HCU launches first Spanish convocation

When Houston Christian University’s (HCU) Spiritual Life team began praying about new ways to meet students “where they are” and guide them toward spiritual maturity, leaders of the Hispanic Student Organization (HSO) approached the team about the idea of launching a Spanish convocation.

Scott Bertrand, Assistant Provost and Dean of Student Life, and staff embraced the idea and joined forces to make it a reality.

On Sept. 21, HCU launched its first “all Spanish” convocation as nearly 30 students filled Belin Chapel for an hour-long worship service led by Juan Carlos Heredia, Pastor of Spanish Ministry at Sugar Creek and the student worship team.

During the service, Heredia shared the importance of holiness, obedience and the pursuit of excellence in living a hope-filled life and called it “an honor” to share his message at the milestone convocation.

“Hearing the word of God spoken in their language just makes a huge difference,” said Heredia.

HSO President Andrea Ramirez, who sparked the idea, agreed and commended the University for bringing it to life.

“Since HCU has a majority of Hispanic students, we thought that this event could be seen as important for the Hispanic students who enjoy hearing the word of the Lord in their language,” said Ramirez.

Although timing of the launch coincided with Hispanic Heritage Month observances, Bertrand and his staff have plans to make Spanish convocation a regular part of campus worship to serve the needs of Spanish-speaking students.

“As we prayed about new ways that we could fulfill our mission of serving our Latino population, it seemed that adding Convocación en español to our regular campus worship gatherings might be something the Lord would be pleased to use to that end,” said Bertrand.

HCU Campus Minister Saleim Kahleh prepared students to lead the Spanish-focused worship service. He and team members reached out to local church partners to schedule preachers and coordinated with members of Refuge and the student worship team to lead worship.

Bertrand commended the team’s efforts and noted that launching a Spanish convocation is “as much about the future as the present.”

“The education and discipleship our students receive at HCU prepare them to be leaders throughout the Houston community and our churches.  We want to prepare our students now for decades of gospel-centered, biblically-grounded, kingdom service not only in English-speaking churches but just as much for the growing number of Spanish-speaking churches in our city,” said Bertrand.

Currently, Hispanics make up 39 percent of the University’s student population. As a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, HCU is invested in serving this demographic and recently received a 5-year, 2.8-million-dollar grant to enhance services for this growing population of students.

“Our Hispanic and Latino students are a vital and growing part of our campus-community. For many of them, Spanish is as much the language of their hearts as English is. So, we want to facilitate regular opportunities on campus where they can connect to the Lord and their brothers and sisters without the need to translate their affections to the Lord to match the heart language of those around them,” said Bertrand.

Several students expressed a sense of fulfillment as they departed from the worship service.

Gabby Zacamitzin, a senior pursuing a degree in Medical Humanities, shared her appreciation.

“Spanish was a big part of my childhood and getting to worship and listen to a speaker give a message in Spanish made me feel comfortable and reminded me of my roots. Not only did I get to be reminded that the Gospel can be for everyone, whether they speak English, Spanish or some other language, but I also got to learn what having your hope in the Lord can look like and how we can share that with those around us,” said the HCU senior.

 HCU sophomore Mark Segura, who is pursuing a degree in kinesiology and a minor in biblical studies, looked forward to attending the special convocation and was encouraged by the message.

“You’re supposed to live righteous, stay pure and be obedient to the word of God. In today’s society, it’s really hard with so many distractions and temptations, but not impossible with the God that makes everything possible. So, I’m really glad I made it to hear the first convocation in Spanish and will be there for the next one,” said Segura.

A second Spanish convocation will be held Thursday, Oct. 12, in Belin Chapel.