Hispanic mission still growing in 11th year

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, February 4, 2010

When German Gomez arrived in America 25 years ago, leading a Christian ministry was not exactly what he had in mind.

Gomez, a native of Vera Cruz, Mexico, was doing forestry work in nearby Bibb County when his supervisor invited him to church. He started reading the Bible and soon felt the call to be a missionary.

“I came searching for fortune — money — but it happened that I found the Lord,” Gomez says.

Several years later, he went to Texas and received training at Southern Methodist University. Back at Centreville, Gomez was instrumental in starting a Hispanic mission there.

In January 1999, he started what would become San Juan Mission in a little house near Clanton First United Methodist Church. Gomez became licensed through the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and now serves as an associate pastor under CFUMC, leading the Hispanic mission.

In 11 years, San Juan Mission has grown from seven members (including Gomez’ wife, Leticia, and their three children) to more than 100. It has five sister missions located in Jemison, Wetumpka, Mobile, Montgomery and Cuitlahuac, Mexico.

The mission in Jemison, Casa de Oracion or “House of Praise,” has grown to approximately 50 members.

“We evangelize door to door inviting people to our services,” Gomez says. “The (Hispanic) pastors in this area are working together for the sake of our people.”

Less than a month ago, San Juan Mission moved from the Helen Parrish Activity Center to its third location in the former Jack Mims grocery store on Second Avenue North. Worship services are held twice a week there, although renovations are not yet fully complete.

A banner on the front quotes the familiar scripture, Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” The name San Juan refers to St. John the Apostle.

The worship services feature contemporary instruments and music with “more Latin flavor,” as put by Gomez. Services are held Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 7 p.m.

Visitors need not worry about a language barrier, as several Spanish-to-English translators are strategically placed throughout the congregation as needed.

“We want this to be a multicultural church,” Gomez says.

Later this year, he hopes to host English as a Second Language classes at the mission, as well as Spanish classes for anyone who is interested.

“That’s going to be for the entire community,” he said.

Gomez said CFUMC has been supportive of the mission throughout the years and that the ministry could not be possible without their support.

For more information about San Juan Mission, call 755-0490.