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Celebrating Latin American Independence Days at a Michigan Church’s Street Party

On the steps of Lee Street Christian Reformed Church, participants spoke about their Latin American homelands.
On the steps of Lee Street Christian Reformed Church, participants spoke about their Latin American homelands.

Chris Meehan

Standing on the front steps of Lee Street Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, Mich., Joshua Avila raised his arms, leaned into the microphone and shouted to the crowd: “Viva Honduras!” 

Many of the 200 or so people attending the church’s annual street party—this year marking the independence day of Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica—responded in kind. “Viva Honduras!”

Avila was one of several people who were welcomed to speak about their homeland’s independence day. Flags from the countries stood near the speakers and some picked them up and waved them.

Called the Neighborhood BASH because it is a big party, this church-sponsored event has been occurring for many years in a formerly Dutch neighborhood that has been changing in ethnicity over recent decades. 

Because of the change, primarily involving Hispanic families, the church decided this year to hold the BASH on Thursday, Sept. 15, the independence day of five Latin American countries, and the day before Mexico’s day of independence (Sept. 16), said Pastor Joel VanDyke, a former missionary to Latin America.

“We wanted to raise up our neighbors from Latin America. This is a very special day for them,” he said.

The event featured games, Hispanic food and hot dogs, music, information booths on neighborhood services, and a  “critter” zoo featuring goats, chickens and rabbits.

Among those on hand were Rachel and Gary de León, a couple hoping to soon serve as missionaries to refugees in Europe. Looking around at the busy crowd, Rachel, who is originally from Brazil and lives in Guatemala, said she appreciated the diversity of BASH.

“I see the kingdom of God represented here,” she said, “All different kinds of people who are all part of God’s family.”


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