Lake Union Hispanic Pastors convene at Andrews University. [Photo by Felicia Tonga]

May 15, 2024

Empowering Hispanic Students & Growing Young Congregations: Lake Union Pastors Unite

Andrews University has recently been recognized by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities as the First Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in Michigan. In response to this recognition, Hispanic pastors from across the Lake Union territory gathered in Berrien Springs to explore the opportunities and support available for Hispanic students.

On May 13 and 14, Hispanic pastors representing the five Lake Union Conferences — Illinois, Indiana, Lake Region, Michigan, and Wisconsin — convened at Andrews University. Their objective was to gain insight into the enrollment process, available programs, and financial support tailored specifically to aid Hispanic students in achieving academic success.

The event commenced with a warm welcome from Lake Union president Ken Denslow, followed by presentations from professors in the religion department, enrollment staff, and university financial advisors. These presentations aimed to equip pastors with comprehensive knowledge of accessible resources to Hispanic students.

Andrews University President Dr. John Wesley Taylor emphasized the institution's commitment to strongly support Hispanic young people in their pursuit of higher education. He also expressed a desire to support Hispanic pastors by sharing scripture about the call for disciples of Christ to be servant leaders.

Carmelo Mercado, Lake Union general vice president, expressed solidarity, saying, "We want to affirm and support the efforts Andrews University is making for the Hispanic community by bringing awareness to our churches and young people."

The two-day session concluded with a special commissioning prayer, during which Lake Union pastors gathered around Dr. Taylor, praying for God's blessing for both him and the university in this initiative.

Additionally, after the main event, five Hispanic pastors gathered at the Lake Union Headquarters, each recently received certification from the Fuller Youth Institute to adapt church culture in their congregations to support inter-generational ministry. Josant Barrientos, Illinois Youth Director, provided further guidance on the principles of Growing Young. 

Carmelo Mercado expressed enthusiasm for the pastors saying, "They are eager and excited to apply their newfound knowledge and are ready to undertake the challenging task of growing their church's young population."


(L-R) Josant Barrientos, Norberto Barrueta Alvarado, Daniel Spinosa, Carmelo Mercado, Edgar Rosas, Cristofe Guzman and Ruddy Caldera
(L-R) Josant Barrientos, Norberto Barrueta Alvarado, Daniel Spinosa, Carmelo Mercado, Edgar Rosas, Cristofe Guzman and Ruddy Caldera


The participating pastors will spend the year implementing the strategies learned during the program within their congregations. A comprehensive report on their experiences and outcomes will be presented at Conectate 2025, providing valuable insights into the effectiveness of the seminar's teachings.

Felicia Tonga, assistant director of communication for the Lake Union Conference