Wednesday night dinners at St. Andrews United Methodist Church have forged some unlikely friendships between people who cant speak each others languages.For several years, the church has reached out to the growing Spanish-speaking community around the church. Church members volunteer regularly at Montclaire Elementary, where most of the students speak Spanish, and the church has hosted Spanish Bible studies and shared Wednesday nights with its new neighbors.Now the church hopes a new Bible study will deepen the connection between welcoming immigrants and the Christian faith.I hope that we will learn what that means for us in our day and time and in this place in our city, said Sandy Devoid, director of Christian education for St. Andrews UMC. Who is our neighbor here in Charlotte?The Bible and Immigration, a three-week study that will be held Sunday evenings during the Lenten season, will be led by Phil Wingeier-Rayo, associate professor of religion at Pfeiffer University.The course, which is free and open to the public, will look at topics such as the biblical mandate for hospitality for the stranger and how the Bible provides guidance for responding to immigrants.Wingeier-Rayo served 16 years as a missionary in Nicaragua, Cuba and Mexico, and speaks Spanish and English.While immigration has been a hot-button political topic recently, Wingeier-Rayo said his study is not about forming political opinions. The Bible, he says, has plenty to say about immigration.There was a lot of migration and immigration in the Bible, he said. There were famines, and people had to seek out safer places. There were wars and there were exiles.I dont think we realize how much travel was involved for Jesus to get from one place to another.Through lectures, small-group discussions and skits, Wingeier-Rayo will help students examine their views and prejudices about immigration. He hopes students will learn to see the Bible with new eyes, including how many beloved biblical characters, such as Abraham and Joseph, were immigrants.Another goal of the study is to help people develop compassion.As Christians, the Bible calls us to be kind to the sojourner in our midst, Wingeier-Rayo said. I hope people will have more compassion toward other human begins and not be judgmental, but be sensitive to how people in different life circumstances struggle.Devoid said that even with the language barrier, English-speaking and Spanish-speaking people are becoming friends through St. Andrews programs.She said the women bonded at a Saturday bread-making event where the Spanish-speaking women gave lessons on making tortillas. She said she also noticed more church members visiting the tables of Spanish-speaking families at Wednesday dinners.People who dont even speak Spanish are becoming friends with Spanish speakers, Devoid said. Through the English that the Spanish-speaking moms know, and a lot of charades, there have been some great friendships formed.
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013
Language barriers fall at dinner time
Learn more: “The Bible and Immigration” begins 6 p.m. Feb. 17 at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, 1900 Emerywood Drive. The course will continue at the same time and place Feb. 24 and March 3. The class is free and open to the public. Details: www.standrewsumc.com.