The Rev. Jaime Vazquez first came to the United States from Mexico in 2011 as a missionary through the General Board of Global Ministries to serve as coordinator of Hispanic ministries for the Desert Southwest Conference. While parts of the American culture and system are still new to him, what is not new is his strategic practice of seeking God's counsel in everything.
Although the culture in the two neighboring countries is different, Vazquez says the main problem is the same: “There is a lack of God in people’s lives.” For this reason, God continues to call man and women to ministry in the United States, in Mexico, and beyond.
With 38 years of pastoral experience, - including several in which he served as a district superintendent and then as an appointed bishop in the Methodist Church of Mexico, Vazquez began a new venture in August – planting a Hispanic ministry in Yuma, Arizona. Earlier he started a congregation in Phoenix that is now strong and established.
The conference had identified Yuma as an area with a large Hispanic population that lacked in Hispanic/Latino, United Methodist congregations. Appointed to Hispanic ministry at Trinity United Methodist Church, Vazquez saw the need of the people and discovered that ministry in the United States can be very different from ministry lived in Mexico.
His experience was common to that of other international church leaders who seek to implement the same methodologies in the United States that worked in their home countries. Regardless of their theological understanding, they find those methods do not always work in the United States.
Vazquez names language, lack of time, and lack of trust as barriers.
Although the people he works with are Hispanic, not everyone likes to speak Spanish. In many cases, second generation young people do not know how to speak the language. Many Hispanic/Latino people work two jobs and do not have time to attend or commit to the life of the church.
In his first appointment as local pastor in Phoenix, Vazquez noticed that people did not answer his phone calls or offer their homes as places to meet. Rather, it seemed more convenient for them to meet in public places. He noticed that many neighbors did not know each other. He attributes these behaviors to people’s lack of trust and says it makes it hard to develop friendships and to grow a congregation.
As he continues ministry in Yuma through the new church start at Trinity, Vazquez proposes to practice prayer, to support himself with the hand of God in his ministry, to know the people of his community and to be known and above all to serve without expecting anything in return.
He is confident that patience is the key and encourages church planters to pray, have patience, perseverance and passion. Vazquez says, "I don't have youthful trepidation, but I do have patience... It takes patience and tranquility to wait and continue working with vision." He also stresses that "before we do, we must first be children and servants of God”. Deeds of serving must come before preaching service to others.
Rev. Boyett is the senior pastor at Trinity UMC.
*Aileen Jimenez is manager of Hispanic/Latino leader communications at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. You can contact her at (615)742-5479 or at [email protected].