From a Pastor’s Perspective

From a Pastor’s Perspective


Pastor of Iglesia Emanuel in Waukegan, Illinois

Q: What is the importance of addressing global poverty as a church? 01

To set the context of the importance of addressing global poverty as a church, first I want to address the mission of the Church at large. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commissions us to make disciples in all nations. At Iglesia Emanuel, we embrace that commission. Only people who clearly understand and practice discipleship understand this call. To be a disciple means to invest your life into the life of another and to be Christ incarnate for others. I’ve been leading mission trips for 30 years. Most of the time it is in the context of poverty. It’s hard to bring the gospel to the poor if you don’t bring something that is tangible. We show the visible love of God by addressing their poverty first, so that they are open to understand that he is interested in having a relationship with them.

We want our people to understand that their purpose in life doesn’t come from a title, a job, money or opportunity. Purpose comes from the gospel— knowing it and sharing it. As a church, we do this together.

Q: Tell us about one way you’ve chosen to address global poverty as a church. 02

One Sunday, Compassion International brought an exhibition to show people what it is like to live in extreme poverty and to see the child sponsorship program in action. Child sponsorship provides food, medicine and other stuff that really helps the child understand they are important. But that’s not the end: Each child needs to understand the gospel and the depth of God’s love. Where else will they get this teaching if not through the Church? We chose to be globally engaged with an organization that is doing the same thing we are doing as a church: sharing the gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ.

For our people, the monthly financial sacrifice is small, and our people understand it’s a totally different investment than giving to the church. It’s an intentional way to bless the poor, to show God’s love, to share the gospel and to make disciples. Child sponsorship is as spiritually benefitting to the sponsor as it is to the child in poverty.

Q: What are some effective ways to rally and involve congregants for the long term? 03

By writing letters to the children, the sponsors in our church have the ability to share the gospel, to encourage a child in the faith and to remind a child of God’s love and faithfulness regardless of the circumstance. By praying for their sponsored children, sponsors in our church are modeling Christ’s compassion to their own children. Writing and praying allow parents in our church to pass on biblical faith values to the next generation.

Our congregation has a lot of first-generation adults, so it is easy for them to identify with children in developing countries who live in poverty. For example, there is a 25-year-old young man from Mexico. Both of his parents died when he was young. He was all alone and really needed an advocate. As an adult when he was given the opportunity to sponsor a child in Honduras, he said yes right away. As a sponsor, he knew that the child would have an advocate whenever he needed one. And that really resonates with his background. I’m also reminded of an older woman in our church who has no family members in the United States. Outside of our church community, she is really alone. She works a few hours a week in order to provide for her simple needs. But she responded right away to child sponsorship because she identifies with the child’s situation. The letter exchange is very meaningful to this sponsor because the child appreciates her and prays for her, and that is a big source of joy for this sponsor. The sponsor trusts God to provide her basic necessities, and in faith believes God will help her provide for this child. It’s like the widow’s mite—giving a small amount, yet it is a big percentage of all that she has.

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