Baptists unite to foster Hispanic congregations

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Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive is more than a church.

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The Rev. Max Guzman moved to Augusta last summer, without having friends or family in the area. "We came, and we're so glad we did. It is an honor, a blessing, a privilege," Guzman said. "There are so, so many people who need a place to worship, a place where people literally speak their language."  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
The Rev. Max Guzman moved to Augusta last summer, without having friends or family in the area. "We came, and we're so glad we did. It is an honor, a blessing, a privilege," Guzman said. "There are so, so many people who need a place to worship, a place where people literally speak their language."

It's a community that rings of home for the area's Spanish-speaking immigrants.

It's also a symbol. Cristo Vive, a new Hispanic church with a campus in Clearwater and a second opening in Harlem planned for August, is the product of teamwork within and among Augusta's Baptist churches.

"It is nothing short of a miracle," said the Rev. Max Guzman, who pastors the new church. "It would be easy to ignore the Hispanics here, but you have people saying, 'No, we have to do something to reach them.' "

In less than a year, the Augusta Association of Baptist Churches recruited six churches to partner with Cristo Vive and invest in its mission to reach unchurched Hispanics.

Sharing the gospel is the primary goal of Cristo Vive, which translates as "Christ Lives," Guzman said. "We don't want to be a club. We don't want to be just a gathering of Spanish speakers. We're a church."

Several stepped forward with money, property and supplies. Heights Church in Clearwater volunteered worship space -- rent free. Grace Baptist Church in Evans and Grove Baptist of Grovetown gave Cristo Vive a building for a second campus in Harlem. A coalition of churches pays salary. Others work with Guzman to canvass neighborhoods, as he's done since arriving in Augusta in November.

Guzman and his family took a few months to explore the area, driving through mobile home parks and neighborhoods, visiting peach farms and stopping in local stores and restaurants. Cristo Vive held its first service in March, and more than 60 people came to worship.

The services, conducted entirely in Spanish, draw people from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Worshippers meet in a warehouse behind Mi Rancho Restaurante Mexicano in Clearwater.

Sunday services start at 2 p.m. with pastries and coffee. Guzman plays the drums with a worship band then delivers a sermon. A "short" service ends sometime after 4 p.m.

"It's one way we're different," Guzman said. "Starting a Hispanic church is different than another kind of church. We're not driven by numbers or a time line. Attitudes are different, too."

He means that both the congregation and community surrounding a new Hispanic church can be prone to wariness.

"The Hispanics, they haven't learned to trust you yet," Guzman said. "And the community at large is somewhat scared. Some are clearly looking forward to serving this community, but a lot of people wonder what these people are doing in their land."

Terry Jackson, the minister of missions at West Acres Baptist Church, understands the concerns but says the church wants to help.

"There are a lot of people without credentials," he said. "They're timid. They're not sure they want to be in groups that'll draw attention. They need to feel safe, and as the population grows we've got to find better ways to do that. Legal or illegal is immaterial to us. They all need the gospel."

Hispanics are the fastest-growing population group in the country. Their numbers are also growing faster in the South than anywhere else in the nation, according to U.S. Census data.

In Georgia, the number of Hispanics grew from 108,922 in 1990 to 780,000 in 2008, making up about 8 percent of the state population, according to Pew Research's Hispanic Center and the U.S. Census.

In South Carolina, the Hispanic population grew from 30,551 in 1990 to 178,000 in 2008, making up 4 percent of the state's population.

Guzman, who was born and raised in Mexico City, came to the United States as a teenager when his father, a pastor in Mexico, found work at a church in a Texas border town. He went to school, studying graphic design and sociology, and met his wife, Jacqueline. They married and moved to France, ministering to minorities for two years before moving back to Texas, where he worked as a graphic designer.

After five years, he felt the call to full-time ministry. Guzman and his family rented the largest U-haul they could find and, in 2002, left Texas so he could study at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He graduated and found work at a new Hispanic church in Raleigh, N.C.

