Historically, the Apostolic Church which migrated mostly out of Switzerland and Germany spoke a variety of German dialects.

“They clung to the German language and retained many of their Swiss and German cultural practices.  Generally, they were somewhat suspicious of the “English” language and the effect that it would have on the church… Language was an obvious barrier in whatever outreach attempts they might have made.  Added to their cautious attitude toward anything English or American was their deep devotion to the Biblical themes of “separation from the world” and nonconformity to the world.”


German influence in the United States at the turn of the century reached far beyond the Apostolic Church.  Throughout the U.S. and especially in the Midwest, German was taught in public schools, there were German papers, and at this time Congress had even considered a bill which would make German the official language of the United States.1

All of this came crashing down, however, when the U.S. declared war against Germany in 1917.  With anti-German sentiment high, the Apostolic Church faced many difficult decisions.  It was in those years that the church community around the United States began to translate the hymnals and transition to speaking English over the pulpit to safeguard against anti-German sentiment and discrimination.2 It is also noted that with growing anti-German sentiment, “prejudice was very much alive in America during the era and was particularly vented against persons with a German heritage.”


Spanish, the primary language among Mexicans immigrants, is foreign to most residents of Stevens County and is often viewed by locals as unAmerican and as a resistance to integration.  Contemporary Spanish speakers, however, reject the loss of their primary language and Mexican culture by maintaining spoken and written Spanish in the home.  

With the continued arrival of Spanish speaking immigrants, there has been a recent calling for Spanish language classes by non-Spanish speaking residents who see the practicality and necessity of being able to community at some level in Spanish. There is also a bilingual, Spanish/English preschool and two Spanish church services in Morris.  

Although Morris is a small town of less than 5,000 people, there are number of language services available to Spanish speaking residents such as TERCERO (a free translation and interpretation service available to the public schools), ELL (English language learner) services for public school students, ESL (English as a second language) classes available through employers, community education, and the Office of Community Engagement, and also a number of private translation and interpreting services for hire.  Training for the TERCERO and ESL services are available free through the University of Minnesota, Office of Community Engagement.  

Regardless of the services available, a number of factors make language acquisition for adults difficult.  These include: employees not being forced or required to speak in English at their jobs, those on dependent visas are not able to work in the community which would allow for more opportunities to form connections and improve English communication skills, and often families come to Stevens County with the intention of only staying for a year or two and therefore do not feel the necessity to learn English.  

In comparing the institution and culture of language of the Apostolic church and Mexican immigrants in Stevens county, it is interesting to reveal two common themes: the desire to maintain ones language culture and the prejudice and pressure to deny it.    Forcing the abolition of German language in the U.S. resulted in a loss of culture that can never be regained.  Although the speaking of German within the Apostolic Christian Church of American has long since dissolved, it is important to look back on history to see where we have possibly gone wrong and what we can do better in the future.  As more Spanish-speaking people join the communities of Stevens County, we must remember the unjust consequence and pain of lost cultures and embrace, rather than condemn, those people who wish to preserve theirs. 



“The primary purpose of an Apostolic believer’s life is to glorify God.”3

Apostolics beliefs are “rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible” and every portion of their lives are  lived as a reflection of those beliefs.4 The ways in which they conduct business, order their families, dress, worship, participate in community, and help others are dictated by their dedication to God’s Word.

Fellowship with other believers and communal worship is an essential part the Apostolic religion.  Every Sunday, members attend service in the morning, share lunch together at noon, and gather together again to worchip in the afternoon.  

Conversion for each member varies based on past life experiences and spiritual conviction, but all include repentance for one’s sins, making restitution, confession of sins, and finding peace with God and man. The word “convert” is used throughout the denomination to describe anyone who begins repentance but has not yet been baptized into the church.  Upon baptism, individuals are then begin their journey as members of the Apostolic Church.  


The majority of Mexican in Stevens County identify as either Catholic or evangelical, however, there are also a number of Mormon believers, agnostic, and non-believers.  For believers, “public religious rituals and individual ties to faith, create spaces of belonging and survival strategies.”5 Fellowship with like minded believers and religious traditions offers Mexicans the opportunity to make connections and establish belonging within the church and local community.  

Religious traditions and celebrations specific to Mexican culture, such as Pasada, Pascua, Día de los muertos, El día de reyes, baptisms, confirmation, and marriage, greatly enhance and compliment local traditions.


Religion and faith play an important role in building community, establishing belonging, and retaining culture within both of these communities. Familial relationships as well as communal relationships are oftentimes founded on the basis of faith. 




Ephesians 5:22 (KJV)

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it

Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.


In the Apostolic church, family structure and functioning is based on a Biblical foundation where the man is the heads of the household and main provider and the woman cares for her husband and children.  While both parents are expected to lead their children in the faith, men are the religious leaders in the house.  As caregivers and teachers of the home, women are oftentimes led to be stay-at-home mothers.

