I have felt welcomed here

Naun Cerrato and Charles Geiser, former pastor of Sunnyside Mennonite Church (Ind.), converse outside the church building that also houses La Posada Immigrant Aid, founded by Cerrato. — David Fast

Hispanic Heritage Month began in the United States in 1968 as a week-long observance and was extended to a full month in 1988.

There are several terms that have been adopted to refer to immigrant communities in the United States, particularly the Spanish-speaking communities from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and other places. Two of the more popular terms are “Latino” or “Hispanic.” I will use “Hispanic” to refer to this diverse community.

Hispanic people form a hard-working, joyful, friendly community, as we exchange our arts, beliefs, festivities, food and faith. Throughout September, Hispanic people also celebrate the independence of many Latin American countries. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on Sept. 15; Mexico celebrates on Sept. 16; and Chile celebrates on Sept. 18. We also recognize Hispanic relationships such as Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day. Celebrating this heritage helps keep these cultures alive and pass traditions on to future generations.

As a Hispanic Mennonite pastor, working for Mennonite Mission Network gives me the opportunity to practice my Mennonite faith freely, which is a gift that I cannot take for granted. The freedom that I have as a Mennonite pastor has given me the motivation to start missions that can help the Hispanic community. With a missional focus on being able to listen and see what God is already doing in our local community, I can see how Hispanic churches relate with Mission Network’s mission and vision, which is to equip the church to walk with the local community. For example, Mission Network has been helping the Hispanic community by supporting local projects. One of these projects is Piedra Viva (Living Stone) Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana. This church focuses on peace, reconciliation and community-building.

Another project is the podcast “Un Momento De Anabautismo,” which was created out of the desire to make a communication channel in which Hispanic people could have a space to share their thoughts.

In many Hispanic cultures, gathering around the table and eating together is a big deal. One of Mission Network’s practices that make me feel at home is the monthly carry-in meal, in which we all bring something to share, as we eat together.

Something that Mission Network did this year inspired me greatly. I was sent to Chicago, Illinois, in May to support an event for the Hispanic Mennonite church, which took place at the Sonido de Alabanza (Sound of Praise) church in Cicero, Illinois. Mission Network not only sent me as a representative, but also financially supported the event, by holding a dinner for all the Hispanic pastors and representatives to celebrate this meeting.

Finally, one of the things I have valued at Mission Network is the way we cultivate peace through looking for ways to counteract violence in Latin American countries. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

This article was originally published by Mennonite Mission Network. Republished with permission.

Naun Cerrato

Naun Cerrato is Constituent Engagement Representative at Mennonite Mission Network.

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!