“It’s a glimpse of heaven,” said Lts. Alex and Carolina Yanez, corps officers, of the beautiful intercultural fellowship at the Milwaukee, Wis., Cold Spring Corps. The vibrant, diverse congregation, which is highly involved in its community, is an answer to their and soldiers’ persistent prayers and intentional efforts over the last couple of years.
When the Yanezes were appointed in June 2017 to lead the corps, which had moved from inner-city Milwaukee to nearby Greenfield, Wis., the year before, they discovered two issues impeding mission and growth. Worship was conducted only in Spanish, and there were no children’s programs—and therefore hardly any children.
“English speakers would visit the corps, but they wouldn’t stay if they didn’t understand Spanish,” said Lt. Alex. Learning that the community was more than 60 percent Anglo, the lieutenants proposed to their congregation that worship should be bilingual. After a time of prayer in June 2017, corps members unanimously agreed.
To address children’s programming, in 2018 a ministry team began to saturate the community with outreach initiatives such as vacation Bible school, day camps and family movie nights. They got out of the corps building and went to where the people were—like city parks—to meet families and invite them to the corps. Wanting to offer something professional and appealing, the corps introduced a School of Music, and by the end of that summer, 28 children were participating.
According to the lieutenants, the music school has been the biggest game-changer for corps growth. Today, 45 children participate, 95 percent of whom are at the corps every Wednesday evening for dinner, choir rehearsal, a Bible story and instrument classes (guitar, keyboard and brass) which are divided into beginners and second-year students for optimal learning and progress. The students have been encouraged by visits from the Chicago Staff Band and Bill Booth Theater Company, and the corps hopes to send its first delegates to Central Music Institute this summer.
Nearly half of the music school children participate in other corps youth programs and attend Sunday worship with their families! While most of the children speak English, they love the concept of being bilingual. “The little ones invite their parents to church. We are finding that bilingual worship services are good for families. Whether the grandmother speaks Spanish and children speak English, they can worship together as a family,” said Lt. Alex.
Today the corps’ intercultural congregation joins together for Sunday worship that is simultaneously translated and presented on-screen; even the verses of songs alternate between English and Spanish. In one accord, each person may choose to worship in whichever language speaks most to his or her heart. Adult Bible studies are offered bilingually, and the corps gives English as a Second Language classes and plans to provide Spanish lessons in response to requests by local business professionals.
A blended approach also is seen in the corps’ signage and social services where the staff and even all of the volunteers speak both English and Spanish. A concerted effort has been made to connect with people, to understand and meet their needs and to welcome them to participate in corps life. This, too, has been a significant factor in corps growth.
Lt. Alex concluded, “Entering our fourth year, the corps is beautifully different with a congregation that’s 30 percent Anglo, two percent African-American and 68 percent Latino—a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.”