"We realized our call is to the minorities. In France, we worked with the Moroccans, the Algerians. No matter where we've been, the minorities have been on our heart," said Guzman, now 40 and a father of three children, ages 2, 6 and 9.

In summer 2009, he heard from his father that the Augusta Association of Baptist Churches was looking for a minister for a new Hispanic church.

They had no family in Augusta, or as Guzman put it, "no one, no nothing." He realized that was OK because the same is true for much of his congregation.

"We came, and we're so glad we did. It is an honor, a blessing, a privilege," Guzman said. "There are so, so many people who need a place to worship, a place where people literally speak their language."

Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive

Iglesia Bautista Cristo Vive, or Christ Lives Baptist Church, is at 401 Birch Street, North Augusta, SC. For information, call (706) 399-2977 or visit IglesiaBautistaCristoVive.com or ChristLivesBaptistChurch.com

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johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 07/26/10 - 04:48 am
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Legal immigrants or illegal

Legal immigrants or illegal aliens.
While the goal of the church doesn't include the law of the land, it's still under control of the law. Advising the illegals to do the right thing would drive them away, but not advising them is hardly "...rendering unto caesar".

fatboyhog
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fatboyhog 07/26/10 - 06:55 am
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"The Hispanics, they haven't

"The Hispanics, they haven't learned to trust you yet," Guzman said
----------------------
I have a real problem with this statement. Come to our country legally. Learn our language. Assimilate. Pay taxes. Speak English in public. Then there will be no reason not to trust us.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/26/10 - 04:11 pm
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Ministering to illegals and

Ministering to illegals and reaching out to them in the name of Jesus is a real conundrum.

Christian ministers must decide whether to help someone who is in the USA illegally or do they obey the law and not offer help?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter to the religious bureaucrats in Birmingham, Alabama, (now know as letter from a Birmingham jail), who were castigating him for activities "unwise and untimely" in regards to his peaceful protest there of racial injustice of which he was arrested and jailed. He wrote, "It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's anti-religious laws."

In the Book of Acts, Peter and John were brought before the authorities on breaking the law forbiding preaching and healing in the name of Jesus. They replied, ""Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you [the law] rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened."

Peter and John continued breaking the law by preaching in Jesus' name.

It seems to me that the illegal aliens are here among us and as human beings need the offer of spiritual help.

The fact that these Baptists are helping illegals is not a church problem of breaking the law. It is a problem of our government that refuses to enforce the law. That is the root of the problem.

Until the government chooses to enforce the law and close the borders and/or deport illegals, the church has no choice but to minister to those who are here.

Illegals are law-breakers just like those in jail and prison are law-breakers. Because people are in jail and prison, should ministers, lay-people, and chaplains at jails and prisons not minister to them?

For three years, I was involved in a prison ministry and sat next to a convicted murderer with a life sentence in our Saturday morning prison Bible study. The convict received our message of the love, forgiveness, and grace of Christ and became a changed man. In turn, he counseled those young men who came to that prison for lesser offenses and would serve time and be set free again. As a result of his counsel and testimony about his life of crime before the murder and his invitation to attend Bible study, many were changed by the grace of God to never enter the doors of a prison again after they served their sentence and were released.

The Baptists are doing what they are compelled to do by the love of Christ for all people even if it means breaking the law and aiding illegals.

If our government were compelled to enforce the law that it made, such ministry would not be necessary.

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 07/26/10 - 12:03 pm
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Sounds like it is time for an

Sounds like it is time for an ICE raid on that warehouse behind Mi Rancho.

The Baptist motto - You got money.....we've got the time.

Kelly Jasper
86
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Kelly Jasper 07/26/10 - 12:44 pm
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Maybe I can clarify, because

Maybe I can clarify, because it seems that the quote, "The Hispanics, they haven't learned to trust you yet," didn't come off as intended. Guzman meant that since he's new to the Hispanic community, the people he serves haven't come to trust the work of the church just yet.

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 07/26/10 - 12:58 pm
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Well if the Hispanic

Well if the Hispanic community studies history then they, like other rational people, will also not trust the work of the church.

