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Iglesia De Cristo Church provides warm welcome

No matter what size town I have been in, all churches seemed the same to me in the South, with seemingly nice folks and smiles. As a young Asian woman who was adopted into an all-white family, I attended a local Baptist church back home in Trussville when I was younger.

As I continued to grow as a person, I found that I was not drawn to attend church anymore. But I am always open to new experiences that allow me to continue to evolve.

On a recent Sunday, I decided to visit the Iglesia De Cristo, or Hispanic Church of Christ, on Highway 68 close to Collinsville.

Iglesia De Cristo is housed in a small brick building supported with four white columns. The white double doors and windows make a newcomer feel right at home.

And that is exactly how I felt when I stepped in to see Pastor Carlos Perez leaning against one of 18 wooden pews. He greeted me with the widest smile that I have seen in a long time.

He shook my hand and talked with me briefly before the service began. Perez told me how the building had been empty for 13 years before he moved in to establish the church.

Today, the church welcomes visitors “from all over including Birmingham, Chattanooga, Gadsden,” Perez said. As members of the church began to pour in, I was greeted with many more smiles and handshakes.

The service began promptly at 10 am. Pastor Perez greeted everyone with the same grand smile that I had just seen before. Though I could not understand what he was telling the congregation of around 30 people because I do not speak Spanish, I knew he was proud to deliver the word of God from the tone of his voice.

Following the initial greeting, members began singing. I did not join in, but it was nice to just hear church members singing along in harmony.

After the singing concluded, the church split into three groups: youth, teenagers, and adults. I followed the teens to another room of the church away from the main building.

The main themes discussed were how to solve conflicts with others. The teens kindly let me use a Bible with the Spanish version on one side and the English version on the other so I could follow along with them as they learned.

As they were going through the lesson, they always made sure to include me, translate for me, and even asked me to translate some words for them.

Once the hour was up in small groups, we all rejoined everyone in the main worship room. We began with more songs, followed up by another message from two pastors.

Even though I could not understand the Spanish, I began to feel more comfortable after spending time with people my own age. Elisama Juanita Castillo (Liz), a girl I met at the service, translated the majority of what the pastor was discussing with the congregation.

When the service came to a conclusion everyone thanked me for visiting, and I received even more handshakes and smiles.  Though the church is not as big as some, it is warm and welcoming. Even with the language barrier, this visit gave me a positive experience I will not soon forget.