Spanish Church Erases Language Barrier

Nov 11, 2002 03:00 AM EST

"La oracion pone su problema delante de Dios!" said Danny Olivarez to the congregation of 100 gathered at Templo Betel Asamblea de Dios in Fort Collins, Colorado. Amens and hallelujahs fill the sanctuary, approving his words. Moments later, Olivarez, senior pastor at the church for nearly eight years, repeats his message in English. "Prayer grabs your problem and forces it to stand before God!"

For most churches, bilingual preaching is a foreign idea. But to members of Templo Betel, one of 1,918 Spanish-speaking Assemblies of God churches in the United States, bilingual services are not only the norm--they're mutually beneficial.

"Parents and grandparents of our church comprehend better in Spanish," said Olivarez, a bilingual A/G pastor for 21 years. "But their children and grandchildren comprehend better in English because they are educated in our English schools."

Ebed and Patty Molina, originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, have attended Templo Betel for nearly two years. "Pastor's ability to speak bilingually helps us learn English," said Ebed, 34.

Glenda Palomino, whose first language is English, agreed. "Templo Betel benefits my family because my husband's first language is Spanish," she said, noting he is from Peru. "It also helps my son learn Spanish."

Templo Betel's presence as Fort Collins' only bilingual church has allowed Olivarez to represent Latinos--the city's largest ethnic population--in local meetings and committees. "We have a Pentecostal Spanish voice in our community," said Olivarez, noting the church offers a course in English as a second language on Monday nights. "Because of our stability, that voice has become pronounced."

By Pauline J.
[email protected]