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Expanding Beyond the Base

Hispanic church is reaching non-Latino immigrants.
As pastor of Comunidad Christiana Maranata in Overland, Missouri, Edwin A. Marroquin has made outreach to the St. Louis community a pivotal part of his life and his church.

Born in El Salvador, Marroquin grew up in a Pentecostal family and attended a church pastored by John Bueno, who later became executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions based in Springfield, Missouri. Marroquin moved to the U.S. in 1983 and learned English while working as a hospital janitor in Washington, D.C. A conversation with his pastor led him to enroll in Central Bible College in Springfield in 1989.

While at CBC, Marroquin met and married his wife, Shatonya, who goes by Toni. After graduating in 1994, the couple moved to St. Louis and Edwin began planting churches. He has been pastoring his fourth effort, Comunidad Christian Maranata, since 2008. The church now has 230 regular attendees, most of whom are Hispanic.

From the outset of his work with Maranata, Marroquin has prioritized reaching out to the Hispanic community around the Gateway to the West. Marroquin is actively trying to break the language barrier by hosting a bilingual service, primarily for English-speaking Hispanics.

One of the first families to attend Marroquin’s church led the way in organizing outreach to Hispanics in a rougher neighborhood in North St. Louis.

“They were showing a movie outside an apartment complex when a shooting started and everyone had to run for their lives,” Marroquin says.

The outreach team returned to the same neighborhood last summer, but this time they found many Syrian immigrants had replaced the Hispanic population. Marroquin saw a unique opportunity.

“We understand the struggle of being immigrants here, the language, the culture,” Marroquin says. The church started doing outreach events, such as a soccer game, for Syrians, even though initially they had to gain trust of the residents, most of whom had been refugees.

Nathan Heath

Nathan Heath is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, with degrees in international relations and music. He also studied at Davidson College and the University of Oxford, and interned with TWR International, the U.S. House of Representatives, Opportunity International, and the Hudson Institute before working for a Virginia law firm.  Heath serves as the co-editor-in-chief of Integras: A Journal of Faith, Politics, and Society. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.