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Retratos || Invertiendo en el futuro (Investing in the Future)



The Lord delights to raise and equip new leaders to shepherd and care for His flocks.  It seems the Bible is full of such examples: Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous older brothers, but whom God gave favor in the eyes of the Pharaoh such that he rescued all of Egypt, his entire family (and thus, the chosen people of God) from the impending famine; Moses, a baby of the enslaved Hebrew people destined for death, but raised up in the Egyptian court as royalty, that the Lord might use him later to rescue His people out of Pharaoh’s hand; David, a young shepherd boy, whom God called into the service of the deranged king Saul, that David might learn the ways of the court, even as God was preparing him to be His chosen king “after His own heart” (cf. I Samuel 13:14); Nehemiah, a Jewish cupbearer to the Babylonian King, Artaxerxes, whom God gave favor in the eyes of his captor, such that he was able to lead a group of returnees out of exile to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  Of course, these are but a smattering of examples just from the Old Testament.


En realidad, God is constantly raising new leaders to bring Gospel truth especially to the hurting, broken, and marginalized. Even when our vision may be shortsighted, the Bible shows that God is constantly at work, often behind the scenes, raising the next generation of leaders for His purposes. One of the great privileges of HLI is to get to come alongside, encourage, and support new leaders from and for the Hispanic community, to take the Gospel message to those to whom He is calling them.  Ana Cruz López, Paty Glory, and Gabriel García are three such individuals whom the Lord has been using and raising up for His purposes.



EL SEÑOR LLAMA A LOS LÍDERES (THE LORD CALLS LEADERS)


Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Ana Cruz López grew up in a Christian home where her father was (and still serves as) the pastor of a local Presbyterian church.  Though surrounded by Roman Catholic influence, by God’s grace, Ana grew up knowing and trusting al Señor Jesucristo as her Lord and Savior.  Yet it was not until her late teenage years, as she began to grow deeply in her faith, and was enjoying serving in children’s ministry in her church, that Ana began to feel the desire and need for further biblical training.  Encouraged by her parents, and after a season of working and exploring this call, Ana made the decision to leave her family, friends, and home to come to study at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.  Her desire is to be able to care for children in the church, and through caring for children, to reach their parents as well.


Like Ana, Paty Glory also was born into a pastoral family in Mérida, Mexico.  By God’s grace, Paty grew up surrounded by Christian primos y tíos (cousins, aunts & uncles), who also attended and served in her father’s church, and helped instill in her a love for service in the church.  A massive change came for Paty as a teenager, when her father accepted a job caring for a new Hispanic church plant in Memphis, Tennessee. At sixteen years old, Paty and her family moved across the continent to a new home, language, and culture, to care for and shepherd a culture new to them: the first-generation Hispanic immigrant community.


It would have been easy for Paty to allow the difficulties of such a transition to turn her away from her faith; yet the Lord was faithful, and as she began college at the University of Memphis a couple of years later, God used individuals through the ministry of Reformed

University Fellowship (RUF) to help Paty make her faith her own.  Through RUF, and some of the individuals there, grew in her faith and began leading Bible studies with RUF, all while continuing to serve in her parent’s church. It was there Paty learned of the opportunity to pursue a 2-year internship with RUF.  After college, she left home to spend two years serving the diverse community with RUF at the University of Texas – San Antonio (UTSA).  Interning confirmed Paty’s heart for ministry, and when RUF offered her the opportunity of serving as an intern-care fellow while pursuing a seminary degree, Paty accepted.  As of spring 2024, Paty has moved to St. Louis, MO, to begin an MBTS at Covenant Seminary, open to seeing how the Lord will use this time and education to direct her next steps.


