(CNS) -- Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, many of them carrying seeds of revival from their countries of origin that could turn America's Anglo evangelical church upside down.
As Jesse Miranda, a professor at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., and director of the school's Center for Urban Studies and Hispanic Leadership, tells "Charisma" magazine for a March report on the movement, out next week: "I see a revival [in America] coming from south of the border."
At around some 40 million, Hispanics in the United States now almost outnumber blacks, according to government figures released last month. Other studies claim that an estimated 9 million of them are evangelical. And of that number, close to 70 percent are Pentecostal.
No longer hidden in storefront missions on the "wrong" side of town, Hispanic churches are blossoming into mega-ministries that are bursting at the seams.
"We need larger facilities. We don't fit," says Daniel de León, pastor of 6,000-member Templo Calvario Assembly of God in Santa Ana, Calif. -- the largest Hispanic church in America. Twenty-six years ago there were 60 people in his church.
Iglesia de Restauración Elim, an independent Pentecostal church in Los Angeles, began with three members in 1986 and now has 4,200 members. "They mostly came from the Catholic Church," says René Molina, pastor. "They are tired of tradition. They want to have a real relationship with Jesus. They want to have His love in every part of their lives."
Although most Hispanics live in urban centers, hordes are pouring into even the unlikeliest of rural towns. Mabel Nieto, a single Mexican American, planted Fuente de Vida -- affiliated with the Assemblies of God -- in Perry, Iowa, a small farming community near Des Moines. She is targeting 2,000 Hispanics from Mexico and Central America who work in a local pork-processing plant.
The immigrants arrive in the area with their families or alone. Transient workers stay for six months and leave by winter. Nieto reports many conversions among this group. "There has been an awakening among these people," she says. "They are witnessing on the job, and young people feel a need to preach."
Elsewhere, across the country, relatively young leaders who carry influence with the Hispanic church nationally are being raised up by God.
Marcos Witt, 40, a popular worship leader and teacher throughout Latin America recently joined the 30,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston as pastor of the Hispanic congregation. More than 3,000 people attend Witt's Spanish service, which results in as many as 55 conversions every week. He intends for his congregation to become the largest Hispanic church in North America.
"I want to encourage Hispanics in the U.S. to live a life of victory," he says, explaining that he desires to break the victim mentality many Hispanics carry over from having lived in conquered nations. "I speak consistently against that as God ... shows them unconditional love," he says. "I'm looking forward to breaking that mentality."
Since Frank Almonte, 44, took over as senior pastor of Adonai Christian Center, in Queens, New York, in 1988 membership has zoomed from 60 to 1,900. "God is opening the eyes of the Hispanic people," Almonte says. "Something is going on. I can't explain it. Most are coming from the Catholic Church. They want to listen to God's voice. They want to hear Jesus."
© 2003 charismanews.com
© 2003 Maranatha Christian News Service
Post date - February 9, 2003 at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/03a/20030209b.shtml