New festival to celebrate God, faith


HUNTINGBURG — Pastors from congregations across southwest Indiana gathered to pray together in Huntingburg City Park last week.


The prayer prepared the park for the first Family Festival / Festival de la Familia this Saturday, Aug. 11, from noon to 10 p.m. Maria Lopez, pastor of Iglesia Nueva Vida in Jasper, which is a non-denominational Spanish-speaking church, got the idea for the festival last year. She saw people enjoying the myriad festivals around Dubois County, and wondered why there wasn’t a festival celebrating God.

“We’re looking for something for the heart,” Lopez said. “People need something for the soul.”

The Family Festival / Festival de la Familia has a three-part mission: honoring God, uniting area churches under one mission and bringing the Hispanic and Anglo — or Caucasian — populations together. The idea is based on Lopez’s core beliefs that local churches should work together to bring people closer to God, and that to do the work successfully, churchgoers must reach beyond their churches’ walls.

Preparation for the festival began in November when Lopez and her daughter, Evelyn, drafted letters to several area churches inviting them to a meeting where Maria pitched her idea. After the meeting, word about the festival quickly spread. Churches from as far as Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, called Maria asking to be involved. Several local companies also asked to have booths, creating a mini-job fair for the day. Representatives from the Salvadoran embassy in Chicago will also be on site to help people with El Salvador citizenship get documents such as passports. There will also be several food booths serving both Latino and American dishes.

Maria and Evelyn hope the festival will be a way to unite the Hispanic and Anglo communities under their belief in Christ. During her 25 years in the area, Maria has seen relations between the two cultures improve, but she thinks there’s still work to be done. Evelyn agrees.

“It seems like Hispanics go to one side, Americans to the other,” Evelyn said. “We wanted to do something to make everyone feel welcome and all of us be together. It doesn’t matter the culture or language.”

While not all the booths at the festival will be done by churches, the focus of the festival remains celebrating God. Entertainment will include several inspirational messages from local pastors, translated in real time so everyone in attendance will be able to understand the messages. The day also includes a plethora of children’s activities, including devotional lessons by Victory Temple Assembly of God in Jasper at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“We don’t care what denomination they are or what language they speak,” Evelyn said. “We just want everyone to come together and work together.”

There will also be a prayer booth where people can go for one-on-one care. That will be a place for people to go who are struggling with something in their personal lives: family problems, illness, drug addiction, anything. Maria believes God can mend life’s issues, and the prayer booth is meant to be a place where people connect to God’s healing power.

Maria knows that most people in the area are already Christians, but she also thinks that for many people, their faith is an afterthought. She hopes the festival will ignite a passion for Christ in attendees.

“God can change hearts,” Maria said. “God can change families; God can change everything. It’s what we believe.”

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