I remember being in seminary, and one of my professors had a ring on his finger with some Hebrew writing, and it just so happened I was also taking Hebrew that semester and asked him about it. Although I knew what it said, “El Roi” or “the God who sees me”. I wasn’t quite sure why he was wearing it. He shared a touching story with us and that stayed with me, not so much his story, but the fact that God does in fact see me… and He sees you too. This name of “El Roi” comes from Genesis 16 in a story in which Hagar, a young slave, was being obedient to her mistress and mistreated so much that she ran away. While she was in the wilderness an angel of the Lord came to her to tell her that the Lord had heard her affliction and that she was to go back. It might sound like a strange story if you’re not familiar with the whole narrative, but this blog post isn’t meant to be a thorough Bible study on Genesis 16, but instead a reminder to you that as God saw the young servant girl Hagar in the wilderness when she was at wits end, she was so overwhelmed with life, she was stuck in a situation where she was being obedient and faithful yet made to suffer… for many of us, it too can seem like we’re doing all that we’re supposed to and just can’t catch a break, right? This whole COVID-19 pandemic has many people feeling this way for a variety of reasons… friend, be reminded that God sees you, just as He saw the poor slave girl running away in the wilderness.
For some folks, the loss of a job after having worked so hard to get financially stable completely killed their hard earned progress. For others that were barely getting by week to week, the loss of a job or reduction of hours has also been a major setback. These things might not seem like a big deal to some people because they’ve got savings, or tons of resources to fall back on, but for many in my community and in my church that’s just not the case. This is a blog on urban church planting, which means starting a church from scratch in the hood… an area that’s already under resourced, an area where folks (like myself) have to have more than one job in order to get by… and this domino effect unfortunately hits the church hard too. And when you have no paid staff for tech stuff, audio/ video needs, etc… this is what it looks like sometimes on a Sunday during live stream of service… I’m manning the cameras while Elder Steve Price is preaching.But here’s the thing… God sees the needs of His church and He provides… so when we learn of almost $35K lost being lost already, we are concerned about it but we don’t worry because we continue to do what we’ve been called by God to do. As many are out trying to find new ways to obtain funding for their ministry, as present, we at Reformed Church LA are more concerned right now about making sure our community’s needs are being met. This isn’t a show off, or to brag… not at all, the only thing we boast about is our Savior, His great love, and His great power. But because this is a blog about planting churches in the hood, the hood needs to know you care about it before it cares about what you got to say. We’ve come together with some amazing people, truly God ordained partnerships. We’ve undertaken a pretty big responsibility by joining forces with the Lynwood Unified School District to ensure their food pantry did not stop serving the community when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The district offices were shut down and most employees were extremely busy trying to figure out how to move all their studies to an online format and serve a community that isn’t online by getting them online with distribution of Chromebooks to thousands of students.
Together in partnership with the Lynwood Unified School District, our friends at Greater Emmanuel Temple Church, Lynwood City Council, Parks & Recreation, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and us… Reformed Church L.A have committed to serving and supporting the School District’s Food Pantry every week during the present stay at home order. Because of this collaborative effort, lots of attention has come to what we’re doing, and lots of people are offering to donate money, food, clothes, and themselves to volunteer. During one of these distributions, my good friend Pastor Nisan Stewart of G.E.T said we should talk about how to do more for our community and although it’s a great idea, we both knew that our plates were already super full but just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do something more to bless our community. We can’t just say we’re worried about their eternity but not their now, right? I immediately thought of our good friend Audrey Casas, who’s an amazing advocate for our community, and we’ve partnered on so many other community efforts in the past. She’d recently started raising funds to help serve those folks in our community who don’t qualify for Federal Stimulus checks, or Unemployment benefits, those families who are the most vulnerable and have lost work, reduction of hours, and money. As we were preparing to meet the following day to talk about getting behind Audrey and her team, I got a call from a homie and fellow church planter in Torrance, Russ Hightower. He said his church (Pacific Crossroads South Bay, a PCA church) wanted to help us and our efforts. Well, ain’t that a coincidence?!? NOT!!! Our God knows what He’s doing and He’s ALWAYS on time. So the very next day after our food distribution efforts we met at G.E.T. and formed a new partnership to further support our community. Below you’ll see Pastor Joe Brown of PCCSB, Audrey Casas of Mastering Hope, Pastor Nisan Stewart of G.E.T. and yours truly, Rev. Rudy Rubio of RCLA. Our homies at PCCSB came through with way more than we could’ve expected and hope to bless hundreds more families with their contribution! So what does any of this have to do with the title of this blog post, El Roi? Well, that God sees us, and even though we’re all experiencing hard times right now, we don’t let that stop us from doing what we’ve been called by God to do. The platform may have changed, but the mission and the message remains the same. We are confident that if we do as the early church did, like we read from Acts 2:42-47 in which they “devoted themselves” to the Apostle’s teaching, to the breaking of bread, costly fellowship, prayers, and looking out for the needs of others… all the while praising God… we’re gonna be ok and God will add to the numbers of those being saved every day. We gotta keep pushing, we can’t stop, won’t stop, we will not be stopped if we only keep our eyes on the Cross, can I get an amen?! We’ll do what we gotta do, and know that God will do what He’s gotta do. God is faithful… God will provide… God will draw in His people… and God will use His church… we are His people, His called, and He will use as agents of change in this dying world.
So friends, church planters, pastors, church members, or maybe you don’t even believe in God but are actively seeking because you know that there’s some kind of higher power… please know that God is real and He doesn’t lie, He keeps all of His promises and none greater than, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9.
So, we’re not a big church that has to cut back on staff, we already don’t have a budget for covering our needs, so we won’t let even less money stop us from serving. God isn’t just Creator, He’s Sustainer, and He’s providential… He’s using our team and our church members as volunteers to step up our game and serve in ways we never thought we’d have to. Our team has stepped it up in so many ways to care not only for our community, but especially for our church, that our family in Christ would know they’re loved, not alone, and have a team of people who got their backs, and what a comfort knowing we can count on these people, right. In other words, they’re truly living out Galatians 6:10 that says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
To give you a better understanding as to what I’m talking about, check out this clip of what our Kid’s Ministry did on Easter Sunday.
All that said, if you’ve been a supporter of Reformed Church L.A. and our ministry efforts, please know that we’re so grateful for you, that we appreciate you, and that we’re truly thankful for trusting us with your finances as we seek to share the Gospel of Christ. If you’d like to join in with what we’re doing, please know that we could REALLY use your financial support, as I mentioned at the beginning, we’ve lost almost $35K so far and could use a little help. All for Christ’s glory!!!