His Heart Language

Apr 6, 2015

…I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb…and they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” — Revelation 7:9-10

Houston’s First Spanish Campus officially opened its doors on April 12, 2015. For Campus Pastor Juan Alaniz, it is a call from God that brings him back to his Texas roots. The road he has traveled since leaving the Lone Star State at age nine laid a foundation for reaching bilingual and Spanish-only speakers for Christ. The Spanish Campus features worship in Spanish and the message in English, delivered by Pastor Gregg Matte on the big screen with Spanish audio translation services available.

“I believe God is using the boundaries and walls I built in my own life in California to bridge cultural, generational and language barriers-to-worship in the lives of Houston-area Hispanics,” said Pastor Alaniz.

His childhood move to California’s Central Valley closed a chapter in his life as he tried to “fit in” to the Anglo world. Alaniz played basketball, and ongoing relationships with English-speaking teammates left him speaking only English—even at home—much to his parents’ and older siblings’ dismay. Soon, he had forgotten his heart language.

Alaniz attended Cal State University, where he met his wife Josie, born in Mexico to a Japanese father and Mexican mother. She earned two degrees and is an instructional coach for intermediate and high school teachers as well as a college professor.

“My father and I have become closer after I learned Spanish,” he said. “I fell in love with my roots and I fell more in love with the Lord.”

Alaniz’s love for basketball translated into a career coaching boys’ high school varsity basketball while finishing his master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. He continued coaching while counseling at DeAnza Community College. But God had a plan that would eventually take him out of academia, into God’s service and on a quest to rediscover the language of his birth. With intense tutoring from Josie, Alaniz became fluent in Spanish once again. He bought a bilingual Bible and prayed that God would allow him again to think in Spanish.

He received the ‘call’ in 2006 to pastor a Spanish-speaking service at Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto. “It had taken nine years to relearn Spanish,” he said. “It took three years to get comfortable speaking it in front of people.”

Reclaiming his heart language served to repair the relationship between Alaniz and his family, broken after he walked away from his culture. “My father and I have become closer after I learned Spanish,” he said. “I fell in love with my roots and I fell more in love with the Lord.”

In 2013, Alaniz began a Spanish service at Calvary Baptist in Turlock, and in 2014, joined the staff of Houston’s First following daughter Quimi, who has been serving as Student Ministry Worship Leader. Quimi and her sister Sami, a worship leader in California, joined their dad and a team of others in leading worship at the Spanish Campus.

“We pray for a unifying presence of the Lord in worship,” said Pastor Alaniz, “to bridge any langu