The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God in whom I take refuge, my shield, and horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
God is faithful and sustains us in all circumstances and I think that we are all experiencing that grace in a special way at this time of our lives.
We have 11 ministries that welcome the Latinx population by providing worship in Spanish: Grace, Bell; Faith, Canoga Park; Pueblo de Dios, Compton; Saint John, Gardena; First, Inglewood; Angelica, Los Angeles; Redimidos, Oxnard; Adore, San Fernando Valley/Hollywood; Santa Cruz, Santa Maria; Fe y Esperanza, South Gate; Central, Van Nuys. All of our ministries accompany our community by providing worship opportunities, faith formation programs, hot meals, food bags, clothing distribution, immigration assistance, after school programs, English as a second language classes, youth programs, support groups (health and mental health), parish nurses, music and art classes, camping, and other ministries.
Several of our ministries have participated in the 2019-2020 offering of Letters to Congress sponsored by Bread for the World, a letter-writing campaign to improve the lives of millions experiencing hunger and malnutrition in the U.S. and abroad. Others are also involved with Matthew 25, CLUE and AMMPARO standing with our vulnerable immigrant communities, advocating for DACA and persons seeking refugee status, and working to stop unjust deportations. Many of our pastors and members participated in different marches in our cities in solidarity with the violence against our black siblings who are being killed and are committed to educate ourselves and work to end racism in our church and society.
Several women from our Latinx congregations attended the Southwest California Synod WELCA Renewal event, October 12 at California Lutheran University and the Winter Gathering on March 7 at Olivet Lutheran Church. Efforts will continue to promote more participation of Latinx women in the women’s organization of our Synod.
On October 18, our Synod hosted the first Latinx Theological Day of Learning at our Synod with the participation of pastors from the three Synods in California. Dr. Javier Goitia, Program. Director for Theological Formation, Seminaries and Lay Schools in the Domestic Mission unit of the ELCA was the presenter. It was a great day of learning and discussion of Lutheran theology in Spanish. We hope to continue to have events like this at least twice a year.
I am glad to report that we have two Latinx candidates that are in the TEEM process: Jade Mohorko Ortiz, member of Redeemer Lutheran, Oxnard; and Carlos Cortez, member of First, Inglewood.
During the pandemic, our congregations are walking with our community that have been affected in many ways. Most of our congregations had several members suffering with the coronavirus and several had died. Spiritual and material support is being provided to members and people in the community. Congregations like Fe y Esperanza; Santa Cruz; Pueblo de Dios and First, Inglewood and Saint John, Gardena increased their food distribution programs as well as hot meals. Worship services, support groups and bible studies are being shared using social media and others have outdoor services. We need to recognize the commitment of the pastors and volunteers who put their own safety at risk to serve with love to our community. Also, thanks to the ELCA, Lutheran Disaster Response and our own Synod, several of our ministries applied and received funds to help with food distribution programs and ministry in general. Most of our congregations also used the time that the sanctuaries were “closed” to deep clean, paint and renovate our buildings with many volunteers.
Sustainability of our ministries continue to be a challenge in most of our ministries as most of our members struggle to provide for the basic needs of their families. Many of our congregations supplemented their offerings with food sales in our own congregations or in other congregations, but during the pandemic all those programs were discontinued.
We trust that God will continue to provide for all the needs of our ministries as we continue to be church together for the sake of the world!