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Hispanic ministry fills need in Monroe
Esau Barrera and Rene Castellanos, both of Monroe, and Mayorga practice songs for the services. The Hispanic ministry holds its worship services at the Monroe United Methodist Church at 2 p.m. Sundays.
MONROE - New Years Eve was a night of enjoyment, as it is annually for people throughout the world, but it was a special celebration for a small group of people in Monroe that included faith, music and community.

On the evening of Dec. 31, about three dozen people gathered together in the small brick chapel of the Monroe United Methodist Church and began to sing along with their pastor, Juan Mayorga, who led the group in song from 10 p.m. to the midnight countdown and for a while after the New Year celebration before dinner was served.

In all, Mayorga noted that the party continued on until 2:30 a.m.

A community brought together by the connection of the Spanish language, people from Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador intermingle while worshiping in the Methodist faith.

On July 15, Mayorga began services at the church with 2 p.m. Sunday services but also dedicated his time to teaching locals to play instruments. Singing and sermons are conducted in Spanish, creating a feeling of familiarity for those who do not speak English as their first language.

Since then, the group has been growing.

"We have a lot of Hispanic people here," Mayorga said. "At the moment, 39 people and 10 children."

When Mayorga began leading the Spanish service last summer, he said the group was just three people: himself, his wife, Norma, and his 12-year-old daughter. By dedicating a few hours each Saturday to greeting people throughout the community, the congregation has grown for those looking to transition from a traditional Catholic faith.

"We have a lot of people here, Hispanic people, who don't speak any English," Mayorga said. "They feel good when they are together."

An El Salvador native, Mayorga has been preaching for 30 years. He founded the Methodist church in his home country in 1992, overseeing eight churches and a medical clinic. Mayorga continued with a ministry for a decade before moving to Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2004 and beginning a Hispanic ministry. Eventually, he moved to Lake Geneva and began Hispanic ministries in Harbor, Illinois, before moving to Delavan. He was instructed to move his focus to Monroe by the United Methodist bishop and his cabinet after five years.

His wife teaches Bible study for the children, while Mayorga encourages others to embrace music.

"I teach people to play the guitar, piano, keyboard and bass," said Mayorga, who still lives in Delavan. "The Hispanic people enjoy a lot of music. We spend an hour singing and 45 minutes on the sermon."

He added that he felt gratitude and relief when members of the church band offered to buy new equipment for music to be played during services. Starting out with a four-channel amplifier and a guitar, the group now has a drum set, two guitars, one bass and a keyboard. They focus on songs out of hymnals, but Mayorga said their music includes popular tunes for their congregation to enjoy as well.

"I am thankful with God," Mayorga said. "All of this is happening because the Holy Spirit has control for me."