LEESBURG — The annual Florida Conference Hispanic Family Camp
"Campamento de Familias" attracted more than 400 people to
the Life Enrichment Center here, a record crowd for the 18-year-old
ministry sponsored by the conference’s Hispanic Ministry Team. More
than a third of those attending the early September event were youth
and young adults.
"It’s very important for the people of the church to see
youth…to see the work they are accomplishing because they don’t
always see it," said Yohanka Cabezas, a member of Good Shepherd
United Methodist Church in West Palm Beach and director of the
conference’s Hispanic Youth Ministry Team.
The increased attendance at this year’s camp is a reflection of
the growth in the various Hispanic ministries around the conference,
Cabezas said. Although the growth is a cause for celebration, it also
presents some challenges. "We have a lot of cultural diversity…a
mix of cultures, different races and religious influences," she
said. "It was hard to facilitate this, but it worked. …people
realized we don’t want to change their culture or their ways. It’s
a beautiful experience to share the different cultures."
Cabezas said in her work with the conference’s Hispanic youth
this past year she has been intentional about inviting them to the
camp so they could be visible to other church members and take
advantage of the training and networking opportunities the camp
"We offered different classes for different interests,"
Cabezas said. "We had sports, music and theater classes…and a
class on the role of youth in the family."
The most significant classes were the sessions on the ordained
ministry taught by Joaquín García, assistant general secretary with
the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division on
Ordained Ministry, according to Cabezas. The class offered information
about the various ordination tracks.
García said the class was important because its goal was to help
more people connect with the United Methodist Church and its
ministries. "We recognize in the next five years…there will be
many people who will reach retirement, and we need more people to take
their place," he said.
It was also important because the growing Hispanic population needs
an increasing number of Spanish-speaking pastors to minister to them.
"The Hispanic population has grown in very significant
ways," García said. "It is our responsibility to extend our
ministry to them. Clergy and laity together need to accept this
responsibility to help our youth explore and participate in the
The Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, pastor of the Hispanic Mission at First
United Methodist Church, Kissimmee, and Hispanic National Plan
coordinator of the north area of the Florida Conference, said he was
pleased to see nearly 50 young people participate in the class.
"There is a big need for leadership in this conference,
especially first-career pastors," he said, adding that since many
Hispanic youth are bilingual, they can serve in either English- or
Santos and García are working with the conference’s Hispanic
Ministry Team to distribute packages of information on the ordination
process in Spanish to the pastors and lay leaders of the approximately
40 Hispanic churches and missions in the conference.