By Jennifer King
Dozens of cars file in to the parking lot behind La Perlita, a small Mexican grocery next to a taquería, a tortilleria and a church with a dome in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Across the street, on the corner of Clay Street and West 12th Avenue, light pours from the windows of the church, drawing people toward the open doors.
It is 5:58 p.m. and inside the sanctuary the clock above the double doors leading into the sanctuary ticks quietly.
A handful of churchgoers sit on blue-cushioned pews, waiting for service to begin at 6 p.m.
At 5:59 p.m. a rooster crows outside. Then again. One of the members, a man in a tan suit jacket, takes out his bible and begins to read to himself. The rooster crows three more times.
The convocation begins at 6:02 p.m. More members file in, each one kneeling to pray in preparation for the worship service.
Sounds of the first hymn fill the church. A cappella voices start soft then grow with each verse.
A train rumbles by as members are called to their first prayer.
At 6:18 p.m. the moaning starts as a low murmur then steadily grows until the entire sanctuary is filled with wailing congregation members. The soft cries of a young girl are drowned out by men and women weeping as they kneel and pray the first prayer of the night. They are pleading for God to protect them and their living Apostle, Naasón Joaquín García.
Through daily services, frequent public activities and associated businesses like the taquería, the tortilleria and the Mexican grocery store across the street, the local La Luz Del Mundo church has become a central hub for the Hispanic community of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The Light of the World church, formally known as La Iglesia del Dios Vivo, Columna y Apoyo de La Verdad, La Luz del Mundo, is a Hispanic evangelical church which started in Guadalajara, Mexico, but has expanded to include congregations across the globe. Although estimates vary widely, the international church claims over 2,500 temples with as many as 7 million members in 54 countries.
While residents have positive things to say about the local congregation, the larger church has been met with controversy in its relatively short history, such as allegations of cult activity and sexual abuse by church leaders…
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