By Karla Moran
In starting a church we face many challenges, but we know that we are not alone in this struggle. Jesus promised us that he would not leave us orphans (John 14:15-26). With this promise in mind, we continue with the mission work, obeying Jesus' command in Matthew 28:19, to go and make disciples of all nations. But Jesus also gave us another, perhaps even more difficult charge: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). When Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 28:19, his intention was for us to love one another so that the world would know that we are his followers. We believe this is the core of Jesus' ministry and this is what we are trying to do among the Hispanic community in Indianapolis.
Because the Hispanic community is an immigrant community, there are many opportunities for us to offer a helping hand and at the same time share the good news with them. Our desire for the Hispanic community is to live the Kingdom here and now, not only to have hope for the future. We want them to know and feel in their hearts that even though they have many worries and face many challenges they can still live in the peaceable kingdom because Jesus reigns in our hearts (Luke 17:21).
We don’t have specific programs in the church but we respond to the immediate problems that Latinos in the community might have. For example we go to the hospitals if anyone has an appointment and needs interpreting. We also assist young single mothers and their children; many of these single mothers recently came out of abusive relationships. We have provided our own home to the homeless mothers. There are also many teenagers who are confused and do not know what to do with their lives. Their homes are destroyed and many of them are maintained by single mothers who escaped abusive relationships. Many of them would like to go on to college but are not legal residents in this country and don’t see any solution other then drugs and alcohol. I asked a sixteen year old why she wanted to drop out of high school and she responded “what is the point of me doing good in high school if at the end of it I will have nowhere to go? I might as well start working now”. We see a lot of pain in the people that we minister to; and we feel it ourselves, because we try to get as involved with the community as possible.
Most of the Hispanic community is made up of Mexicans who come from a Catholic background, but many of them are turning to the cult of worshiping “la Santa Muerte” (holy death). It is very noticeable; just by walking into Mexican store you can see prayer candles dedicated to la Santa Muerte. This cult is rapidly growing among the Mexican community, not only in Indianapolis but in Mexico and cities with big Hispanic population such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and many others. It is a big concern because the cult appears to be closely associated with crime, criminals, and those whose lives are directly affected by crime. Criminals seem to identify with Santa Muerte and call upon the saint for protection and power, even when committing crimes. They will adorn themselves with her paraphernalia and render her respect that they do not give to other spiritual entities. This is very surprising for me personally because before living in Indianapolis I did not know of this type of worship.
We are located on the West side of Indianapolis, where eighty percent of the community is Hispanic. We have meeting for worship in the building of Second Friends Meeting, which is part of Western Yearly Meeting, and we have a great relationship with them. Second Friends Meeting has struggled for years to reach out to the Hispanic community in their area with no success. One of the Second Friends members testified to having a dream about them worshiping in silence when he heard a spontaneous worship song in another language; this dream happened the week before we visited their Meeting. Other than Second Friends Meeting we are also being supported by Indiana Yearly Meeting and Western Yearly Meeting. These yearly meetings have harmoniously united to in the effort to begin an Hispanic ministry.
Our vision is to see a true Quaker church that resembles Jesus' teachings. We know that Jesus came to give freedom (Luke 4:18) and life (John 10:10). We want to be light among darkness and to let the Hispanic community on the West side of Indianapolis know that the Quakers are truly children of the light. Only Jesus can provide hope to this community that does not see any solution to the problems that face them. Historically, Quakers have always been an example of helping the people in most need, and we want to continue George Fox’s advice:
“Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”
Karla Moran is a member of Second Friends Meeting in Indianapolis. Born in Guatemala, she grew up as an Evangelical Friend in the United States. She brings her experience in serving God in cross-cultural and bilingual settings to her work among Friends, in the United States and beyond. She was a member of the planning committee for the 2010 Young Adult Friends Gathering in Wichita, Kansas. She presently serves as a full-time church organizer and pastoral caregiver in Indianapolis.