As nearly a hundred people gathered in a circle of prayer, the growing ministry of the Fe y Esperanza moved into a new chapter. In a “sending service,” held at Broadway UMC, Council Bluffs, the nearly old faith community celebrated its ministry there and began to look towards reaching out to new areas of that city.
The service, filled with smiles, sounds of laughter, and more than a few tears, was the culmination of a ministry that began “with five people present to pray and listen to my sermon, said Rev. Ruben Mendoza. Over the years it has grown to more than 75 people in worship and “a real part of who we are,” said Rev. Chris St. Clair, Broadway’s Associate Pastor, “and we’re excited for them.”
Rev. Terra Amundson, Superintendent for the Southwest District of the Iowa Conference described Fe y Esperanza as “a vital, vital congregation. They are so involved in mission and ministry with folks across the Council Bluffs, Omaha, and wider area.” Noting that some people come from Lincoln, Nebraska every Sunday, a 90 minute journey, Amundson observed, “Their vitality is expected to continue and to grow as a strong, strong congregation.
“One of the things that was very clear to me, within days of my arriving,” said Rev. Lanette Plambeck, Broadway’s lead pastor, “was that the Hispanic worshipping community was more than a ministry within a church…it was a congregation on the verge of birth.” St. Clair added, “It’s about the Gospel. It’s about growing into an area here in Council Bluffs that’s 65% to 75% Hispanic. “Fe y Esperanza will be in an area where people haven’t yet been reached,” Plambeck added, describing the “twelve by fifteen block area of primarily Spanish speaking families.” Amundson confirmed the importance of focusing on the new area – “We reach out because these are our neighbors who are coming to us in the State of Iowa. This is a way to continue in the mission of transforming the world.”
Fe y Esperanza - "faith and hope"
“The name ‘Fe y Esperanza’ expresses how the community feels,” said Mendoza. “Every time people gather they come with faith and they put that faith with hope. The hope of God is present in church.” St. Clair has noted that outlook – “They’ve been so gracious and so wonderful!”
With the migration of Fe y Esperanza from Broadway UMC to Epworth UMC, a church that has offered the fledgling congregation an entire floor of dedicated space, “They’ll have space to do the kinds of ministry that they’ve been dreaming about…to do Bible studies, to do community outreach, to provide services for folks who are in need,” said Amundson. At the same time, “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet for what it means that our Hispanic community is becoming their own church,” St, Clair confessed. “It will, over the next weeks and months be kind of a shock because they have been so much a part of everything that we do here.” Plambeck agreed. “We support one another,” she said. “We share a common ministry. We collaborate. We pray together. We dream together.”
The dream is being realized. “It’s a very important day, not only for the Hispanic community, but also for the whole church,” Mendoza said. It’s a day when a new church is born…the first day of Fe y Esperanza…and it was very good! Broadway did so much for tis to be able to happen.”
Expressions of thanks
Representatives of Fe y Esperanza expressed their appreciation to the Broadway UMC congregation. “We are thankful for you…We will never forget you,” said Ammy Mendoza, on behalf of the children of the church. “You guys are our family…thank you for everything!” One of the youth echoed that appreciation. “Thank you for the many opportunities. We’ll be taking the best of the many lessons we learned from you and we’ll continue to teach the beauty of God’s love and acceptance.”
Speaking on behalf of the adults, Erica Estudillo said, “We want to express our gratitude for opening your doors for our ministry and for being a part of the church all these years. This has been a great place for teaching our children about the love that we share for our God.”
And finally a letter from Fe y Esperanza to Broadway UMC was read. “We thank the people of Broadway United Methodist Church for giving us a place where we could worship, pray, and do the work of God. You opened the minds, hearts, and doors of the church to welcome the Hispanic community and youth. In Jesus Christ we are one community, brothers and sisters together in the love of God. And now, it is time that the Hispanic ministry becomes Fe y Esperanza – ‘faith and hope’ – United Methodist Church.”
Pastor Ruben summed up the enduring message of day that Pastor Chris called “joyful and bittersweet.” “The relationship of Fe y Esperanza and Broadway is always going to be great,” Mendoza declared. Pastor Lanette said, “We can do more and be more together.” And ultimately, as the letter to the Broadway congregation concluded, “We (the people of the Fe y Esperanza United Methodist Church) will change our place, our space physically, but in our hearts we will always be one!”