Hispanic Ministry at Immanuel: 27 Years Serving Our Community
As Pr. Tomas Angon tells it, Immanuel held its first worship service in Spanish on Reformation Sunday in 1994. The service was led by Samuel Ruiz, a Cuban-American Lutheran pastor and missionary sent by the Indiana District to work in Northwest Indiana. Pr. Ruiz began his work in Valparaiso by offering Bible classes in peoples’ homes until there were enough people to begin a worship service. The Spanish-speaking worshiping community that formed at Immanuel took the name Gloria Dei Hispanic Mission. Today, Gloria Dei continues to be an important part of Immanuel’s identity, and we are grateful for the work we do together to connect people in our community with Christ.
Pr. Angon has been a member of Gloria Dei from the beginning, but he has not always been the pastor. He was a businessman who got involved with Gloria Dei through the outreach of Pr. Ruiz. He responded to the call to serve in ministry, was ordained in 2005, and has been the pastor of Gloria Dei ever since.
After launching worship services, members of Immanuel and Gloria Dei continued working together to serve people in our community who could not speak English, helping them with things like transportation and working as translators during doctor and court visits.
In 2007, the Northwest Indiana Lutheran Hispanic Mission Society was formed to continue and advance the work that was started in the region by the Indiana District of the LCMS. The society was created to facilitate the cooperation of Lutheran congregations and individuals in outreach to Spanish-speaking people.
One of the Mission Society’s first initiatives was to launch a preschool program designed to help Spanish-speaking children to get ready for kindergarten. It grew into a tutoring program for elementary and middle school children. Volunteers provided instruction in ESL as well as homework help.
Working with area Hispanic children made it clear to Pr. Angon that they needed to support the parents too. “We would be able to bear more fruit if we invited the parents to learn the language and learn how to support their kids.” And so, the Compass tutoring program was born, a program that tutored children and offered ESL classes and citizenship preparation to their parents.
Compass began as a response to a need in the Hispanic community but has since grown to help people from all over the world. Now an independent 501c3, Compass International Family Center has helped more the 50 people become citizens and 25 children successfully apply for the DACA program.
In 2017, Juan Garcia, an ordained LCMS pastor and classmate of Pr. Angon, moved to Valparaiso. Since then, he has been assisting Pr. Angon with work at Gloria Dei and beyond. On Sunday afternoons, for example, they travel to Trinity Lutheran Church in Crown Point to conduct a worship service in Spanish.
In addition to its ongoing cooperation with Compass and the Mission Society, Gloria Dei sponsors a yearly Cinco de Mayo celebration, a Folkloric dance troupe, and the Via Crusis (Way of the Cross) parade on Good Friday.
Pr. Angon has been shepherding Gloria Dei through the pandemic with guidance from God’s word and financial, mental, and emotional support. “People are afraid of the disease,” he said. “We have been keeping in touch with our members. We care for them and encourage them keep their focus on Christ and care for each other.”
When asked about Gloria Dei’s relationship with Immanuel, Pr. Angon said, “We are thankful for the Immanuel community because they have been with us from the beginning. They are our extended family, under the same cross and the same gospel.”
Immanuel’s mission emphasis for the first quarter of 2021 is Hispanic Ministry. We encourage you to give generously to Immanuel to support the work of Pr. Angon and Gloria Dei as they reach out to share the gospel in word and deed with Spanish speaking people in our community and beyond.
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At Immanuel, we believe that you can be transformed by experiencing life with God in Christ. Our mission is to equip people for this kind of transformation by connecting people with Christ in a life of worship, learning, and service, whether you are exploring Christianity for the first time or grew up attending church.