I recently got the following email:
My name is XXXXXX, and I am a student at the Master's College in Dr. Tatlock's Urban Ministry Class. A project for the class involves studying an ethnic group within an LA enclave, and I have chosen Latinos and Hispanics in Pico Union. I was wondering if you could describe the spiritual and physical needs of the people 1st EV Free ministers to, and how the church has been working to meet these needs. Thanks so much for your time!
I thought I would post my response as it might give a little picture about what we do:
my apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I have been out of town for the last week and was not able to get to your email. I hope it isn't too late.
I'll give you the short answer for now and if you want more info I'll be glad to respond more promptly.
Spiritual need: Well, the spiritual need of the people here is the same as that of all people - They are sinners who need to be reconciled to God. Obviously there is something supernatural that needs to happen in the life of a person for them to come to Christ, but God uses His people to proclaim the message and be midwives in the new birth, helping those seeking the truth to understand it, surrender to it, and live it. So some specific obstacles that need to be overcome when sharing the Gospel with those in our neighborhood are:
1. There is a distrust of outsiders, especially caucasians. Obviously this does not go for everyone but is the norm. This comes from a multitude of sources, including racism, oppression, classism, differing education levels, different languages, catholic vs. protestant issues, jealousy, and misinformation. When someone automatically does not trust you, they will not listen to the Gospel you have to share with them. It is important that Christians find ways to incarnationally live out the Gospel as they try to share it effectively in inner city Latino communities.
2. The culture of the city is one that is very spiritual, but very Godless. Therefore definitions of words should not be taken for granted. For example, we would define sin Bibilically as something which is outside of God's will, or missing God's mark. But to an unbeliever in the city, sin would be defined as anything that hurts someone else. As long as it doesnt hurt anybody, it is not sinful or evil. Thus, they have divorced the idea from any recognition of God and His Holiness. Tolerance is God. Everyone has their own ideas of what spirituality is, and in our neighborhood it is a strange mix of Catholicism, witchcraft, and MTV.
3. The Family, specifically fathers. Our cities will never be what they should until our neighborhoods will be what they should, and they will never be what they should until the churches in those neighborhoods are what they should be, and our churches will never be what they should be until the families in those churches are what they should be and they will never be what they should be until the fathers in those families are what they should be. (Sorry for the run-on sentence, I am preaching on this subject this week and get very passionate about it). In the youth group I oversee, 95% of the youth have only a mom at home. this has taken a huge toll on our community and the youth's understanding of family, responsibility, love...etc.
Some of the ways our church tries to meet these spiritual needs is by:
1. earning trust and introducing them to the love of Christ through meeting physical needs (job opportunities, providing education, helping with groceries, being advocates in legal and health issues, fighting for justice and those who have no voice in our political system, and having a ministry of presence, ie we live amongst them and are available to struggle through the myriad of trials they daily face with them). The Nehemiah House is a major tool in this aspect of our ministry
2. Placing an importance on the Word of God. We have to fight a battle of redeeming the culture of the city and the way to do that is by confronting and teaching people with the Word of God. In the word of Paul "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Co 10:4-5). We do this through providing Bible studies, services, and small groups in the heart language of the people. We make every effort to make the Word of God accessible to everyone, whether that means providing a ministry in their own language, or providing audio to the many who are illiterate in our community.
3. We are working on this one. We have a men's group, and we do MAN Camp for the youth, where we take them out of the city and do manly things and study what Scripture says about being a man of God. We try to emphasize the family in everything we do. Stressing the importance of the Father in the family is sometimes a source of contention as in most Latino communities, the mother is the center of the family. To be honest we have a lot of work to do in this area of our ministry...any ideas?
so I dont know if that was helpful or not. Let me know if you have any other questions. Of course the best way to learn would be to come down and spend a weekend with us and see what we do. You could come down on Friday for our youth group and stay till Sunday at the Nehemiah house. Let me know if you are interested.
Hope your paper goes well and you can apply it for the Glory of God outside of the classroom.