Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reaching Out to Hispanics--What is the song "La Bamba" about?

The following is an article by Chuck Monan, who is the preaching minister at the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock, Arkansas. ( Chuck is a friend of mine and was a fellow minister with me (or I with him) at the Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, OK. Chuck is great writer, and his thoughts about reaching out to Hispanics are insightful.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel — because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.~ Genesis 11:1-9

Few people on Earth have accepted the status quo of confused language with more of a sense of resignation than Americans. As the joke goes, “What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? American.”
Our linguistic liabilities have left us lacking in learning about other cultures. The implications for evangelism of remaining ignorant of those around us should be obvious.
Today in the United States, there are 37 million Latinos. At 13 percent of the U.S. population, they have become America’s largest minority. Of these 37 million Latinos, two-thirds have Mexico as their country of ancestry. And as this rising tide of Mexican immigration continues to impact America, most of us know very little about our Spanish-speaking hermanos and hermanas.

Enter Gustavo Arellano. Born in Anaheim, California to a tomato canner and an illegal immigrant, he is a staff writer for the OC Weekly. When his editor encouraged him to write a column as a one-time joke called “¡Ask a Mexican!” he couldn’t have imagined the interest it would generate. The massive response led to the column being a staple in the Weekly. Today it is carried by more than twenty papers, and has a weekly circulation of more than one million.
The questions Arellano fields are pretty wide-ranging, such as:

  • Why do Mexicans have sixteen names?

  • Why do Mexicans play soccer and not a real sport like football?

  • Why are so many Mexicans Catholic?

  • Why do so many Mexicans display the Virgin of Guadalupe everywhere?

  • What is it about the word illegal that Mexicans don’t understand?

  • Why do Mexicans like Morrissey so much?

  • What is the song La Bamba about?

Arellano answers these and countless other questions with insight, irreverence, intermittent indecorum and insouciance. Along the way, he confronts the bogeymen of racism, xenophobia and ignorance prompted by this significant demographic shift. Add all of it up and the reader ends up with a significantly improved understanding of Mexican-Americans.

Is this important? Well, ask yourself this question: How are we going to share the gospel with people who might as well be Martians to us, so little do we know about them? PV supports three missionaries to the Spanish-speaking world in Tom Hook, Jorge Pineda and Andrew Sherrill. We are thankful for their ministries.

But what about the rest of us? Do we have any responsibilities in reaching out to a community of people coming to us, who already number 37 million? The apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) This is a mission opportunity right at our front door.

To the work, my fellow gabachos.


High Pointe recently launched a Hispanic church plant, Iglesia de Cristo, in Plano. This is the first of several Hispanic church plants through Genesis Alliance, a joint venture with High Pointe and the Highland Oaks Church of Christ to plant Hispanic churches in the US. Several other partnering churches are now joining this work. With 37 million people, the possibilities are endless. if you know of any churches that you think might be interested, please let us know.

Do you know the answers to any of the questions Chuck cites in his article? If so, please tell us!