ALUMNUS: Valentin Alpuche (2007)
MINISTRY: Ministerio Cristiano “El Pacto de Gracia” (Ministry of Christ “The Covenant of Grace”)
LOCATION: 1527 Otto Blvd, Chicago Heights, IL
FAMILY: Wife – Betty; children – Moises, Jade, baby expected in May
The graffiti-lined streets of Chicago Heights are far from the lush jungles of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and for Rev. Valentin Alpuche the way led through the fertile fields of rural Illinois.
From a storefront shared with an art gallery, Rev, Alpuche plants a Spanish-language Reformed church in the heart of the Chicago Heights Hispanic population. He is under the supervision of the consistory at Faith United Reformed Church, nestled in the fields of rural Beecher, IL, 12 miles south of the city.
The storefront location serves as office space and a meeting place for Sunday Bible studies and catechism classes, a mid-week Bible study, and ESL (English as Second Language) classes. Rev. Alpuche translates Reformed literature into Spanish (for Rev. Bill Green with Reformed Missions in Latin America), broadcasts Reformed teaching on a local radio station, and teaches a weeknight catechism class with greenhouse workers in Grant Park. Rev. Alpuche shares various aspects about his education and current ministry.
Where are you from and how did you hear about Mid-America Reformed Seminary?
My wife and I are from the Southeast of Mexico, the state of Campeche, in the peninsula of Yucatan. I first heard about Mid-America Seminary from Dan Woldhuis who in 2000 went to Mexico to help build some churches in the south of the country with a bunch of guys from Faith United Reformed Church in Beecher, IL, and a few other Reformed churches in America and Canada. He talked to me about Mid-America and that is how I became acquainted with the Seminary.
What led to your coming to the United States to attend Mid-America?
On our own we had no possibilities at all to come to Mid-America, but the Lord always works in wonderful ways for the benefit of His children. And this is what He did for us. First of all, to know that Mid-America is a sound, orthodox, and conservative theological institution faithful to the Word of God and to the Reformed Confessions was a very important factor for me to consider this seminary. Second, their aim at preparing men for the ministry really encouraged me to get enrolled in the Seminary, because I knew they were going to do their best to help me to achieve my goal: to serve the Lord by serving His Church. And last, not least, the support of Faith United Reformed Church enabled us to come to America.
Is Faith URC the only church that supports your ministry?
Faith URC is our main sponsoring and overseeing church. Although as we progressed in our work, we were thankful that other churches became interested in supporting our ministry and there is a Joint Venture Committee supporting and overseeing our work in Chicago Heights. In the multitude of opinions there is wisdom. Or as we say in Spanish: two heads think better than one. We thank the Lord for the love and desire He has put in the churches’ hearts to help us carry out our work.
How are the different aspects of your ministry progressing?
The study of God’s Word is the foundation that sustains and moves forward our church plant. I have seen how our Spanish speaking people truly enjoy the Bible studies. By the grace of the Lord we are still on the radio. Our sponsoring churches want our radio broadcasting to continue to witness and influence the Hispanic community in the area with sound and solid Reformed Bible teaching. We broadcast on Saturdays (9:30am) and Sundays (2:30pm) on 1470AM. Many radio and other studies are posted on www.sermonaudio.com. On top of this, we mail between 100 and 200 CD copies of our studies to Mexico and other Latin America countries.
In what ways did your education at Mid-America Reformed Seminary help prepare you for your church planting work in Chicago Heights?
While in seminary, and missing my own country, I became very anxious about communicating the Reformed faith to Spanish speaking people. The more I studied and was taught by my professors, the more my desire increased to work among the Hispanics in the Chicagoland area. Mid-America’s training was very decisive for me to have the zeal and passion to start a church plant work, since the Seminary gave me the right teaching and direction to face this huge challenge. I believe the more we know our precious Reformed tradition, the more we want to make it known to those around us. And this is what I learned from Mid-America Seminary.
In what ways do you continue to interact with the Seminary or receive continued advice or assistance from it or its people?
Currently, living near the Seminary facility allows me to regularly use its library, which is an immense and unique benefit for any pastor. Any time I have a question in regard to the English language or to the theological understanding of the books I translate, I am able to use the Seminary English and theological dictionaries. Another important point is that professors at Mid-America are always available to give me advice or to help me understand any theological question I might have. This is a very great privilege! Also the Seminary faculty and staff allowed me to use the chapel to record all my radio studies. I truly thank the Lord for their willingness to support our ministry in this special way. So Mid-America Reformed Seminary has been really helpful for me not only in the past as a student, but continues to be a source of precious help for my ministry.
What are the challenges and joys of planting a Hispanic church in an urban setting?
There are many different challenges. The first is that a lot of second and third generation Hispanics don’t speak Spanish or they prefer to speak English. Another challenge is that once Hispanics come to America, they become even more materialistic in their worldview since having a job and a salary is what really matters, and they feel no need to have a saving relationship with God. Another factor is that because of their Catholic background Hispanics don’t see faith as a serious matter, requiring a commitment to serve the Lord in all areas of their lives. Unfortunately this same understanding is being infiltrated into many non-Reformed Spanish churches. Another aspect is that many of the immigrants are illegal. A final challenge is that we don’t have our own location in a visible area. We are praying for the Lord to provide a more strategic location.
The main joy is to see people being saved from eternal condemnation—to see people opening their hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ! I rejoice as much as the angels do in heaven!