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Retratos || Salatiel Chuc


What could persuade a flourishing Mexican pastor, church planter, and Seminary Greek professor with over fifteen years of ministry and teaching experience to leave everything and bring his family to begin a new life in a new land and a foreign language? Only the perfect plan of the Lord, and a servant willing to trust and persevere in God’s plan rather than his own.


In the opening of his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul encourages the church there as he writes, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Knowing that God does bring the good work He begins in His children to completion is an encouragement to trust in His good plan and purpose, and to have perseverencia (perseverance), even when the going is difficult. Even more to the point, it is an encouragement that our trust and perseverencia comes only through understanding the Lord’s perseverencia in accomplishing His plan in and through us. This trust and perseverencia are characteristics that Pastor Salatiel Chuc, of Locust, North Carolina, uses to describe his story.



A PASTORAL CALL


It was the Lord’s plan and perseverencia that drew a young Salatiel to faith during his senior year of high school in Mexico, and continued to work in his heart to bring him into a life of ministry. Ultimately, as the Lord pursued this young man, moving the pieces to train him for ministry and bring him into the work of the church, Pastor Chuc’s heart for serving the Lord grew as well. In 1995, with an undergraduate seminary degree and newly married to his wife, María, Pastor Chuc began teaching Greek part-time at the local seminary, and assisting with shepherding a small group church plant in Mérida. Teaching and pastoring in Mérida turned into 15 years of service, which included planting another church in the Southeast part of the city. For a young man – and couple -who hadn’t envisioned a pastoral life, certainly the Lord was helping Pastor Chuc to persevere and thrive in the life to which He had called him.


Yet this was but the beginning of the Lord’s surprises for the Chuc family. In 2010, the Central Carolina Presbytery offered to help the Chuc family to come to seminary at RTS (Reformed Theological Seminary) in Charlotte for Pastor Chuc to pursue a degree so that he would be equipped to teach full-time at the seminary in Mérida.


Left: Pastor Chuc (far left back row) and the faculty of San Pablo Seminary; Right: Pastor Chuc performs a baptism at his church in Mérida


Faithfully trusting the Lord’s guidance, Pastor Chuc and María made arrangements to come to the US with their two young boys for seminary, with thoughts of returning to Mérida in a few years. Yet even the process of getting a visa and then learning English at the level required to pursue a Master’s degree required much perseverencia and trust in the Lord’s plan. After countless setbacks, Pastor Chuc was able to commence his seminary studies, while serving with Carolina PCA in Locust, NC, to reach the surrounding Hispanic community. Throughout many years, God continued to encourage the Chuc family, and opened the door for Pastor Chuc to complete his Master’s of Divinity and graduate RTS in 2017.


Of course, at this point, the original plan should have been to return to Mérida. But as the prophet Isaiah says, the Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways; but His ways are higher (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). Throughout seven years of studying and ministry in the United States, the Lord had been working in the hearts of both Pastor Chuc and María. The Hispanic outreach the Chucs had begun at Carolina Pres was ripe for harvest; Carolina Pres had gone through some difficulties as a church and was looking to Pastor Chuc for his continued shepherding as well as care for the growing Hispanic congregation; the Presbytery in Mérida had understood that Pastor Chuc’s calling might be other than what they had envisioned; the Lord had been helping the family have comfort about possibly not returning to Mexico; most importantly, the Lord had been shaping Pastor Chuc to have a heart for the struggling and hurting Hispanic community.


So the Chucs humbly submitted to a new dream – the Lord’s continued plan for them, that He had been working through each of their unique circumstances – of reaching the Hispanic community in the United States. In 2017, Pastor Chuc came on staff as the Assistant Pastor of Carolina Pres, and the following year, launched a Spanish-speaking service with the church’s growing Hispanic community.



A NEW MINISTRY


Now, the Hispanic congregation of Carolina Presbyterian meets weekly under Pastor Chuc’s preaching and pastoral leadership. Their ministries include women, children, music, and adult ministry, each of which falls under Pastor Chuc’s guidance. They also meet weekly for Wednesday evening “Sunday school” classes, and there are bi-annual classes for new members as well. Yet with all of these ministries, the majority of Pastor Chuc’s work comes in the persistent work of caring for his flock: walking through the ups and downs of daily life, hearing their stories and heartaches, challenging and encouraging them with the Word of God, and seeking to help them grow in their faith.


Shepherding a Hispanic congregation and helping care for a multiethnic, bilingual church presents with a number of challenges. And as is so often the case in pursing Hispanic ministry in the United States, seeing results takes time and patience. Indeed, it takes perseverencia. In particular, Pastor Chuc has discovered one of his biggest challenges to be finding and equipping men to take leadership roles within the church. The transient nature of immigrant life, and a hard work ethic may play a role in this. Pastor Chuc has faithfully invested much time and care into one family after another, to equip them for leadership, only to have them move on or suddenly disappear, just as they would have been ready to serve.


