How does it feel to be a white person attending a Caminemos Juntos conference? I got to experience it in August when I attended the annual North America conference of Caminemos Juntos in Chicago. I was encouraged to attend by Justin Clifton, who has partnered with Caminemos Juntos many times to write bilingual worship songs in Spanish and English. I’m really glad I went!
There can be a lot of barriers to jumping the cultural divide between Latino and Anglo churches here in the United States. One, of course, is language. I expected to feel a little left out and a bit isolated, being monolingual. And while there were times when I didn’t follow every joke or maybe I was a step behind in following directions, I’m here to say it was totally worth it.
Why? Because I was among brothers and sisters who are stepping out in faith to plant churches, disciple people, and worship the Living God. You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to understand “buenos días,” “gracias,” or a big hug. If you’ve been around the Church, you won’t be lost when the gathering breaks into singing to “Ven Espíritu.” Apart from these moments that are made clear by context, there were lengthy teachings in Spanish (and some in English, too). At these times I felt very loved by the conference providing wireless headphones over which a translator was translating the teaching. I was able to follow the teaching just fine, and this brings me to the second reason it was totally worth it.
Seeing the Gospel in another cultural context is POWERFUL. This wasn’t my first time hearing that life-changing message from God that is called the Gospel. In fact, I’ve heard it much of my life, even devoting my life to sharing it with others when I was 14. But as I sat listening to Mimi share her story of growing up as a second-generation Latino American, the terror that can accompany that social situation, and how God spoke to her and guided her in those moments, I was brought to tears. Our God truly is one who cares for the unwelcome. When we isolate ourselves from those who are unwelcome, the foreigners, the cast-down, we isolate ourselves from an integral part of who God is.
I also had the opportunity to play in the worship band, led by Jony Gonzalez. Great news for all the Anglo worship musicians out there. Worship songs written in Spanish use the same chord symbols and general layouts as ones written in English! I was immediately able to engage with the times of musical worship by lifting up the music I was creating in praise of Jesus. Between sets, I’d lean over to the other musicians and ask things like “So.. what does Te Alabaré mean?” “How about volvemos nuestro corazón?” And since lyrics are sung slower than spoken word, I was able to start learning pronunciations and singing along.
So if you are white and have the opportunity to engage with Caminemos Juntos or the Latino church at large, do it! Come humbly, ready to meet incredible friends, and to learn new things about God and humankind!
Speaking of the Church, Paul says in Galatians 3, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Let’s take another step toward being one as the Body of Christ Jesus.
Ryan Maike is a servant of Christ Jesus and serves as the Great Lakes Lakes Regional Director for United Adoration/Adoremos Juntos.