbishop Anastasios of Albania bad then?

A.
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« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2006, 10:54:41 PM »

Is Archbishop Anastasios of Albania bad then?

I'm not entirely certain what the extent, to say nothing of the conditions, of the Archbishop's activities are. So I'm not exactly in a posistion to make a value judgement the relevant actions.
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« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2006, 11:22:11 PM »

What an Emperor/King/Prince does to his subjects is one thing, what you do to your neighbour is another...it's the same idea as a parent insisting his child goes to Church/be Baptized/etc.

How about Ss. Cyril and Methodius, then?  Or Ss. Juvenaly, Innocent, Herman, et al?  They weren't dealing with their subjects, but rather their non-Christian neighbors.  How do you feel about their intentional campaigns to convert the slavic peoples and the indigenous Alaskans, respectively?
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« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2006, 11:35:38 PM »

I'm not entirely certain what the extent, to say nothing of the conditions, of the Archbishop's activities are. So I'm not exactly in a posistion to make a value judgement the relevant actions.

Arch. Anastasios is responsible for the revival of missionary activity in the State Church of Greece. He served as a missionary in E. Africa and became bishop there. He was a professor in Athens and helped get about 100 Orthodox people into missionary work (compare that to the 200k Catholics and 200k Protestants who do missionary work, but still a start is a start).  He then went to Albania to shepherd the flock there after communism fell, establishing hospitals and schools. Now it should be noted that your concern about bread for conversion is well taken; the Archbishop served food to the Kosovar refugees of 1998ish without asking them to convert (many did anyway).  However, his missionary activities in Africa and extensive writings on missiology that encourage us to go out and actively make disciples of all nations through active evangelization of non Orthodox seem to directly contradict what you wrote above as your position.

It seems to me that evangelization comes from the love of Christ.  If we love Christ, we will proselytize.  Not unfairly, trying to force ourselves on others or berate them; but by living an example but also being ready to provide the answer and giving testimony and being ever so persuasive.  If we really believe that Christ is the answer, we will preach him to all nations.

Anastasios
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« Reply #23 on: January 24, 2006, 06:09:55 AM »

I actually agree with both anastasios and GiC here.
I'm put off by missionaries who work like Advertisers on commercial television, pushing their product, when in reality, it's just a cheap piece of fantastic-plastic rubbish which people throw away once the novelty wears off.ÂÂ  And in this regard, I think the old proverb is true that "hollow drums make the most sound."
The key, I think, is to live authentically as Christians in our world. An authentic Christian life invariably leads others to ask questions, and as anastasios points out, that's the time when we must be ready to provide answers to those who question us as to the reason for our optimism, hope, faith, compassion, endurance, patience...etc.
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