Faces of Faith – Belniz

How do you reach out cross-culturally when there is a language barrier? By seeing the barrier itself as an opportunity.

Jonatan Hernandez’ niece, Belniz, came to stay with family in an apartment complex in Appleton, Wis. The whole family is made up of immigrants from Guatemala. Belniz was set to start school in the middle of the year with hardly any knowledge of the English language. A neighbor, who happens to be a member of Eternal Love Lutheran Church in Appleton, wanted to help. She saw the language barrier as her opportunity. She drove Belniz to Bethel Lutheran Church in Menasha to talk to the Spanish-speaking pastors she was aware of but had never met. Two months later, when Jonatan and his family had just arrived from Guatemala themselves, she drove the whole group to Bethel’s Spanish service at noon on Sunday.

Jonatan and his family have no experience with Lutherans. Few of them speak any English at all. All of them are facing the daunting task of beginning a new life in a land that is utterly foreign to them. But because one lady was determined to be helpful and to leverage the language barrier as a meaningful ministry connection, Jonatan and his family have been welcomed to their new home by being brought before the Means of Grace in their heart language. Whatever comes of it, this is how outreach is supposed to work. Barriers are opportunities to show Christian love, which is universal.

From Ethan Cherney, home missionary at Bethel Lutheran Church in Menasha, Wis.

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