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Retratos || Jahaziel Cantú




Gracia and sabiduría are two words Pastor Jahaziel Cantú has found himself using constantly with his flock and community as he pastors El Buen Pastor in Dallas, Texas. In a culture driven and sustained by hard work towards a better life, helping the church and Hispanics come to see the beauty of the gracia (grace) of the Gospel is essential. While most Latinos in the US have grown up with a mentality of “do, do, do” in order to succeed and make a name for themselves, gracia says “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). As Pastor Cantú explains, gracia is an ever-needed reminder to stop doing, to pray, and to rest in the truth that the Lord’s salvation is through Christ alone.


At the same time, Cantú knows his community requires sabiduría (wisdom) in the biblical sense. The reality for many Hispanics in the United States is a life treated as “less-than,” a life requiring more to prove themselves. Finding time for learning wisdom may seem unattainable. Pastor Cantú continually reminds people that they can indeed have sabiduría to make wise decisions, as such sabiduría is rooted not in themselves, but in the fear of the Lord (cf. Proverbs 9:10). Like gracia, the Lord’s sabiduría is not exclusive; it is not based on merit, status, language, or levels of education; it is the good gift of God for those who find their rest in Him.



CALLED INTO MINISTRY


To show people the life-changing gracia and sabiduría of the Gospel epitomizes Pastor Cantú’s life and ministry. It is the same gracia that found him as a young boy, living in Monterrey, Mexico, and the same sabiduría that tugged on the heartstrings of a young, successful engineer to leave everything behind for a life of ministry. Actually, the call to ministry began earlier, as Cantú served in a youth ministry, Intermedios, of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, where he became the national coordinator of the ministry for Northern Mexico at age 18. After graduating from college as an engineer, and with an offer to study with a scholarship at Western Seminary in Michigan, Cantú wrestled with the idea of bivocational ministry. As he sought the Lord’s sabiduría and direction, God called him to leave behind a career, to abandon his own self-trust, and to trust in Him alone by entering into full-time pastoral ministry.


And so Cantú began seminary where he sensed the Lord truly calling him: not in Michigan, but at Westminster Theological Seminary-Dallas. During seminary, he had the opportunity to help with planting Cristo Rey, a Spanish-speaking church plant of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) in the Dallas area. Even after receiving his Master’s of Divinity, Cantú continued working with Cristo Rey, until receiving a call in 2012 to plant Iglesia Gracia, another Spanish-speaking church plant in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Unfortunately, Iglesia Gracia experienced many difficulties in reaching the Hispanic context due to the complexities of reaching the highly-diverse Hispanic culture. After 4.5 years of hard ministry, Cantú and his session made the decision to turn the work over to new leadership.


What might seem like a difficult blow, humanly speaking, was a part of the Lord’s good plan to use Pastor Cantú’s heart for serving the Hispanic community in new ways. The project for Iglesia El Buen Pastor (also in Dallas) began with an intentional outreach to the Hispanic community through ESL classes in the summer of 2018. Only a few months later in December of the same year, El Buen Pastor was able to begin holding public worship services. Pastor Cantú has seen membership in the church rise and fall at different points in its existence, a reality which is common for churches focusing on the Spanish-speaking community. But today he testifies to God’s work as new people continue coming–many even coming to faith through the faithful ministry of El Buen Pastor.



SERVING THE COMMUNITY


Yet pastoring a thriving Hispanic church includes far more than preparing for Sunday’s sermons. Consider Jesus, the Good Shepherd (El Buen Pastor), who spent so much of His earthly ministry in meeting with, caring for, and healing the hurting and marginalized. Even as in first-century Israel, today’s Hispanic community in the United States needs to be cared for physically and emotionally, along with spiritually. In this sense, Cantú describes much of his role as a pastor as social work. The congregation of El Buen Pastor includes individuals from eight different nations, some wading through the complexities and insecurities of the immigration system, and others standing on stable ground; some who speak English, and some who speak none; those in need of work, as well as bankers and business owners; younger couples, older couples, and plenty of children. Pastoring in this context looks not only like teaching ESL and giving guitar lessons as a means to meet new faces and present the Gospel, but also helping immigrants to find their feet through assisting with translating, citizenship guidance, and finding work.


