New meetinghouse in Houston area serves 3 languages


When President Calvin Allred, one of the three full-time mission presidents in the Houston area, arrived several years ago, he commented that serving in Houston was like being at the United Nations. With more than six million residents from all over the globe and 72 foreign consulates located in Houston, he was right.

That same broad language and cultural diversity manifests itself in the membership of the Church locally as well. Case in point is the newly completed Dairy Ashford meetinghouse in the Richmond Texas Stake. The new building now houses a Spanish-language ward, a Vietnamese-language branch and an English-speaking ward. You can walk down the hallway of this new building and hear conversations in three different languages, all at the same time.

The new building comes as a great blessing for these three units, as each was the fourth congregation in the overcrowded building that they came from.

Both bishops and the branch president are excited to have the new facility. Bishop J. Andrew Morford of the English-speaking Memorial Ward from the Richmond Stake, is especially happy. For the past several years, his ward has been meeting in the stake center of a neighboring stake. Now, the new building is in the geographic center of his ward, reducing travel time by half.

"This is the first time in our ward's 40-year history that a building has been within the boundaries of our ward," Bishop Morford said.

President Ernie Morgenegg, of the Braebern 2nd Branch, also in the Richmond Stake, presides over one of only four Vietnamese- language branches in North America. He said the members are very happy to be in the new facility. Due to the steady stream of Vietnamese immigrants who speak only their native tongue, the processing of language translation is much easier due to improved technology found in the new building. Many are additionally taught English from the missionaries and eventually join the Church.

Bishop Frank Rovira of the Spanish-speaking Houston 8th Ward in the Houston West Stake, is new to his calling. He is also grateful that the building is much closer for his members than before.

For the Spanish-speaking members, Houston is unique because it has two Spanish-language overlay stakes. These stakes are like a second layer of membership on top of traditional geographic units. Members of Bishop Rovira's ward are geographically in the same area as some of the members of the Memorial Ward.

They could literally be neighbors with each other, the children attend the same schools and not know they are Church members because they are in a different ward, a different stake and attend a different building. "Now they will attend the same building" said Bishop Rovira.

John D. Oldroyd, president of the Richmond Texas Stake, said the Spirit of the Lord is multilingual. "Regardless of how the voice of the Spirit 'sounds' in the language that you speak, it 'feels' the same to everyone. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ offered in the language that His children can understand. That's what the gospel is all about."

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