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Better Together

North Carolina district revitalized by influx of Hispanics.

Several church buildings in the North Carolina Assemblies of God district are being rescued from the brink of elimination and becoming homes for healthy congregations, in large part due to the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the state. As the diversity of first-generation, foreign-born residents grows in North Carolina, so do the churches.

Unlike many AG geographical districts and networks, Hispanic congregations in the Tar Heel State aren’t necessarily separated under a Hispanic district umbrella. North Carolina Assembly of God Superintendent Rick Ross believes Hispanic churches that are a part of the district make for a stronger faith community, with a greater ability to impact the state for Christ.

Of the 282 churches in the district, 50 are Hispanic. This number is increasing as North Carolina continues to see growth in the Hispanic population — the fourth largest percentage of first-generation Latinos in the nation. Hispanics have been a revitalizing force for the AG in North Carolina. In the past four years, 10 dying or closed churches in have reopened as Hispanic-led congregations.

Trinity Assembly in Mocksville closed in 2012, but the district later allowed Pastor Jesus M. Perez to use the facility in the hopes of re-establishing a healthy AG presence in the community. Perez began by preaching to his wife and three grandchildren. The rural community church now has an average of 160 attendees on Sundays.

“Our call is to make disciples of all nations,” Perez says. The church, now dubbed House of Restoration and Casa de Restauración, is a diverse body, with Latinos comprising 60 percent of attendees. Services are bilingual. Perez attributes much of the church growth to the tangible ways people see God moving — from healings from cancer to women who previously couldn’t conceive becoming pregnant.

Casa de Adoración in Dudley had dwindled to 60 attendees in a building that can seat 500 when Pastor Jose Maldonado became lead pastor in 2014. The church now hosts two services and averages over 160 in weekly attendance. In a discipleship program, new followers of Christ are matched to individuals who have similar life experiences.

“I’m excited to see some of our second-generation Hispanics taking the mantle and going out to serve, and not just in Hispanic churches,” Maldonado says. “We are putting tools into the American Fellowship. It is a sharing process. Together we are stronger.”

Casa de Adoración and House of Restoration-Casa de Restauración have been joined in the revitalization efforts by other churches in the district, including Principe de Paz in Granite Falls, Iglesia Luz a las Naciones in Kannapolis, Iglesia Cristiana Jireh in Kinston, Iglesia Nueva Vida in Reidsville, and Iglesia Nueva Jerusalen in Wilson.

North Carolina district leaders are empowering ministers to reach their potential, equipping churches to impact their communities, and engaging generations to inspire each other.

“We have a shared vision,” Ross says. “We rejoice when people are saved and churches become healthy and grow. We are better together.”

Perez is grateful for the wholehearted support from district officials.

“There are no culture or race barriers,” Perez says. “They are always willing to hear and support me. They pray with me, and we share ideas.”

IMAGE: Rick and Susan Ross (center) are glad to serve with Hispanics in the district, including (from left) newly elected Hispanic Fellowship president Jose Maldonado, Francisco Soltren, Lucrecia Soltren, and Niva Maldonado.

Rebecca Burtram

Rebecca Burtram is an Assemblies of God pastor in Charlottesville, Virginia, a pastor's wife, mother to three, and an English teacher. She is the author of Our Broken Hallelujahs, and she blogs at rebeccaburtram.com.