Christianity Today Salutes Dr. Jesse Miranda
Editor's Note:Cristianismo Hoy, a new digital magazine, coming in 2013! Published in cooperation with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Cristianismo Hoy will be written and edited from within the Hispanic community, providing a rallying point for Hispanic evangelicals, challenging and connecting Spanish readers to the broader evangelical community, where insights can be shared and the bonds of fellowship strengthened.
You Can Take the Boy Out of the Barrio …
But nothing has been able to take the barrio out of Jesse Miranda, the uniting force for Hispanic Protestants in the U.S.
by Jeff M. Sellers
In 2002, Christianity Today honored Dr. Jesse Miranda with this profile by Christianity Today's Jeff M. Sellers. Ten years later, we salute him again with this reprint and an update by Southeastern University's Bob Crosby.
The granddaddy of U.S. Latino Protestantism, Jesse Miranda, grew up in a poor barrio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, among junk cars and, when he was older, marijuana and gangs. Miranda stayed away from the pot and the street mischief, but those junk cars helped him learn his first lesson in leadership as a small child.
"We'd sit in the cars and say, 'Let's go to California'—wherever that was," Miranda says. "One would say, 'I see the mountains,' then 'I see the desert.' Finally somebody'd say, 'I see the ocean—I guess we got there.' It was imagination: the energy, the excitement as a child." Miranda always sat in the driver's seat.
Then government urban renewal programs cleaned out the scrap-metal hulks. Miranda and his five siblings—children of a sawmill worker from the Mexican state of Chihuahua and a Spanish-descent mother with a third-grade education—had a cleaner neighborhood. But there was nothing left to challenge their imagination.
"The lesson of leadership for me was that leadership starts from within [the community] and not from without," Miranda says. "They told us what we needed and what the solution was rather than working with the community to see how we could work it out. I think we would have had a playground, had they asked what we needed."
Miranda has not forgotten how acutely he felt the needs of his native barrio, even after a lifetime of building coalitions across religious, ideological, and cultural lines. Now seven times a grandfather and founding president of the National Alliance of Evangelical Ministries (amen, Alianza de Ministerios Evangélicos Nacionales), Miranda is regarded as the primary visionary uniting disparate U.S. Hispanic evangelicals. He has a reputation as a sharp listener and bridge-builder who has put his vision, imagination, and wit to the service of the Latino church.