A slideshow of the recent Thriving Rural Communities and Hispanic House of Studies 2009 “Encuentro” journey to Mexico is now available online .
North Carolina's rural communities, thought of by some as immutable, static backwaters, are actually places of great and continual change. One of the most important of these changes in the last 20 years has been the influx of Hispanic and Latino immigrants into rural North Carolina. According to the Immigration Policy Center, the Latino share of North Carolina's population grew from 1.2% in 1990 to 7.1% in 2007.
To better prepare Duke Divinity Students for this new population of North Carolina residents, two years ago the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative and the Hispanic House of Studies partnered to create the journey called “Encuentro."
The Spanish word “Encuentro” alternately means “encounter,” or “I find.” The purpose of the Encuentro program is to enable a face-to-face “encounter” between divinity students, rural pastors, and lay leaders and the land, history, culture, faith, and people of Mexico.
Through Encuentro, participants visit the places that have shaped Mexico’s history, such as the Aztec Templo Mayor and the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City. They encounter the gifts of Mexico's culture, cuisine, and landscape. They stay at an indigenous village high up in the mountains of Guerrero.
Most importantly, participants in Encuentro share, worship, and work alongside of members of the Methodist family in Mexico, laughing with them, praying with them, learning from them, and hearing their stories.
Through this encounter, participants in Encuentro
- become more knowledgeable about the land, history, culture, language, and faith of the people of Mexico
- gain a broader conception of the church as the international body of Christ
- are strengthened and inspired by the hospitality and witness of the Mexican Methodist Church
- offer the encouragement of their presence to their Mexican sisters and brothers in Christ
- are challenged to reflect more deeply upon the complicated issues concerning immigration to the U.S
- are called to respond more effectively to the needs of the Hispanic population in their own community
- deepen their fellowship with one another as those called to rural ministry
Above all, Encuentro ultimately becomes an “encounter” with Christ: that what participants “find,” across barriers of border, ethnicity, and language, is the presence of Christ in one another.