The belief that the family structure is orchestrated by God allows for many large Apostolic families where children are cherished and protected. Throughout childhood there are discipline expectations that a child is a reflection their parents.  


Many Mexican families in Steven County follow a traditional family structure where the husband is the head of the household and primary provider and the wife stays home to care for her husband and children.  For most Mexican women in Stevens County staying at home verse working outside the home is not an option but a restriction mandated by their dependent visa status.  For many Latina mothers, however, staying at home demonstrates a devotion to their husband and children.  While it is the role of the mother to raise “a well-educated child, Mexican families also believe that moral education is a collective responsibility of the whole community.”6

Mexican children are often taught the Spanish language and cultural traditions in the home. While many families in the area continue traditional practices, they engage with the community to provide well rounded education and experiences for their children. 


Both cultures value family and this has a great impact the culture in a small town environment, specifically Stevens County. The idea of being “family oriented” follows mainly after a heteronormative or traditional example. The connections within and belonging due to family bring unity to a rural community and are a driving force in many individual’s role in the family. For men, this is shown in work ethnic and for women is oftentimes their work as caregivers. The importance of faith, moral values, education, and community are taught within the homes where expectations are set on how children will represent their families in the community. 






The Apostolic’s ideas of work and work ethic are bases primarily on biblical principles.

Colossians 3:22-25 (KJV)

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Ephesians 6:7-8 (KJV)

7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 (KJV)

10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.


When the Apostolic people first came to Steven’s County, they were generally accepted because they were seen as honest and hard working people. Rubin Luthi said that a core value was, “an honest word meant something.”7 This was in stark comparison to the Irish immigrants at the time who were perceived as dishonest businessmen.

Today, the Apostolic people give glory to God for the thriving industry they have found on the Minnesota prairie. They attribute their success to longstanding faith and hard work that drives them to sustain it through good work ethics and stewardship.


Mexicans are referred to as hardworking who take care of their community. Many Mexican people in Stevens County are employed through large corporations that judge individuals based on personal work ethic and integrity. Corporations publish and abide by minimal guidelines that push employees to continue to improve themselves in various facets of life. 

Many Mexicans, both men and women, pride themselves on the fact “they understand hard work, that they understand what it means to make sacrifices and that they know what it means to put food on the table.’’8

In a 2012 study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, they reported that “three-in-four (75%) Hispanics say most people can get ahead if they work hard. By contrast, just 58% of the general public say the same.”9

Both of these communities engage with the agricultural and manufacturing sectors of the US economy by working in corporations like Riverview, Superior, and Hancock Concrete. Apostolic people and Mexicans are both referred to as hardworking and dedicated to their work. Within these businesses, owners discuss what success is within differing contexts like work and personal finances, relationships and family life, emotional health and spirituality. The clearest way that these two communities, Apostolic and Mexican, influence each other and come together are in the industries of Steven’s County.





John 17: 13-18 (KJV)

13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.


Apostolic believers hold tightly to the belief that faithful followers of God ought to be “In the world not of the world.”  Although some restrictions have recently began to loosen, members historically have been prohibited from attending such things as sporting events or church services outside the Apostolic Church.  For those outside the Apostolic faith, this lack of integration or community participation is sometimes viewed as haughty or condescending, but is generally respected as a religious belief.


There is an unspoken, and at times spoken expectation, of ways in which Mexicans in  Steven’s County are expected to integrate.  While the majority of Stevens County residents seem to enjoy learning about Mexican culture and customs and generally support the retention of cultural practices within the Mexican community, maintaining culture while traversing the expectations of integration is difficult.  

In local interviews of Latino and non-Latino residents10, both groups of people identified language as being the primary obstacle in meaningful integration and community connectivity.  Other barriers and challenges to rural integration include: insufficient health care resources, limited educational opportunities, limited public transportation, negative attitudes toward immigrants and discrimination.

Although many Mexican adults are engage in ESL (English as a Second Language) courses offered through employers, community education, or the Office of Community Engagement, language acquisition is difficult.   There are also many critics who judge specifically on the use of Spanish in public spaces, which creates feelings of intimidation and resistance.  Integration and language go hand in hand and usually grow together.  This makes it hard for many Mexicans.  Those who work work all day are typically not forced or required to speak in English and those on dependent visas are not able to work where they would have more opportunities to form connections and improve English communication skills.

Too often Mexican immigrants are accused of not wanting to integrate into local society.  The problem is not that Mexicans do not want to integrate, the problem is how we, as a community, define integration.   

As we discuss integration, we are looking at the way they influence and interact within Stevens County.  These two groups have been known to be separate from the larger community in Morris and the surrounding area even though the make a large portion of the population here.  Their visibility or invisibility exists for different reasons.  While the Apostolic community chooses to intentionally distinguish themselves from other community members outside the Apostolic faith.  The Mexican community largely interacts within themselves due to external perceptions and language barriers.  When visible, Apostolics are noticed most often because of their appearance and religious choices to set themselves apart.  However, Mexicans are seen by others primarily based on skin color and language.  These two populations do make up a sizable percentage of Stevens County, but are often not recognized as key cultural influences.





