Hispanic ministry in Deltona, Fla., seems like a natural fit. Over 40% of the population speaks Spanish at home. But, how does a WELS congregation in Deltona without any Spanish speaking leaders get started? Well, as is always the case, what human eyes couldn’t see, God had already figured out.
In 2017, Angel Otero and his wife, Maribel, moved to Deltona. Angel was born and grew up in Puerto Rico and like many U.S. citizens there he joined the U.S. military. After serving, he was able to retire at 55 and settled in near Good Shepherd , a WELS church in the Deltona area, where they became members.
That was not all that the Lord had planned for Angel and Maribel. The Good Shepherd School reflected the community. Over 40% of the children in the school came from Hispanic homes. The church leadership and Angel began to explore how they might find a way to share the good news. They were introduced to our WELS Latin American mission efforts and the use of a Spanish training program called Academia Cristo. This program has been designed to train up interested Bible students using online materials. It had been designed to train people where there were no other Lutherans around. Of course, Academia Cristo was never intended to just be an online platform. The program has a focus on training and providing materials in such a way that those who have studied can begin to share what they have learned with others near them. It did not take long for the leadership in Deltona to realize that it would also work at Good Shepherd where there were no trained Hispanics to carry out ministry. Angel enrolled in Academia Cristo. He couldn’t get enough. The more he studied the more he wanted to share with others. Now, Good Shepherd in Deltona has a Spanish speaking outreach leader. Angel and Maribel are very active in reaching out to the school families and the community. Angel leads weekly Bible studies in Spanish at the church using the Academia Cristo program.
And, that’s not all. Angel was still connected to his family back in Puerto Rico. He heard that WELS World Missions was working with a church that had been planted there. The next time Angel visited Puerto Rico he made contact with the local church. The church in Puerto Rico had pastors who had been trained by WELS missionaries, but there was a growing concern that new candidates for pastoral ministry on the island were not being identified. Angel knew that the Academia Cristo program could serve them well in Puerto Rico as well. This connection has also been blessed. Recently the church in Deltona hosted a Puerto Rican pig roast and invited members from the church in Puerto Rico to attend. Thirteen members bought plane tickets and joined them for a delightful weekend of food, fellowship, and planning for the future. All reported a delightful time full of hope for the future. There are now four Academia Cristo students beginning studies in Puerto Rico.
It still may not be clear to our human eyes exactly what the Lord has planned for his saints in Deltona and Puerto Rico before they get to heaven. Even so, what we can see is a reason to rejoice. Economic distress in Puerto Rico, made worse by recent hurricanes, has led many from Puerto Rico to move to Florida. This Puerto Rican diaspora is well networked and keeps the family ties strong to the island and around the US. As the gospel is proclaimed in their midst, we know God has promised to go to work. Please, join us to ask our Lord to bless the work of his gospel through Angel and Maribel. May he raise up the next generation of Puerto Rican gospel proclaimers to build his church.
Written by Rev. Larry Schlomer, Hispanic diaspora ministry facilitator and WELS World Missions administrator.
Hear more from Angel and Maribel about how you could reach out to Hispanics in your community in this special Faces of Faith video.
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