The Multicultural Mennonites of Harrisonburg, Va.

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Photo: Jeffry N. Curtis / CC2.0
Media Outlet: Sojourners

Janie T. Carnock wrote for Sojourners about how the Mennonites of Harrisonburg, Va. are affecting major, positive change regarding diversity in the local community:

When Rick Castaneda moved to Harrisonburg twenty years ago, he immediately felt at home in the rolling hills of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
“I found a niche where I felt appreciated and acknowledged, and where I could help others,” said Castaneda, who identifies as a Mexican-American Mennonite.
As a child, Castaneda practiced Catholicism devoutly, walking nearly two miles to attend Mass on Sundays with his siblings. But in middle school, his family moved to Lancaster, Penn. — a “Mennonite Mecca” — and his Mexican stepfather began work at a Spanish-speaking church where immigrants comprised most of the congregation. “At that point, I thought all Mennonites were Hispanic,” Castaneda said.
He soon started to see parallels between Hispanic and Mennonite culture: large families, food, community, and lively celebrations. The similarities resonated; He was baptized as a Mennonite at age 16.


Janie Tankard Carnock is a policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America. She is a member of the Dual Language Learner National Work Group. Her work addresses policies and practices related to bilingual education, English language proficiency, and educational equity.