Juan Quintanilla becomes U.S. citizen


    The Rev. Juan Quintanilla will bring a first-hand perspective to the “Immigration and the Bible” class he will teach at the North Georgia Cooperative Christian Mission Education Event (CCMEE) July 12-14 at Simpsonwood. 
     Quintanilla, who emigrated from Mexico in 2002 at the invitation of the North Georgia office of New Church Development, was naturalized as a U.S. citizen June 4 at the National Archives building located in Morrow.  The ceremony was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
    Witnessing the proud moment were members of his family and North Georgia Bishop Mike Watson. Some 200 other persons from 80 countries were also naturalized as citizens.
     The ceremony occurred during the time the Regional School of Mission was taking place in Montgomery, Ala., which Quintanilla was attending in order to be certified to teach at North Georgia’s CCMEE.  He made the trip back to Atlanta for the naturalization ceremony and then returned to Montgomery.
      His class at the regional school in Montgomery honored him with a cake decorated with a U.S. flag, the singing of “God Bless America,” and a huge card signed by everyone in the class.  His teacher was the Rev. Nora Martinez, who until last year was associate director of New Church Development with responsibility for Hispanic ministry. Quintanilla succeeded her in the office after she took a position with the UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries in New York. 
     At the North Georgia CCMEE, Quintanilla will be teaching the Spanish-language class on “Immigration and the Bible.”  Four other classes will be offered on the topic, one in the Korean language and three in English.  Grace Eunsook Kim, who emigrated from Korea as a teenager and is also a naturalized citizen, will teach the Korean-language class.
    Additional classes offered at CCMEE will be on two other topics, poverty and Haiti.  The Rev. Jonathan Holston will be teaching the class on Haiti the week before the episcopal elections at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference where he is a candidate for bishop. Holston is strongly committed to mission and has traveled extensively in his mission work, including to Haiti. CCMEE is co-sponsored by United Methodist Women and the Missions/Global Ministries committee of the North Georgia Conference.
     Quintanilla came to North Georgia at the invitation of New Church Development to plant Hispanic congregations. Subsequently, he established two congregations– Cristo la Roca in Woodstock and the Mt. Pisgah Hispanic Ministry.  
He first came to the U.S. in 1985 when he attended Asbury Theological Seminary.  Several years later, he was serving as a pastor and dean of John Wesley Seminary in Monterrey, Mexico, when he attended an International Leadership Institute (ILI)  training event at Simpsonwood. There he reconnected with the Rev. Steve Wood, then chair of New Church Development, and the Rev. Wes Griffin, head of ILI, both of whom he had known at Asbury. They were instrumental in the process of bringing him to North Georgia.
     The Hispanic ministry in North Georgia is a vibrant one with 23 congregations.
The process to U.S. citizenship was long and detailed.  Quintanilla first entered the U.S. on a three-year religious visa, and at the end of that time was eligible to apply for a “green card,” which allowed him more flexibility and privileges.  In order to receive the card, he had to meet many requirements, including having the endorsement and support of an institution or company – in his case the North Georgia Conference.  
     The green card was valid for 10 years, but after five years, he was allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship.  Again, he had to fill out “like 20 pages” of a detailed application and go through an interview process where he was screened to determine his knowledge of the U.S. and his ability to speak and write English.
“It just takes time,” he said of the naturalization process.  “There is no short cut.”
In one indication of the bounty of God, Quintanilla’s son Josh also was naturalized, and son Daniel will be taking the oath later this month.  Wife and mom Laura is on the road to citizenship as well.
    For those wanting to attend CCMEE, the registration deadline is June 30.  Information and registration forms are available on the UMW website, ngumw.org.