Trinity Lutheran Church, located in the NE Portland Cully neighborhood, is surrounded by Spanish speaking people. At least 2,000 Latino people live in high density apartment units within a mile of the church.
Throughout the past 20 years, the church has attempted to reach out to this population through English classes, food programs, a community garden, and other avenues. Prior to the pandemic, Spanish language worship services attracted 40-50 worshippers per Sunday. Yet, the church has barely scratched the surface in reaching out to its Spanish-speaking neighbors. The neighborhood is also home to additional racial and ethnic groups.
Members of the congregation decided to spearhead a project to help reach these neighbors. The availability of a $3,000 NOW District COVID-19 Community Care Grant, a $2,000 personal gift, and a Thrivent Action grant provided necessary funding for the project.
The NOW District grant provided the impetus for undertaking this project. It was conducted during the final four Sundays in May. Thirty individuals — 15 of whom were Latino — participated. On each of the Sundays, 8-10 teams, usually consisting of one Latino member and one Anglo member, made contact with 4-5 families. Over the four Sundays, 120 successful contacts were made.
Once a resident responded to the knock, team members indicated they were from Trinity Lutheran Church. They indicated that they had gifts. They presented a package containing 18 chocolate granola bars and a $30 Fred Meyer gift certificate. They also presented an envelope containing a Trinity brochure with pictures. The back of the page included a devotion in Spanish and English, and more information about the Church.
The response to team members was exceptional. Over the four Sundays, only two or three residents indicated they were too busy or didn’t want to visit.
Teams asked three questions:
- Is there any way in which Trinity Church can be helpful to you?
- May we pray with and for your family? If so, is there anything that we should include in the prayer?
- Would you like a visit from a pastor?
Team members also spoke about English Language classes and a basketball program for teenage boys, both of which are soon to be resumed, following closure during the pandemic.
Five families had immediate food needs. These were addressed through available supplies in the Church’s food pantry. Five needed help in paying energy bills. Two needed children’s clothing. One needed help with lawn work. All of these requests have been or are being addressed.
Six families had prayer requests of a serious nature that were brought back to the congregation.
There was considerable interest in English classes and the teenage boys’ basketball program. There were a surprising nine requests for pastoral visits. Both Trinity’s senior pastor and its assistant pastor are fluent in Spanish. There is also a one-day-per-week Latina deaconess. Arrangements for visits are underway.
A number of individuals indicated that they will visit worship services.
In many respects, the project exceeded expectations. The willingness to engage in conversation with team members was surprising. Perhaps the gifts were helpful in this respect. There is additional follow up work to be carried out. After the follow up work is completed, will the program be repeated? If so, how and when? The Mission Outreach Board will consider these questions and will report back to the congregation with recommendations.
In Isaiah 55:11 we read: ”So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” God’s message as shared in Trinity’s neighborhood by word of mouth and through love-filled actions will not return empty. It will accomplish that which God intends.