After working more on the little block casita we’re helping build for Gabby and her family, we headed to the church for a conversation with leaders about our different ministries to those with disabilities. The two congregations are tackling the same mission for the same reasons – to reach out to all people with God’s love – but in remarkably different contexts. Ours is to families who have a child with a disability, most usually involving the autistic spectrum. Our amigos in El Espina are reaching out to the profoundly disabled in both body and cognitive functioning. Together, juntos, we have committed to keep one another’s ministries in prayer. We are united in knowing this is God’s will for us.
After a worship service, in which I preached from Philippians, some of the same themes I have been sharing at Broadway all fall, but in a different form for a very different context, we had a fellowship dinner in the open air. Out back the women were cooking papoosasas over the open fire. I could have eaten a dozen.
At the close of the dinner, David McGee introduced me to Estrella (star!), a remarkable and courageous woman who, with her husband, has established a relationship with gang members in one of the most feared and gang-controlled areas. Her story of the gradual forming of a Christian relationship with those gang members – often unemployed and in dire poverty – was humbling. They now trust and protect Estrella, accompanying her throughout the district. A number of the gang members have become Christian, and though they cannot leave the gang or else be killed, they can change their focus and direction, building some kind of different future for their families. With projects designed with the church they have developed nine Tilapia ponds in the area as well as home gardens. The church of Pastor Santos is the only church in the area that welcomes gang members. But most importantly, with the help of Estrella, the church is reaching out beyond its own walls.
I asked Estrella, “How did you win their trust?” And she answered, “I told them that God loves them, and I do, too.”