Frank Quintana never imagined planting a Latino church in Anchorage. But in 1993, Quintana —then a Southern Baptist who started new congregations among Mexican-Americans living in El Paso, Texas—received a call from leaders of the Alaska Baptist Convention.
"They wanted to build churches among the 15,000 Hispanics in Anchorage," Quintana recalls. "They had started one Bible-study group, and now they needed someone who could organize that group into a church." Quintana answered the call even though he had doubts about relocating to the frigid north.
Within a year, Primera Nueva Vida (First New Life) church had formed. Properly acclimated, Quintana promptly planted another congregation in Anchorage and then a third in Fair banks.
Primera Nueva Vida followed the textbook for launching a new congregation: identify a need in a particular location, call in an expert with the support of a denominational missions agency, use the language of the people being served, and start with Sunday services.
But the story of Primera Nueva Vida illustrates what few church leaders realized: Hispanic enclaves have sprung up in unlikely places, far from California, Texas, or New Mexico, the Hispanic demographic centers in the United States.
NEW FAMILIES IN TOWN: Midsized cities and even some small towns are experiencing an unpredicted surge in Hispanic migration, usually because of job patterns: Lexington, Kentucky; Sioux Center, Iowa; Bentonville, Arkansas; Beaufort, South Carolina; Hernando, Mississippi; Car roll ton, Georgia; Billings, Montana.
In Sioux Center (pop. 5,000), Christians from different churches formed a Hispanic outreach effort in 1995. Kim Rylaarsdam, a church planter with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), had noticed ...1