In 2015, Kentucky Ministry Network Superintendent Joseph S. Girdler
felt a nudge from the Lord to develop a specific ministry to the growing number of Spanish-speaking constituents in the Bluegrass State.
Girdler talked with Zollie Smith
, then-executive director of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions, about recruiting a bilingual and multiethnic missionary to pilot the initiative in Kentucky.
Smith discussed the matter with then-North Texas District Superintendent Rick DuBose
, who connected Girdler with Fabian and Rebekah Sanchez
, at the time serving as U.S. missionary associates. In February 2018, Fabian and Rebekah, who are now U.S. Missions Intercultural Ministries
candidate missionaries, moved to Kentucky to direct the network’s Hispanic Initiative
“God orchestrated all the connections and laid it on my heart as well as Rebekah and Fabian’s hearts to reach our Hispanic communities,” Girdler says.
The goal of the Kentucky Hispanic Initiative is to inspire and equip congregations to start and develop healthy, Spirit-led Latino ministries. A strong area of concentration will be in rural communities. After the Sanchezes analyze needs, they want to equip ministers and laypeople to develop ministry to Hispanics. They plan to equip leaders by developing video and online training, as well as training manuals that demonstrate how to maximize relationships and resources between Hispanic ministers and Anglo churches.
Rebekah, 30, grew up in rural Kentucky and interned with Bill McDonald, AG world missionary in Ecuador. McDonald connected her with Girdler.
“The biggest challenge is building unity between the two — Anglo churches and Hispanic communities,” Rebekah says. “Showing the love of Christ in a tense political climate builds unity and is a rewarding adventure.”
“There are a lot of pastors who want to reach Hispanics and their entire community,” says Fabian, 39. “If we partner with them to provide the avenue for the Holy Spirit to work, then He will do the rest.”
Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority group in the U.S. and there are over 40 million Spanish speakers in the nation. Around 4 percent of Kentucky’s 4.4 million residents currently are Hispanic.
The Sanchezes want to break down cultural barriers so that recent Hispanic immigrants understand their need for Jesus. The couple want to ensure that established churches have the resources and practical applications to start or maintain an active and healthy Hispanic ministry. They hope to recruit bilingual and multiethnic ministers to work in rural churches.
By 2045, the U.S. Census Bureau
projects that 25 percent of the nation’s population will be Hispanic.