Through these connections, through building trust with his community, caring for their needs, and learning their stories, Pastor Cantú has become privy to the stories that have shaped these individuals, and the stories that have them crying out for something more. Cantú shares that so many Hispanics have come to the United States looking for the American dream. But when the reality of life as an immigrant sets in, the dream becomes in fact a nightmare, leading many to turn to drugs, addictions, and other sins. While many come from at least nominally Catholic backgrounds, without being firmly rooted in the Gospel, it is easy to become caught in these patterns and work mentality in the effort to either numb the reality, or try and climb out. Entering into the lives of this community, according to Pastor Cantú, reveals the greatest need of the Hispanic Community (both in the Dallas area, but also nation-wide): to hear the gracia of the Gospel, and to put Jesus at the center of their lives.


Photos: A small-group Bible study meeting in a home; a Sunday afternoon ESL class; Guitar ministry classes with Pastor Cantú; some of the families of El Buen Pastor.


Humanly-speaking, the work is slow. Inviting people into faith and growth through the Body of Christ in the church requires faithful, persistent pursuit, and much prayer. While the work can feel frustrating at times, Pastor Cantú finds encouragement in the growth that he has witnessed over the past several years: many coming to faith for the first time, new converts becoming members, new members inviting new people, and the process beginning again. Just recently, a family for whom Cantú has been caring for over a year, began attending El Buen Pastor, and is now preparing for membership. ¡Gloria a Dios!


With people coming to faith from such varied backgrounds and worshiping together, Pastor Cantú would be the first to admit that what he is witnessing is the work of the Lord. And it is work that He is accomplishing through the faithful labor of His servants. Currently, Pastor Cantú is preaching through Colossians – a fitting reminder that “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).


It would be negligent to conclude a retrato of the ministry of Pastor Jahaziel Cantú without speaking to the role of his wife, Ann, and their three children, Elijah (12), Elizabeth (10), and Lydia (8). According to Cantú, he is in ministry thanks to the support of Ann, who has been open to taking her own career on the road in order to serve wherever God might lead. The Cantú family together defines their life as that of missionaries, with the mindset of serving, whether in music ministry on Sundays, or in the work set-up, tear-down, and cleaning for services. The value of family in ministry is not lost on Pastor Cantú. His sagely advice for other pastors is to not take their wives for granted, or assume that they must be performing certain roles as a pastor’s wife. Rather, pastors must care for and protect their wives, and protect time together as a family. As the family is essential to ministry, it is essential not to become caught in the mindset of continual ministry to the detriment of family life, but to care for the family first, so that they may serve the Lord with gladness together. This, it seems, is what the Cantú family humbly is doing at El Buen Pastor, in their community, and beyond.



¡A Dios sea la gloria!


 

PRAY FOR PASTOR JAHAZIEL CANTÚ AND EL BUEN PASTOR

  • Pray for the community to continue to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His gracia and sabiduría, and for people to continue to commit their lives to Him.

  • Pray for El Buen Pastor to continue to grow in membership (specifically, to 100 members by December), that they might be able to support their own church plant in a few years.

  • Pray for their intern, also sponsored through HLI, who is first-generation Hispanic, and currently in seminary while serving at El Buen Pastor. Pray that the Lord might prepare him and his wife (and others!) to be able to plant another church in the Hispanic community.

  • Give thanks for God’s faithful provision for Pastor Cantú and El Buen Pastor, and continue to pray for the necessary financial needs to support this ministry.

  • Pray also specifically for the Lord to provide a children’s ministry worker or helper for El Buen Pastor, who will be able to serve with the needed skills and resources.

  • Lastly, pray that the Lord would continue to reach the growing Hispanic population in the United States through multiplication of Hispanic leaders who are uniquely gifted to speak into the lives of fellow Hispanics.

 



*Besides pastoral ministry at El Buen Pastor, the Lord is also using Pastor Cantú to help disciple and encourage other Hispanic pastors and leaders throughout the United States. He has also worked with others on two different books on Hispanic and Multi-cultural churches: All Are Welcome: Toward a Multi-Everything Church, and ¡Plantemos!: A New Dawn for Hispanic Church Planting in the United States.





 


Please consider giving to HLI so that we can continue supporting pastors and congregations like Pastor Cantú’s El Buen Pastor, and the raising of new Hispanic church leaders, such as El Buen Pastor’s intern.


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1 Comment


Kyshia
Kyshia
Jul 25, 2023

Thank you for this encouraging story of God's faithfulness in the life of Jahaziel and his family. May the Cantú family's wisdom and costly experienced continue to be used in kingdom building to the glory of God. 😇

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