Guests of all ages entered the Montgomery, Alabama, United States Hispanic Church on Wednesday, December 20, 2017. They were greeted by members of the church’s Adventurer club, tiny hands stretching out offering handshakes and hugs. Guests were then directed into the sanctuary, where they stepped onto a road that had been constructed from black plastic and yellow tape. The road ran the length of the aisle, up the stairs and onto the stage, where it ultimately rose even higher and stopped at a hand-painted cardboard cutout of Jesus. Attendees at the service were placed on a road that led to Jesus.
To open the service, four young people grabbed microphones and sang children’s songs with background tracks and Spanish lyrics on the screen. After a few songs, including a final opener where the crowd of about 60 people was invited to stand, Eliel Lopez offered the opening prayer. Lopez, a young church member, continued leading the service by making a few announcements and going through a series of questions and offering prizes to those who would answer correctly. The questions were about the different presentations that had been given each night since the series began the previous Saturday. Most of the children in attendance had their hands raised high, ready to try to answer the prize-winning inquiries.
Following a prayer, a young girl dressed in her Adventurer uniform took the stage, along with a young man dressed in a king costume. The young man, Carlos Hernandez, took a seat to the side, and the young lady, Ruby Chi, began to speak. At age 8, Chi was the youngest presenter of the entirely youth-led series of meetings, which featured presenters as old as 15. The eight-day series utilized a different presenter each evening, and they were sure to prepare before their presentation day came. Michel Rodriguez, pastor of the Montgomery Hispanic Church, worked with each of the presenters over a month in advance to train them in how to deliver their sermon, and make appeals that matched their presentation. In an interview after the service, Chi stated that she “practiced her presentation every day” in preparation for the event. Rodriguez added: “She has also been praying about her presentation every day for over a month.”
The series of meetings was titled “Sorprendidos en el camino,” or “Surprised on the Road.” Each presenter gave a sermon about a different Bible character and an encounter that character had with God in their life’s journey. The characters that were presented spanned Old and New Testament eras. Chi’s presentation was about King Hezekiah from 2 Kings 20. When asked what her favorite part of his story was, Chi responded, “That God gave him more life for serving Him.” For Chi, growing up in the United States has made her more comfortable with English than Spanish. Although she attends the Hispanic church and primarily speaks Spanish at home, English dominates the rest of her life. “It was a challenge,” she said, to volunteer and present in Spanish for this youth series. “But, I just wanted to do it for Jesus.”
This series was the result of Rodriguez and the church board recognizing the number of young people in their church and making an effort to include them in such an important church meeting. The Montgomery Hispanic Church holds several adult evangelistic events every year but had never assembled an event specifically geared toward children, by children. The church became involved immediately; adult members donated their time and resources to create the stage decorations and large backdrop. Parents were intentional about bringing their children to practice and attended each meeting. It also allowed for an excellent opportunity to involve the church’s Adventurer club in every aspect of the series.
Rodriguez and other adults noted how the presenters mimicked the preaching styles and mannerisms of adult preachers that have preached at their church before. It was apparent that these children had been listening to the sermons for quite some time and were able to repeat the styles they’ve seen. Chi even opened her sermon with a personal story about her father to help capture the attention of the audience.
While the series was primarily targeted toward children, the adults who brought them stayed, listened, and could be heard offering an affirming “Amen!” to Chi’s presentation. At the conclusion of her sermon, Chi made an appeal, and several young people, along with a few adults, stood at the front while a closing song played. After a short time, Chi joined the group and gave a closing prayer.
Rodriguez believes children have an edge. “The kids have enjoyed leading out, and they aren’t afraid to make appeals that could change someone’s life,” he said.
An original version of this story was published in Southern Tidings.