Although Apostolics in Stevens County are well known for their hard work ethic, family orientation, and conservative beliefs, there is also a lot of negative discourse surrounding this community.  There are a number of possible explanations for such discourse and derogatory language, but as with most focused criticism and slander much of what is said is done so out of ignorance, fear, anger, and jealousy.

Much of the derogatory language used to describe Apostolics is directed at the women’s dress and personal presentation.  The typical Apostolic women wear long skirts and modest shirts.  Their hair is kept long and usually formed in a type of bun on the top of the head or neck line.  They also wear what is referred to as a “head-covering,” which is a small crocheted or tatted head-covering.  

It can be hard for those outside the Apostolic Church to understand the Faith’s process of repentance, conversion, and devotion.  This is especially evident in the relationship between the University and the Church.  The Apostolic’s conservative values and outward appearance, in conjunction with their large presence in the local communities, schools, and businesses often clashes with the local liberal arts university’s ideology.  Apostolics are often accused of being “odd” and “close-minded”. 


The results of a study conducted on the attitudes of rural Minnesotan communities toward U.S. immigration revealed that nearly half of rural residents feel that immigrants adversely affect their quality of life.  Some of  reasons the authors identified for rural resentment and hostility towards immigrants included: “Within rural communities there is greater isolation and lesser contact with immigrants and minorities; rural residents tend to be older, poorer, less educated and more politically conservative; the permanent settlement of Hispanics workers who were formerly seasonal employees; often increased immigration coincides with the loss of small farms, expansion of feedlots and agribusinesses and the consolidation of schools; and lastly that the settlement of foreign workers and their families can symbolize a loss of a bygone era, a threat to the conception of the American identity.”11

Although a more recent study conducted within Stevens County reported some of these same findings, it also showed that nearly all the people interviewed, regardless of any resentment or prejudice they may have, expressed the believe that Mexican immigrants in Stevens County are hard workers and family oriented.12  


As we seek to compare and contrast local rhetoric surrounding Apostolics and Mexicans in Steven County, it is important to establish that, while we believe there is a thought-provoking connection between these two distinctly different groups, Mexican immigrants are the minority population and the rhetoric surrounding their existence in the community is generated based on race and ethnicity. It is important to acknowledge and recognize that this is not true comparison but rather an observation. By looking at the similarities and differences of positive and negative community perceptions, we hope that it will allow others gain a deeper understanding, appreciation, and empathy for all minority populations.


The similarities and connectedness of the local rhetoric surrounding both the Apostolic and Mexican populations in Steven County is interesting.   Not only are both groups viewed as hard working and family oriented, one interviewee also made reference to their similarities in integration and local perceptions, “There is an Apostolic community and there is a Hispanic community and I don’t feel like there is a desire for those groups to integrate. There’s a lot of misconception about those groups between other groups.”13What is also interesting to consider is how local rhetoric and negative perceptions of Mexicans is directly related to the progress of Apostolic agriculture and industry.






  1. Klopfenstein, Perry. Marching to Zion – History of the Apostolic Church of America, 1947-2007, Second Edition. Fort Scott: Sekan Printing Company, 2008: 370
  2. Luthi, Reuben, and Chrystol Luthi, interview by Amy Schmidgall, & Joy Stephansen. Apostolic History 1 (September 20, 2017).
  3. “Purpose & Mission.” Apostolic Christian Church of America. 2017. (Accessed September 03, 2017).
  4. “Our History.” ACC Nazarean. (Accessed November 24, 2017).
  5. Vega, Sujey. Latino heartland : Of borders and belonging in the midwest. NYU Press, 2015: 62
  6. Villenas, Sofia. “Latina Mothers and Small-Town Racisms: Creating Narratives of Dignity and Moral Education in North Carolina.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 32, no. 1, 2001: 16-17
  7. Luthi, Reuben, and Chrystol Luthi, interview by Amy Schmidgall, & Joy Stephansen. Apostolic History 1 (September 20, 2017).
  8. Aoki, Eric. “Mexican American Ethnicity in Biola CA: An Ethnographic Account of Hard Work, Family, and Religion.” Howard Journal of Communication 11, no. 3 , 2000: 207-227.
  9. Pew Hispanic Center. “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity.” Pew Hispanic Center, 2012: 64.
  10. Community manager and professionals, Dr. Nina Ortiz – primary investigator. Latina mothers. University of Minnesota, Morris, 2015.
  11. Fennelly, K, and C. Federico. “Rural residence as a determinant of attitudes toward US immgration policy.” International Migration, 46(1), 2008: 153-154.
  12. Community manager and professionals, Dr. Nina Ortiz – primary investigator. Latina mothers. University of Minnesota, Morris, 2015.
  13. Community manager and professionals, Dr. Nina Ortiz – primary investigator. Latina mothers. University of Minnesota, Morris, 2015.

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