“I have been praying forever about how we can diversify and reach our neighbors,” says Pastor Charlie Moore, who serves Sunnycrest United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “Pastor Herman walked in the door, and it happened.”
Sunnycrest UMC launched a Hispanic worshipping community in 2019. Things keep multiplying. There are now several multi-cultural events and small groups happening for everyone, including Spanish as a second language and English as second language classes that the congregation is sponsoring.
Currently, there are five worship services at Sunnycrest: two Hispanic services, two contemporary services, and one traditional service. The congregation will add a sixth service in the fall.
“We are all getting to know each other pretty well. We have developed an immersion plan so that we all learn with each other and grow in faith,” says Pastor Charlie.
The leadership team at Sunnycrest UMC includes Pastor Herman Perez, who leads the Hispanic ministry. Hispanic worship services involve 70-90 people weekly.
“People come to worship and join us through word of mouth. The word is out on the street,” says Pastor Herman Perez, who serves at Sunnycrest UMC and is launching a new Hispanic worship service in Plankinton, South Dakota.
Perez is a native of Puerto Rico. He was a professional traveling musician. In 1984, he accepted Jesus Christ. He is married and spent a lot of his musical career on the west coast. Perez spent a few years in Central America and 14 years in Mexico as a missionary. He then was called to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to start a Hispanic church.
That new opportunity in Sioux Falls did not lead to a fruitful ministry for Pastor Herman and his wife. The couple started praying and looking around for where God was leading them. They landed at Sunnycrest UMC.
“The Lord was preparing Sunnycrest for a change. He was guiding us here,” says Perez. “A huge door was opened.”
He started as a volunteer and has now moved to being a salaried pastor. Iglesia Renuevo, Renew Church, was born. One key small group for the ministry is the Men Moving in Faith small group. A connection at the small group created an invitation to Plankinton, South Dakota.
“One day at Men Moving in Faith, Pastor Rodney came up to me and talked to me about Plankinton,” says Perez. “I never heard about Plankinton before, so we drove there. The Lord is opening doors there.”
“Sunnycrest is my home,” says Pastor Rodney Knock, who serves the United Methodist congregations at Plankinton and White Lake. “I worked in school districts for 25 years. After retiring from serving as an educator, I was encouraged to finish seminary at Sioux Falls Seminary. I got a call to serve in Plankinton and found out there was a Hispanic population that needed to be served. I connected with the Hispanic ministry at Sunnycrest through Men Moving at Faith. Things just grew from there.”
Each week Perez travels to Plankinton, South Dakota. He spends time meeting people, making connections, and building relationships. Pastor Herman hangs out at Blessings Repeated, a thrift store and food pantry.
“People are very excited. They worshipped God in their countries, but there is not anything for them in the area. They came to Plankinton to work in the egg plant,” says Perez. “Once in a while, they will drive to Huron for worship, but there is nothing available for them in Plankinton.”
Rev. Ben Ingebretson, the director for new church development for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church, is walking alongside Pastors Herman Perez, Rodney Knock, and Charlie Moore. “The support is wonderful. We can do so much more together,” says Perez.
The goal is to serve the Hispanic community in the Plankinton area, including the communities of White Lake, Mitchell, Mount Vernon, and Stickney. A bi-lingual service will launch at the United Methodist Church in Plankinton this spring. In March, a bi-lingual concert with Lifelight ministry will happen in Plankinton. Bi-lingual means that the music and liturgy happen in Spanish, and there is a translator.
People have come to Plankinton, South Dakota, from Central America. Perez reports many have come from extreme poverty, little villages, want to work but do not instantly trust others. “You have to build trust. They are scared of things that they do not know and things like immigration services,” says Pastor Herman.
Members at Sunnycrest will assist Perez as he launches worship at Plankinton UMC. The team will help make connections by translating, being in conversation, assisting in building trust.
A trial worship service was held a few weeks ago at Plankinton UMC. “The service was packed,” says Perez. “It was incredible to see people come together.”
“It is all happening so fast,” says Pastor Rodney. “Our leadership is so supportive, and we cannot wait for the new worship service to start. I am just letting things happen, and the Spirit move.”
The ministry is called Iglesia Renuevo, Renew Church. Perez states the name came after prayer and reflecting on how everyone who comes to the ministry is starting a new thing.
“There is a big need. There are a lot of Hispanic people that we need to serve. Also, we need to help non-Hispanic pastors serve their communities,” says Perez.
The video below is an example of a bilingual (spanish-english) worship service. Video courtesy of Herman Perez.