National Hispanic Heritage Month: Deborah Juarez

By Lisa L. McGloiry

1.    Shepherd Church is proud to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. Can you tell us what aspects of your Hispanic culture you appreciate the most?

I love to honor my Hispanic heritage by recognizing my parents from Guatemala. They migrated here because they wanted to realize the American Dream and give their children a better opportunity. I have become more familiar and appreciative of my culture as I’ve grown older. One thing that I love about my heritage is that the Guatemalan people are so giving and are great hosts. Unfortunately, at 12 years old, I didn’t appreciate this trait. Since I grew up here in
California, I wasn’t used to their way of life because it was so different. I didn’t particularly appreciate going there to visit because it wasn’t a good experience for me. One time, during part of our trip, we visited my uncle who grows coffee. His home is in a rural part of Guatemala closer to the jungle. At the time, his household didn’t have running water, and to use the restroom — which was a hole in the ground — we had to walk through the jungle to get to it. My uncle and his family were so welcoming and treated me so well even though they had never met me before. They were poor and had so little, yet they freely gave all they had to me and others.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to go back to Guatemala five years ago. My uncle has running water now with a functioning restroom even though he still lives in the jungle. His small village even has a few elementary schools. While I was there in September, all of the elementary children from the town were all dressed up in their folklore costumes celebrating the country’s independence.

To participate in the parade, the children must purchase or rent their outfits. If a family cannot afford it, they must make their own. I saw one of kids dressed in a cape with shiny gems and mirrors, and he was glistening. Another child I saw could not afford to buy a costume. His attire was hand-made, covered with broken CDs to resemble gems, and taped to a bag that functioned as the cape — it was so festive.  He was so happy and proud wearing it. Here in America, his outfit would be embarrassing to a young child, but not in Guatemala. These kids, poor or not, celebrated and had a wonderful time.  Watching the parade brought me to tears because the people there have so little, yet they celebrate with so much joy and pride. That’s one example of what I love about the Guatemalan people and my culture.


2.    What ways can individuals and families celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community throughout the year?

I would encourage everyone to exercise patience when encountering a Hispanic person who speaks little English — in other words, Spanish is not their first language. I say this because I saw racism displayed against my parents when my parents tried to speak English. I would see people roll their eyes at them when they spoke. One time my parents went to get food, the employee got their order wrong. When my parents tried to explain that this was not their order, the worker threw away their food in front of them because he did not understand their limited English. 

Growing up in the United States, I did not experience this kind of racism or any form of discrimination while at school, with my friends, or even when the Lord blessed me to go to summer camp. I immersed myself in the American culture because this is what my parents wanted for me and worked hard for me to be a part of.  One way we can all honor and show respect to the American Latino community and all cultures is to have more grace and show genuine kindness when we encounter someone who doesn’t speak fluent English or speaks a different language.

3.    You serve as a lead volunteer at Shepherd Church and serve alongside people from various backgrounds and nationalities. Why is it important for first-time guests to see diverse people from different parts of the world when they come through the front doors of our church?

First of all, heaven will reflect a mixture of races, ethnicities, and cultures. Jesus sacrificed His life for us, whether we are black, white, Asian, or Hispanic. He receives all of us with open arms, so having the opportunity to serve alongside many different diverse cultures is an honor and a blessing.

 I didn’t always go to Shepherd Church. I was raised in a Spanish Pentecostal church and later was invited to Shepherd and reconnected with the Lord. I love that our church is multiracial and multicultural. I serve at the Information Counter, and we have Spanish translation for those who need to hear the Word in their native language. I’m so happy that we can share God’s Word this way. Volunteering at Shepherd has taught me about other cultures because I work alongside people from different parts of the world. I’ve met so many people who have prayed with me and helped me become closer to Jesus. It is crucial for people who come to our church to see people serving from different nationalities and cultures that look just like them. As volunteers, we don’t know when we encounter a new guest, whether this will be their first time at any church or if they are attending because of a bad experience at another church. So that’s why here at Shepherd, we try our best to show Jesus’s love and grace to everyone, so each person feels welcomed and wants to worship with us and be part of our church family.