Similarly, maintaining members and regular attenders on Sundays and for other gatherings can prove difficult. Often, as Pastor Chuc has observed, the Hispanic culture in the United States prioritizes work and earning income above anything else, including church and spiritual life. Even for those who have come to faith, the fear of not working every opportunity (and then some) can be difficult to take. When numbers are lower than anticipated, or when families disappear, it can feel frustrating; it is easy to try and make comparisons with non-Hispanic congregations that have different demographics, and feel that something must be wrong. Yet the reality of Chuc’s pastoral ministry in this context is a constant willingness to invest, day-in and day-out, time and time again, and trusting God to be at work through his perseverencia in meeting with people, praying for them, and caring for them.


Photos: ministry in Locust, NC, with the Hispanic Ministry of Carolina Presbyterian, and with the combined congregations of Carolina Presbyterian Church.


For Pastor Chuc, a Pastor on staff of Carolina Pres, working to maintain a single church body while having two congregations separated by language and culture has presented another challenge. The staff has worked together to attempt to integrate the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities, but even within the body of Christ, this does not come easily or without time and careful commitment and planning. Currently, the two congregations meet for a joint service at least twice a year, although Pastor Chuc would like to see this grow. While it may feel discouraging at times to see two separate congregations, the reality is that, over the years, Carolina Pres has seen a growing presence of Hispanic culture in the church body as a whole, while the associated school has also grown in its Hispanic presence. Work to bring two cultures and two languages together with one voice is a challenge, but as His servants persevere in the work, the Lord is accomplishing His purposes.


With so many opportunities for discouragement and burn-out, it seems fair to ask what it is that keeps the Chucs eager for the work and continuing in ministry in the United States. Pastor Chuc sees the Lord’s work in his own life, and the perseverencia it has taken to get he and his family to where they are, as the encouragement to keep going. As his own coming to the US demonstrates, where human power and plans fail, the Lord is faithful. And as Paul describes to the Corinthians, the power of Christ is made perfect in weakness, in hardships, and in difficulties such that we might say, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (cf. II Corinthians 12:9-11). As Pastor Chuc and María pray and care for their flock, they constantly remind themselves that only God changes hearts; their responsibility is to be faithful in sharing the gospel. Rather than fall into the trap of becoming discouraged through comparisons, they have learned to take the opportunity to see if there is anything that needs fixing, and if not, to continue forward, trusting the Lord to continue working and continue providing.


Another source of encouragement for Pastor Chuc has been through personal relationships with individuals who have become intimately acquainted with the work he is doing, and are able to speak truth into his life and context. Other encouragers are doing work in similar contexts, and are able to understand some of the unique complexities that come with caring for the Hispanic community.


For both Pastor Chuc and for his congregation, a further source of encouragement has been the ministry of Multiplicadores (“Multipliers” – a new initiative through HLI that launched its pilot program in Charlotte, NC), which Pastor Chuc himself has been co-teaching weekly in Charlotte for the past year and a half. Multiplicadores has given his church members an opportunity to come and receive training and encouragement for leadership, while Pastor Chuc is able to use his skills and passion for teaching to train not only his own congregants, but rising Hispanic leaders from other churches in the greater Charlotte area at the same time. Through Multiplicadores, Pastor Chuc is excited to see a potential male leader and a female leader emerging ready to help with the Hispanic ministry of Carolina Pres.


Indeed, though the work is hard and may feel slow, the Lord is at work through the faithful perseverencia of His servants to grow His truth in the Hispanic community in Locust, the greater Charlotte area, and beyond. May it be that the many seeds Pastor Chuc and his church are faithfully planting and watering will continue bearing fruit-thirty, sixty, and even a hundredfold, todo a la gloria de Dios (cf. Mark 4:20).



¡A Dios sea la gloria!


 

PRAY FOR PASTOR CHUC AND HIS WORK IN NORTH CAROLINA

  • Pray that the Lord would provide male leadership for the Hispanic ministry at Carolina Pres and beyond.

  • Give thanks and pray for two new rising leaders (one male and one female) who are going through the Multiplicadores trainings; pray that they would continue growing in their faith and leadership abilities, and that the Lord would allow them to remain and serve in Locust. Pray also for all the ladies who are leading in the music ministry of Carolina Pres as well, that they would continue to grow and be encouraged.

  • Pray for Pastor Chuc & his family’s encouragement in the work. Pray that they would not fall prey to the discouragement that can come easily in the Hispanic context; pray rather that they would feel greatly supported, encouraged, and lifted up as they follow the Lord’s guidance and persevere in the work of ministry.

  • Pray for the Hispanic community in Locust, NC, and beyond, that the outreach efforts Pastor Chuc and his congregation have started this summer would continue into the second part of the year, and bear fruit in the community.


 

Pastor Chuc, his wife María, and their two sons (Salatiel, 22, & José, 17) live near Charlotte, NC, where Pastor Chuc is the Assistant Pastor of Hispanic Minsitry and Community Care at Carolina Presbyterian Church. Pastor Chuc is also a teacher of the Multiplicadores program in Charlotte.




 

Please consider giving to HLI so that we can continue supporting pastors and congregations like Pastor Chuc's, and the raising of new Hispanic church leaders through training programs like Multiplicadores.


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