Efraim espinoza, Spanish-language editor of Pentecostal Evangel magazine, received a call from a pastor who had planted a church in what was once a predominantly non-Hispanic area: North Liberty, Iowa. "He called for help because of the influx of Hispanics," Espinoza says, noting that many Latin Americans who start out as migrant workers put down roots. In the past decade, Iowa's Hispanic population grew from 33,000 to 82,000.

The 2000 census revelation that the Hispanic population had spurted to 35.3 million stunned even those Christian groups already reaching out to Hispanics. These churches, seminaries, and other organizations—and those in traditionally non-Hispanic areas like Georgia, where the Latino presence quadrupled—are fast learning how to catch up.

Census Bureau projections in 1997 had estimated Hispanics would surpass African Americans as the nation's most populous minority group in 2005. But the 2000 census showed the transition had already occurred: Quibbles over how some mixed races identified themselves aside, the census showed that 35.3 million Hispanics make up 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, while 34.7 million African Americans constitute 12 percent.

This news heightened the sense of urgency for Christian groups engaged in Hispanic evangelism and discipleship. Denominations like Evangelical Covenant Church and the United Methodist Church have included Hispanic ministry in their strategic planning, and Christian organizations in the suburbs of major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York have begun considering whether entire churches are called to Hispanic outreach.

At the same time, Hispanic-led church and parachurch groups are ratcheting up their own outreach efforts, as well as expanding their ...

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Catching Up with Hispanics
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November 12, 2001

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