Hispanic Covenant History, Immigration Highlighted at Midsouth Gathering

LA VILLA, TX (APRIL 24, 2017) – History and immigration issues were among the focal points of the Midsouth Conference Family Reunion held Friday and Saturday at three ECC churches near the border of Mexico.

One stop on Friday night was La Villa Covenant Church, the denomination’s first Hispanic congregation, which was formed 70 years ago and became “the headwaters” for all Covenant ministry throughout Latin America.

La Villa was planted by Levi and Ida Hagberg in 1947. They were commissioned by the denomination’s 1946 Annual Meeting to be the first Covenanters to do work in Latin America and ministered on both sides of the border.

Gricel Medina translates for Casimiro Rodriguez

One beneficiary of that ministry has been Marisol Martinez, president of the Mexico Covenant Church, who shared with the gathering that her parents had come to faith while attending a Covenant church in the United States. She said ministries of compassion and justice continue to expand, including an emphasis on stopping abuse. The Mexican church also will start ordaining pastors in the next two years.

Casimiro Rodriguez, La Villa’s first convert, was honored during a stop at Iglesia del Pacta La Trinidad in McCallen, where he has served as pastor and helped lead construction of the building. A carpenter by trade, he did much of the handiwork himself.

The ongoing reach of La Villa’s ministry was further seen on Saturday during the Annual Meeting portion of the event, which was held at People’s Covenant Church in San Juan. It was announced that Henry Burbano, who had served 10 years as president of the Ecuador Covenant Church until he stepped down earlier this year, would plant a Spanish-speaking congregation in Houston. Hope Covenant Church, which also is in Houston, is providing support for the plant.

Attendees also learned more about immigration issues from people directly involved in them. Audrey Jones, a member of People’s Covenant and a physician who treated thousands of children who entered the United States during the immigration crisis of 2014, shared that infestation of lice and scabies were common. She treated children as young as five years of age.

Marisol Martinez, president of the Mexico Covenant Church

Bobby Gentry, also a member of People’s Covenant and a border patrol officer, said he had seen children as young as three years old who had been sent unaccompanied from as far away as Central America. He highlighted that detention of people crossing the border illegally had dropped from 800 a day to 100 a day due to much lower numbers of people making the attempt following President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He emphasized that the role of the border patrol is to keep all people safe.

Neither presenter addressed the political issues surrounding the topic, which people of different ethnic groups agreed was complicated.

During the business session of the meeting, Garth Bolinder was nominated to his fourth term as superintendent. He told the gathering it would be his last.

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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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  1. Thank you for this coverage, Stan! My wife and I are long time Covenanters at Eastridge Covenant in Happy Valley, Oregon, and also run the non-profit ministry NorthWest Outreaches in the greater Tijuana, Mexico, that hosts groups doing work in the area. It is great to see the Covenant active in so many places and especially with the people of Mexico – on both sides of the border). Happy to connect with work going on the area, in my Father’s house are many rooms and showers and a kitchen…

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