For Gabriel García, the call to ministry came gradually. Gabriel grew up in one of the lower-income areas of San Antonio where only 3% of his public school was white, with the majority of students under-resourced and either African-American, or (like himself) of Hispanic descent.  In God’s difficult providence, Gabriel lost his mother at a young age; though his sisters attended a Catholic school, his father was not particularly religious.  Aside from some Roman-Catholic influences from his maternal grandparents, Gabriel heard little of Jesus or church as a child.  Yet Gabriel’s life began to change as he experienced the impact of other Christians (from a high school custodian, to his older sisters, to youth group leaders, and later, campus ministry workers) caring for him, walking alongside him, and encouraging him as he came to know the Lord and grew in faith. 


As the Lord transformed his life, Gabriel began feeling the urge to pursue a life of vocational ministry.  What started with a two-year internship post-college with the campus ministry of RUF at the University of Houston, turned into a call to seminary at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, to pursue an MDiv. While he is unsure exactly where seminary will take him, Gabriel loves caring for the church and especially for children who (like in his own story) need someone to come alongside them, care for them where they are, and show them Jesus, in action and word.



A WILLINGNESS TO SERVE:


Perhaps (like Joshua, Moses, David, and Nehemiah) these three young people did not imagine their lives headed towards vocational ministry and theological training. (In fact, there are probably few who experience this calling from a young age.)  Yet the Lord has given Ana, Paty, and Gabriel eyes to see gospel needs in their respective communities, and a willingness to give themselves for His service.


For Ana, a love of serving children and experience caring for orphans back home in Monterrey morphed into an opportunity to intern with a church in Philadelphia during her time in seminary as a children’s ministry partner for the Hispanic congregation.  Learning the hard stories of immigrant children (and their parents) with backgrounds so different from her own has helped to shape Ana’s dream for future ministry.  She has also learned that bringing gospel culture and gospel hope into these stories takes time, dedication, and a reliance upon el nombre de Dios (lit: the name of God, but used to speak especially to the omnipotence of the Lord God). 


Left to right: Ana at a youth retreat in Monterrey; Arriving at Westminster Seminary; Fellowship with seminary classmates.


Ana’s desires are for gospel-sized change; but seeing the Lord sprouting little seeds as she has watched children go from a fear of Sunday school, to running into her arms a few weeks later, are encouragement to keep going.  This is often the reality of ministry; yet particularly in an immigrant community that may be hardened by difficult stories of leaving home, of coming to a new land, and of trying to establish a new life from nothing, sowing seeds of the gospel means slow, faithful, consistent pursuit of people, trusting the Lord to bring a harvest only in His timing.  As Ana has walked alongside children and families over the past two years at her church in Philadelphia, she is thankful for small fruits not only with children, but inroads and conversations with their parents as well.


While adjusting to a new life, new school, and new home away from extended family, Paty got involved serving especially with the children in the church, Esperanza, that her father pastors in Memphis.  Here, she became particularly aware of the struggles of serving the first-generation immigrant community.  An immigrant herself, Paty has a unique ability to relate. She feels blessed that her transition to the United States was relatively smooth, and that she quickly felt cared for and accepted by her new community.  Her time among the immigrant community has taught her this experience is not the norm for many.  As she has served with RUF – first as a leader in college, then as an intern, and now as a fellow – Paty is desirous to help young people (and particularly immigrants who may have a harder time connecting) find a spot to grow in their faith, on campus and in church.  As an RUF fellow, she is eager to both walk alongside other first-year RUF interns, while also helping connect them and their students to the Body of Christ where they can feel known, loved, and included. 


 

CONFIANZA: THE LORD WILL PROVIDE FOR THESE NEEDS!


As young people, Ana, Paty, and Gabriel are seeing firsthand the needs of their generation within the Hispanic-American context and beyond.  Certainly, the needs are great, but Jesus’ promises are greater:All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37, emphasis added).  The task is to see the need, and work faithfully, trusting that it is the Lord who is at work.


