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 ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.