Oakwood University recently established the Oakwood Latino Adventist Church (OLA) after a group of students and professors at the school developed an in-reach ministry for the growing number of Latino students.
According to Isaac Ibarra, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion at Oakwood University, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Primero Dios [God First] on-campus ministry played an essential role in the development of OLA. The Primero Dios ministry is an organization devoted to promoting higher Christian education, providing financial support, and preparing the Latino community to serve. OLA was voted as an official church in the South Central Conference on December 12, 2021.
In support of Oakwood University’s outreach to the Latino community, representatives of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion have traveled to nine U.S. states as well as Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. They plan to visit Mississippi, Florida, and Panama in the next few weeks.
The current goals of the office in relation to enrollment include facilitating an environment of inclusion for alumni, current students, and future students and developing policies that promote avoidance of discrimination toward staff, faculty, students, and administrators. School leaders said they also include providing training related to diversity and its development as well as campus activities such as training, support, culture-oriented programs, and worship opportunities in native languages. When talking about the future and goals of the office, Ibarra said, “It is to become a division to better serve the institution.”
Osias Morales Ruiz, a current student at Oakwood University and a member of OLA and Primero Dios, said, “Primero Dios is a ministry whose purpose is to help Hispanic students grow spiritually and personally, help the community, and implement mission trips in different parts of the United States and internationally.”
Every year, members of Primero Dios travel to different places where they perform dramas as part of worship services, socialize and build relationships during baseball games, and conduct community services. The Primero Dios Ministry is led by pastors Enoc Balbuena, Isaac Ibarra, Osias Morales, and Hispanic students from Oakwood University.
“I had never experienced something as beautiful as being in OLA,” Ruiz said. “Knowing that you have someone who cares about you, who gives you food, and helps you grow is something that you cannot find in many churches.”
Ruiz explained that OLA is a ministry that cares for students financially, personally, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. “I believe we are the only Hispanic church in the area at this time that has excellent potential and are willing to use the potential and talent that God has given us,” Ruiz said. “OLA’s ministry is focused on the mission that God has left us to preach and teach the gospel to others.”