First Assembly of God Sumter ‘Iglesia Hispana’ Ministry Expands
Javier Polo is pastor at the First Assembly of God in Sumter. He oversees Iglesia Hispana, the Hispanic ministry he is trying to develop.
SUMTER, SC — Javier Polo is a pastor at the First Assembly of God in Sumter. While he has led a Hispanic ministry at the church since 2009, he is expanding that mission now. Polo is trying to make the ministry, called Iglesia Hispana, more visible in the community.
“Hispana” means a lot. Hispanic means a lot to us because we identify as Hispanic,” Polo said. “We noticed that especially for us, although God is everywhere, I would prefer to worship in Spanish. I would prefer to worship in Spanish. It’s a tradition, I learned it like that, I speak the language better, so it was something we had to have.”
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He wants everyone in the Hispanic community to have this opportunity, which is why he made a sign outside the church. He used material he found that was about to be thrown away.
“Some garbage for some people is treasure for others,” he said.
In this case, the treasure managed to make the sign for free. Since Polo doesn’t have a big budget for the ministry, he tries to find ways to advertise the service for free.
This means that he also learns to code a website himself and builds social media sites to reach more people. It comes as church member Damaris Cochran says Sumter’s Hispanic population is growing.
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“It’s growing,” she told me. “And I say it’s growing because I’ve lived in Sumter for 25 years and you see more Spaniards around.”
Pastor Polo’s wife, Airam, explains that this resource allows people to come together and speak their native language, regardless of their background.
“The Hispanic community is, uh, kind of what we call ‘sancocho’ in our country, which is a special soup with a lot of things together, different vegetables…it’s the same with this Hispanic community,” he said. she declared. “We have people from different countries, different cultures, different flavors.”
And people from all walks of life are welcome, said church member Angelica Maria Barahona.
“People don’t know where he is and now that we have a web page where it will help them a lot to see where he is and what our real purpose is,” Barahona said in Spanish. “We work every day to develop this ministry.”
Pastor Polo confirmed that he has seen people everywhere worship in the ministry over the years.
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“We had people from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama…I don’t want to miss anyone…from Mexico,” he said. “And locals and Puerto Ricans who serve in the armed forces and they like to come and worship.”
Airam remembers what it was like to move from the Dominican Republic.
“When I first moved here, back then, we didn’t have many people who spoke Spanish,” she recalls. “So it’s hard to go to a different place, a different culture, a different language and you can’t at least say hello in your language.”
Cochran detailed the same struggle when she left Honduras years ago, without knowing English. Now she says she’s come a long way.
“We work so hard to let people know we’re here,” Cochran said. “We are here. We have a new sign and we are confident that we will grow.”
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