In Herndon, Hispanic Members Help Reach Southern Asians
Pastor Willie Benzaquen knows, "We have the responsibility to preach to whoever is around us." But how do you serve a community you don't know?
Story by Dan Jensen and Taashi Rowe
Willie Benzaquen remembered that Sabbath morning clearly. As he preached at Potomac Conference’s Herndon Spanish church in Herndon, Va., he noticed a new face. When he went to greet him, “He didn’t speak Spanish but said he liked the music,” recalled Benzaquen, who at that time served as the church’s pastor. The man said he was from Southern Asia and had moved to the area for work.
The man was not alone. Several years ago, while driving into the Herndon area, Bill Miller, Potomac’s president, noticed new developments growing up within the community. “I learned there was a high population of people from Southern Asia—India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma and the surrounding nations,” said Miller.
Benzaquen felt torn by a new found reality. “Here I was pastoring a Hispanic church but we were surrounded by people of other cultures,” Benzaquen said. “Yet I knew that we had the responsibility to preach to whoever is around us.”
He also wanted to adequately serve the needs of a community he did not know. That was when Miller and Benzaquen approached Franklin David, who pastors the Southern Asian church in Silver Spring, Md. They then made plans to hold several seminars at the Herndon Spanish church, starting with a marriage seminar and a Vacation Bible School for the children. Several months later, they held health and wellness seminars to draw attention to the health message. One event even featured samples of Latin American dishes. “It was kind of a strange sight,” said Benzaquen. “The two groups didn’t understand each other’s languages, but in this case, food was the language.”
The health meetings were well attended, and it was evident that another Adventist church would be a welcomed asset to this community. So, a Southern Asian church plant was formed under the supervision of John Daniel, assistant pastor at the Silver Spring church.
Bible Studies With Friends and Family
At the conclusion of the meetings, Daniel received a call from one of the attendees, Anmol Wadhwa. Wadwha asked Daniel if he would consider coming to his home to give his family and friends Bible studies. Daniel immediately agreed and made arrangements to meet with them. Wadwha was shocked by this response and felt this was a clear answer to his prayer.
Three days later, Pastor Daniel rang the doorbell of Wadwha’s home, fully expecting to meet with a small group of people. To his surprise, 42 people were waiting. “I realized immediately this was a God–given opportunity,” said Daniel. “Sitting before me was an answer to many prayers by the Southern Asian congregation—I was in awe of the scene before me, and I praise God for the gift He has given us.”
The group was comprised of eight families, all of whom are still attending regular Bible studies. Cornelius Kamei, the new Bible worker assigned to this territory, will be taking on the day-to-day responsibilities from Pastor Daniel. All are eager to see what God has in store for the Herndon church plant.