AugustasNice
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AugustasNice 07/26/10 - 01:56 pm
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I agree with the tone and

I agree with the tone and practicality of Pastor Dan White's comment. However, the opening statement places churches and ministries like Cristo Vive in an ethical and legal dilemma which does not exist. Ethnic churches do not have to choose between obeying the law or obeying the Bible. However, given the rest of the comments here, it would seem everyone thinks that's the case. Spanish-speaking churches aren't passing out fake ID's, organizing Food Stamp fraud or doling out benevolence funds to pay for coyote fees. We're talking about a church service in a different language. No one's checking papers at the door. And, should that be suggested, I'm sure we could come up with equally absurd suggestions that would apply to "born and bred" Americans. (How about cross-referencing Tax Refunds with bank statements before enrolling your child in school?) Also, why the assumption that just because someone would choose to worship in Spanish they are obviously undocumented in the first place? Illegal immigration and Immigration reform are complex issues that are not helped by simplifying them to the degree represented here.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/26/10 - 01:23 pm
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baron - there are people like

baron - there are people like the Hispanics and people from every tribe, nation, and territory who see beyond the abuses done in the name of Christ and Christianity and see the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, and God the Son who forgives, loves, and extends grace and mery to all.

Unfortunately, you seem not to be able to see beyond the abuses of organized religion and see the One who was abused, spit upon, suffered, and died for our sins and the joy fellow believers have in gathering together to worship the Lord of lords, serve others in His name, and receive encouragment and edification from the teaching and sharing of God's word together in a group.

Perhaps if you visited a "real" church where love is the theme and service to others is supreme, you just might see the reason and logic in it.

I agree with your contempt of organized religion and how it spares no means to achieve its end of power, money, and prestige, but I disagree with your painting a church built on Christ's love and His service and every Christian affiliated with such a "real" church with the broad brush strokes that you paint with.

terminusmundi
6
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terminusmundi 07/26/10 - 02:48 pm
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I can't believe I'm saying

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I completely and wholeheartedly agree with everything Pastor White has written here.

iletuknow
8
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iletuknow 07/26/10 - 03:50 pm
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Desperation setting in. Come

Desperation setting in. Come clean,start paying taxes, and stop bleeding the community.

InChristLove
22468
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InChristLove 07/26/10 - 04:45 pm
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iletuknow, please tell me how

iletuknow, please tell me how the church is bleeding the community? Do you realize how much money is spent by the churches just in this area on taking care of the poor, sick, and needy?

For a 501c3 church to openly speak out, or organize in opposition to, anything that the government declares "legal," even if it is immoral (e.g. abortion, homosexuality, etc.), that church will jeopardize its tax exempt status.

To be taxable a church would first need to be under the jurisdiction, and therefore under the taxing authority, of the government. Do you really want the church to be taxable and then in turn be able to influence our government? I would venture to say the church could have a great influence on the laws and morals of this country if they got involved with the government.

On one hand you cry they need to be tax, then on the other hand you cry when the possibility of the church influencing government decisions. Which way do you want it?

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/26/10 - 05:43 pm
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InChristLove - from the IRS

InChristLove - from the IRS website - these are the political restrictions on a charity including churches that receive IRS tax exemptions:

Public charities are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office.

Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.

Voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that would favor one candidate over another, oppose a candidate in some manner, or have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute campaign intervention.

In other words, a pastor can speak out against abortion and homosexuality from the pulpit without jeopardizing the church's tax exemption. The pastor CANNOT say, for example, that a candidate is for or against abortion.

In the '08 election, a pastor could not say from the pulpit or use church mail-outs that Barak Obama favored abortion and John McCain did not favor abortion. Therefore, vote for McCain. That would have been a huge violation and endanger the church's tax exempt status.

A church can issue voter information and outline the position of each candidate but the church cannot endorse a candidate in the voter information guide.

However, as a citizen, a pastor has the right outside of his pulpit and in public to state an opinion and urge voters to vote for the candidate of his/her preference. He just can't do it in church or on church literature and mail-outs.

