Pastor Jose A. Monge wants people to understand their faith. To do that, he realizes they first must understand, period.
That includes the basics of what is being said. Even what is being sung in a worship setting.
“Some of these people have gone to an English service,” Jose said. “But they just don’t know enough (of the language).”
He referred to some of the 160 members of his growing Latino, charismatic Christian congregation, Iglesia Nueva Vida, or New Life Church. The name for the latest Latino congregation to get its own building seems especially appropriate these days.
Because the independent body of believers just celebrated its first weekend of Spanish services, and new life, at a new location at 51 N. Brooks St. in Columbus. That’s where The Ridge church ministered before moving to a new facility in 2012 at 2800 Bonnell Road on Columbus’ eastern edge. The 57-year-old Brooks Street building — 23,000 square feet in its main section with an adjoining 10,000-square-foot youth center — can seat about 450 people for services.
The Ridge leaders were ecstatic about the transaction, according to the Rev. Jerry Day Jr., lead pastor.
“Many years ago, as we were beginning to pray and dream about relocation, the board said to each other, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if God would allow us to sell this facility to a Spanish-speaking church or ministry? This could be a great facility for them,’” Day said.
This becomes the second building for the Spanish group in a county with 6 percent of the population as Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In late 2013, Nueva Vida’s Latino leaders purchased a building at U.S. 31 and Indiana 11. But when those leaders endured personal struggles, they moved to Indianapolis while the congregation lost its building saw most members seeking other churches.
“I think we can be regularly filling this building within the next five years,” Monge said.
He co-pastors part-time with wife, Hilda. The duo served a related, Spanish-speaking congregation in Jasper in southwestern Indiana for 23 years before moving to Columbus several months ago. Before Iglesia Nueva Vida moved to Brooks Street, members were grateful to host services on Sunday afternoons at Garden City Church of Christ.
“At other buildings, we could worship only once a week,” said member Luis Jimeniz. “And now, people always can know where to come. Before (Garden City), we might have a service in one place. And the next week, it might be in another place.”
Elder Juan Trejo said he believes the new home can give stability to the congregation’s work of reaching the local Latino population. He said he was glad to see some of the congregation stick together after painfully losing their previous pastor and building.
“We have learned to follow Jesus,” Trejo said. “We do not follow just a man. Jesus will always lead us the right way.”
Monge approaches ministry seriously enough that he drove two-and-a-half hours one way last year from his former Jasper home with his wife when they first began leading services with the congregation. But he is lighthearted enough that he laughed when asked the style of his flock’s worship.
“Very loud,” he said.
Spirited might be a good word, even after the energetic worship on a recent Sunday. A guest minister paced back and forth in front of a crowd of about 200 people. As he preached with fervor in Spanish, his words were met with occasional cries of “Gracias!” and “Hallelujah!”
The need for such a service was evident even when a visitor approached some of the congregants. Two of the first four spoke no English.
Though the first services at the new home featured no translator, the Monges’ 16-year-old daughter, Sandy, will interpret her parents’ messages — sermons that will alternate from Jose to Hilda Monge week to week — in the future. The Monges envision a congregation of English- and Spanish-speaking people.
“Jesus wants us to welcome everyone,” Hilda Monge said.
They already have busied themselves with practical outreach. Hilda stayed with a woman just released from the hospital for three days to help her return to health. And Jose recently found housing for an older woman.
Plus, as they have distributed their ministry cards recently, they have, upon request, prayed for people in places ranging from department stores to hospitals. One seriously ill patient grew well enough to go back to work a couple of weeks after they prayed for him.
“God — he does the work,” Jose Monge said. “We are only his instruments.”