Love In A Pot

It was love in a pot,” said Carmen Colón-Brown, the Latino Mission Developer at Vida E†erna~Iglesia Luterana in West Chester, as she explained how members of her congregation brought Guatemalan, Mexican and other homecooked soups to her when she was sick with COVID-19. “I’m part of their family and that’s how they showed their love for me.”

Vida E†erna is a diverse, bilingual, Christian Latino community whose mission is “to be a witness of God’s unconditional love — striving to empower a worshiping environment, fostering LOVE for our neighbor through teaching and caring relationships — welcoming the creativity of the Holy Spirit in conversation and action.” Teaching and creating a worshiping environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, has proven doubly challenging due to the lack of technological skills and resources combined with language barriers.

I imagined Digital Mentoring Sessions with the SOS Outside the Box Team not a practical use of time. I expected the information would not be applicable to the realities of the Vida E†erna community,” recalled Pastor Carmen. “The general Anglo public tends to think everyone has Internet access. Many of my members do not. And, even if they have cell phones, they may not know how to use them.”

Then there is the language issue. Lord of Life Lutheran Church shares its space with Vida E†erna. It also graciously posts on its website links to videos of services Pastor Carmen creates using her iPhone. The problem is that Vida’s Spanish-speaking members have trouble finding the links on Lord of Life’s English-based site.

My people are hungry to hear God’s word…and to understand it,” declared Pastor Carmen. “And not just the adults. The youth, too!” Unfortunately, life gets in the way. “The youth have their issues, like soccer games interfering with Sunday school, but they want to learn. And when asked by their employers to work on Sunday, adults don’t have the luxury of saying “No” for fear of losing their jobs. I knew digital ministry could make a difference, but I needed help meeting the challenges.” She decided to register for a Mentoring Session.

OTB members guided Pastor Carmen in establishing digital ministry goals to meet the specific needs of the Vida E†erna congregation, including creating its own YouTube Channel and, through use of a $500 OTB grant, purchasing a camera that automatically posts videos to YouTube and Facebook. Those successes encouraged her to reconnect with local university students who are now building a new Spanish language website for the congregation.

Our hope got stuck for a while,” Pastor Carmen explained. “But maybe COVID pushed us forward. Now, with OTB’s help, we have found new ways to make God’s word accessible to our community.”

Outside the Box Mentoring Sessions are sponsored by The Thrive! Campaign, which is supported by generous donations from congregations and individuals of the Southern Ohio Synod. We like to think of it as “love in a pot.”