InChristLove
22468
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InChristLove 07/26/10 - 09:00 pm
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I agree Pastor Dan, but if

I agree Pastor Dan, but if the church is not a tax free establishment and is govern by the government, when they then be allowed to campaign, influence, lobby, for things that the church feels biblical and therefore influence the citizens who attend that church?

Pastor Dan White
1
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Pastor Dan White 07/26/10 - 10:56 pm
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InChristLove - I agree. Take

InChristLove - I agree. Take away the IRS exemption and move the church out of government control, and the church is free to influence elections through the endorsement of candidates.

My own personal opinion; however, is this would create great divsion in the church. For example, in one church I served, I had a member who was a rabid Republican and asked in a committee meeting, "How could anyone be a Christian and be a Democrat?" Needless to say, his position created a lot of problems for him because the church had many Democrats, and he eventually left that church and moved to another.

The church too often has enough internal conflict without adding politics to it.

As a pastor, if I endorse from the pulpit a Republican candidate, then I anger the Democrats and vice versa and my message of the gospel is diluted.

I am often reminded from my study of Christ and the New Testament that my highest citizenship is in the Kingdom of God.

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 07/26/10 - 11:07 pm
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Pastor Dan, anyone can be a

Pastor Dan, anyone can be a Christian, regardless of political affiliation. My Dad was a democrat all his life, and I know he was a Christian. I was a Democrat until Bill Clinton was elected, and I know I'm a Christian. Saying a Democrat couldn't be a Christian, is passing judgment, and that's just plain un-Christian!

ETA; Oops, missed the quotation marks, apologies!

dominionfs
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dominionfs 07/27/10 - 08:43 am
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Toll free: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE

Toll free: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE

InChristLove
22468
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InChristLove 07/27/10 - 09:01 am
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Pastor Dan, I agree with your

Pastor Dan, I agree with your 10:56pm post entirely. The point I was trying to make is that so many want churches to pay taxes but I'm sure they wouldn't want the influence the church "could" have on our government.

Hey Sarge...how's the leg?

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/27/10 - 09:57 am
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Right on, Sarge. And

Right on, Sarge. And InChristLove - you are exactly right. There are many who want the church taxed and to do away with the pastor's exemption on paying Social Security tax on his housing allowance or the fair rental value of a parsonage. If I remember right, a group filed suit on the Social Security benefit pastors receive but lost in court.

But if they tax churches, they will have to tax all non-profits.

My church and I support a pastor in Bungoma, Kenya, who also has an orphanage of about 100 children who are there mostly because their parents died of AIDS. He has to pay tax the government on his orphanage, and he always struggles to pay it. Never mind he is doing a valued social service taking care of these orphans. The Kenyan government cannot take care of all of the orphans in the country, and yet they tax his ministry.

The mean-spirited people in the USA who want to tax churches and church institutions don't have a clue how much they save the government in social services and therefore save tax-payers.

We are blessed in this country to have a friendly government toward churches. However, the winds of change are blowing and one day (I hope and pray not), we may end up with a government non-friendly to churches and church institutions.

I like what the first President Bush said about the 1000 points of light in our country including churches that help those who need help.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/27/10 - 10:18 am
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InChristLove - I just checked

InChristLove - I just checked my email this morning. Pastor Stanley Mukwhana sent me about 40 pics of his ministry. If you like, I can forward them to you by email. My email is danwhite5868@yahoo.com

You can view them as a slide show.

Runner46
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Runner46 07/28/10 - 07:01 am
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This church could do a great

This church could do a great service for illegal Hispanics and the local community by encouraging their parishioners who are illegal to hire attorneys and get legal. There is just not enough emphasis to get legal when the churches reach out to these people. In this country, illegal status is only a temporary condition. There is no reason for an illegal immigrant to remain illegal year after year. There is no reason for families to live in fear of deportation year after year. It's time for all illegals to come out of the shadows and obtain legal status through our court system. Stop waiting for an amnesty. Get legal now. It's the right thing to do.

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