Home Equipping Leaders Path 1 / Church Planting Fresh Expressions: A Bridge of Connection and Transformation in Community

Fresh Expressions: A Bridge of Connection and Transformation in Community

By Patricia Peña

Three people holding hands in prayer

Fresh Expressions United Methodist weaves with threads of love and connection between the church and the community. This movement has found simple and innovative ways to create new ministries. Our agency is intentionally investing in fostering planting with diversity in mind. It is creating resources and training with diversity and innovation, especially by opening spaces in other languages. The Fresh Expressions UM movement has a branch in Spanish that is developing fruitfully in our denomination.

Within this movement in the United Methodist Church, we have leaders like Jaidymar Smith. Today she shares with us her journey from Puerto Rico to North Carolina and how her commitment to Expressions of Love has been light and hope in her journey.

Sharing Love, Breaking Cultural and Linguistic Barriers

Jaidymar Smith serves in lay ministry at Rehobeth United Methodist Church in Ramseur, North Carolina, and she is co-leader at La Luz de Cristo United Methodist Church with her husband, Pastor Chris Smith. She says the journey from Puerto Rico to North Carolina was marked by loneliness and challenges in adapting to new routines, new cultures, and a new language. She identified with other Hispanic people who were going through similar experiences.

This experience led her to look for different ways to reach the community. Through Fresh Expressions UM, she opened a bilingual “Expression of Love” called Creciendo Juntos. This space became a point of encounter, growth, and testimony of how people of different ages and cultures can break down barriers and build bridges of unity and healing.

Patricia: Can you tell me a story about how Fresh Expressions, Expresiones de amor in Spanish, changed a community?

Jaidymar: I would like to tell you how the Expression of Love Creciendo Juntas has impacted and will impact our community. Creciendo Juntas is a bilingual Fresh Expression. We've had little girls to one hundred-year-old women participating. All are from different cultures and have different stories and experiences. Together, we have learned to value and respect our differences. We have learned that language is a barrier we put on ourselves and that love breaks down every barrier and obstacle. We have learned English and Spanish. The time we have shared together has taught us that if we are brave and face our fears, we can be a bridge that unites others; in the process, we find healing of the heart, transformation, and trust.

Every act of love, no matter how small it may seem, impacts lives in ways we could never imagine.

Every act of love, no matter how small it may seem, impacts lives in ways we could never imagine.

Patricia: If someone wanted to start an Expression of Love, what advice would you give them?

Jaidymar: First, I would like to congratulate you for daring to take a step of faith. We never know what God is going to do, but when we dare to say, "Here I am, send me," God takes it upon himself to open paths. But remember that you need a group of people who can help you. We can't do things alone; this will bring physical and emotional burdens and fatigue. It is important to share with others what God is putting in your heart. I promise you that people want to help, but they don't know how. Don't be afraid to ask.

Patricia: You are right; we cannot do things alone. I have found that sometimes there is a team already in place, but people do not know what the next step after a time of prayer for the community should be. What do you think should go next?

Jaidymar: Let's spend time listening to God and our community. What is God telling us? Where does God want to take us? What people are we not seeing or hearing? Who in our community is lonely?

After this, I would say, “Don't be afraid of failure.” I've learned that even in the moments when I feel like I've failed, the Lord reminds me over and over again that it's not really a failure, it's a learning opportunity. In the process, we've met new people; We have formed new relationships, and, just as importantly, we have listened to what lies at the heart of so many.

And finally, I share with you a phrase that Rev. Dr. Candace Lewis shared at a conference recently, "Do what's hard." We have been called to do difficult things that are outside our comfort zone but that restore heart and confidence. God always goes before us. So, fear not!

Patricia: Thank you, Jaidymar, for your contribution today. Thank you for reminding us that Fresh Expressions can help us be the bridge that brings healing and hope. I hope God continues to use you to be a blessing to our communities.

If you would like your church to learn more about Expressions of Love, contact Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries, and the Fresh Expressions UM team will be happy to guide you. I recommend you get a copy of "The Plan for Spiritual Listening" at this link: Plan en Español | The Listening Church. This plan is translated into Spanish and is a great resource to help you get started listening. Through this plan, you will learn of the possibilities the Lord is placing in your hands.

Let us continue to lovingly weave strong and diverse bonds between church and community.

Patricia Peña is the Director, Diversity & Innovative Community Engagement, with Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries.

Contact Us for Help

View staff by program area to ask for additional assistance.



* indicates required

Please confirm that you want to receive email from us.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please read our Privacy Policy page.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.