Growing up Hispanic in San Antonio, Gabriel is well acquainted with cultural divisions, which he has experienced especially within the church context.  Though he felt completely loved and accepted by his church that welcomed him in high school, it was clear that its majority-

culture was quite different from his own.  One youth worker in particular, Chris, was particularly instrumental in listening to and encouraging Gabriel.  When cultural differences between himself and a campus fellowship group in San Antonio began making Gabriel feel out of place, he began to struggle not only with distance from other believers but, by extension, with distance from the Lord.   In God’s provision, Chris became the campus minister of a new RUF at Gabriel’s university, UTSA.  Knowing first-hand of cultural diversity from his own family, Chris was able to encourage Gabriel in his walk with the Lord, and rekindle his desire to serve in ministry. 


Now, serving as an intern in the highly diverse community of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Gabriel feels that the greatest need of not only the Hispanic community, but the non-majority culture as a whole, is to be heard, to be known.  As Gabriel serves primarily with the church’s children – many of whom are coming from underprivileged backgrounds – he realizes that he is able to connect not simply because of his own parallel upbringing, but because of a willingness to listen to their stories, and to hear their needs and desires.  Moreover, he seeks to ask good questions, and looks for opportunities to bring the gospel to bear in their lives.  He recognizes that the ability to connect with multiple cultures is not easy for everyone, but it is needed. The beautiful truth is that the Gospel message works to bring together people of all cultures, tribes, and tongues.  The prayer must be that the church works increasingly towards this effort!


Serving among the first-generation community of Memphis, Paty began to see the need for helping bring solid, Biblical teaching to a community that tends to have lower levels of education, and very shallow theology.   Moreover, the difficulty in church ministry in this context is trying to care for and resource people in a timeframe that is potentially quite small.  Many immigrant families are transient, moving from one place to the next as work demands.  The reality is that they could be in church only for a few weeks or months, and even that, sporadically.  Paty’s heart is for the church to learn to use the time wisely to equip sheep as they pass through, that they might leave after even a short period, knowing el Buen Pastor better, and with their lives more transformed through His grace.


The work is great, but Paty has learned to take deep comfort in the verse her mother constantly shared with her at bedtime as a child, “En paz me acuesto y me duermo…” (“In peace I will both lie down and sleep…,” Psalm 4:8).  The work may be great, but rest comes in knowing and trusting that the Lord is caring for His people. He will protect and provide for His sheep. 


Yes, there is much work ahead for reaching and serving the rapidly-growing Hispanic population in the United States and beyond.  Yet the Lord is raising up caring, compassionate, willing leaders like Ana, Paty, and Gabriel, to serve and cast visions for the future generations.  Let us pray for these young people as they study and seek the Lord’s continual guidance in their lives; let us pray that the Lord would raise more leaders, like Moses, Joshua, and like these young people.  And let us continue to encourage, support, and come alongside them, as we long for the growth of the gospel together in the Hispanic community and beyond.


¡A Dios sea la gloria!



 


WAYS TO PRAY FOR ANA, PATY, GABRIEL, AND THEIR LIVES OF MINISTRY:


  • Pray for Ana, as she finishes Westminster this Spring, and seeks the Lord’s guiding for her future; pray that the Lord would provide His wisdom, clarity, and purpose, and that she would trust His guiding.

  • Pray for Paty, as she begins a new adventure at Covenant Seminary this semester. Pray for her to find her identity in the Lord, rather than her studies.  Pray also for her ministry to first-year RUF interns, as she serves as intern-support through the RUF Fellowship.

  • Pray for Gabriel, as he begins another semester at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, and is juggling the responsibilities of school, work, and interning.  Pray that the Lord would allow him quiet moments of reflection in the busyness of life, and that He would see how God has been at work.

  • Pray for Paty and Gabriel who are continuing to fundraise during their studies.  If you would like to give directly to Paty or to Gabriel, follow the links on their names.

  • Continue to pray for the Lord to raise new leaders to serve the diversity of the Hispanic community in the United States and beyond. Pray for the resources, the willingness, the vision, and most especially, for the people!



 

Please consider giving to HLI so that we can continue supporting young people like Ana, Paty, and Gabriel in their studies and as they are (already) caring for the Hispanic community.

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