My original attempt to plant a church in South Central Los Angeles didn’t go very far. One of the things we didn’t want to become is a struggling church plant that cannot secure a location, so we researched and found out there was an old RCA (Reformed Church in America) church in the heart of South Los Angeles, on Florence Ave. just off the 110 Fwy. . . you CANNOT get more urban than that. Nestled between Broadway Ave. and Figueroa, in the heart of some of the worst gangland war zones and prostitute “tracks” as well, was found old Hope Reformed Church, we were hoping to see if we could use that building to meet there but we got shut down by the persons in charge of the building. At about the same time (late Spring of 2013) we were extended an invitation to come onto staff at Emmanuel Reformed Church, not just as an elder but onto staff… a paid position, there had been some recent changes in pastoral staff so my role was not very clear at the beginning and we knew it’d be an evolving situation.
My wife, kids, and I prayed for a couple of weeks in trying to discern if we should move forward with trying to find a location in South Central LA to plant or come onto staff at Emmanuel. We asked God to make it clear where He wanted us to be and if we were to remain at Emmanuel to shut the doors at Hope Reformed, and they never opened so we came on board at Emmanuel. It would lead us to some of the best times we’ve ever spent in ministry, great friends being made, amazing learning opportunities… I honestly never thought we’d leave ERC. But God had other plans for us… but we’ll get to that later. If I were to say that we assimilated into ERC perfectly, I’d be lying, but the folks were so great in accepting us, almost everyone made us feel at home.
I’d been under the mentorship of my spiritual father, Rev. Eddy Aleman for approximately 4 years (since 2010), God had such an incredible way of bringing us together and him pouring into me, trusting me, and really giving me freedom to grow. God was too gracious in giving me such an awesome mentor and coach and it was a challenge to move over to the English side (or whole church) of ERC, you see I’d been serving as an Elder for the Spanish Service of ERC, having little contact with the English part of the church. I knew our Senior Pastor Ken Korver loved Jesus and had a heart for planting churches going westward into Compton and Los Angeles. Even though I’d actually considered planting a church, I still had no real concept of how that worked, or what that looked like but I knew that if the Apostle Paul did it, well then so should we. By God’s grace I wanted to give all I had at ERC to bless our new community. At the time we came onto ERC staff we’d been living along the Lynwood/ Watts part of town and then moved into a church parsonage in Paramount, which is a much nicer part of town. It was quite a change for us, the streets were so quiet, almost zero crime, and we enjoyed opening up our home for discipleship and fellowship. As we settled into our new home and community in Paramount, there was a huge difference from the Lynwood/ Watts areas we were living… it was pretty good for a while, it would last a little over 4 years. Total time at ERC was almost 8 years, wow… who’da thunk time would go by so quickly.