Hope and Hunger: Hispanic Ministry Feeds Community in Kansas City

Just off of Southwest Boulevard, in the shadow of downtown Kansas City, Jesus El Buen Pastor (JEBP) Lutheran Church serves up the love Christ with weekly community dinners, bible study and prayer. Hundreds of people flock to the church each week for the comfort of a home-cooked meal, lovingly prepared by volunteers. Though everyone comes together for dinner, this ministry is folded into a larger food pantry that helps families from a 30 mile radius across both Kansas and Missouri get through the week.

One volunteer shared, “We served 88 families today and fed more than a hundred and thirty at the dinner.” Over half of JEBP current members came through the door of the food pantry in the past five years.

Jesus El Buen Pastor translates into Jesus the Good Shepherd and serves primarily Spanish speaking members. With two pastors, JEBP shows how both the Gospel and Christian community remain unchanged across different languages. Rev. Eberhart started learning Spanish after retirement. Rev. Benito is an immigrant from Cuba and attended the Center for Hispanic Studies at Concordia Seminary. He was ordained and installed in 2017.

Rev. Bill Geis, Assistant to the President sees enormous potential in the work of JEBP. He says, “The Mercier building is walking distance from the state line. Kansas City is where a lot of growth is happening in the Hispanic population in Missouri. We have the opportunity as a district to grow in our love and mission for the people coming to our communities.”

This year, the Missouri District supports JEBP’s work through a $12,000 grant to the Lutheran Urban Ministry Agency (LUMA) and earmarked for this ministry. The district has also provided coaching for the church and as well as covering the cost of Everyone His Witness training.

JEBP is the first congregation in the country to use this evangelism training in the Spanish language. The workshop was led in Spanish by pastor and Plus One coach, Donaldo Sontag. Over 42 lay leaders and 7 high school youth, gathered for worship, prayer, training, fellowship and good cooking.

Louisa, a member, shared how the workshop personally touched her, “I learned that we ought to be Witnesses of Christ and proclaim the word of Christ to all the world. That World includes all people, but we start with family and friends,” Another member, Rose, echoed her enthusiasm, “Pastor Sontag taught me to understand more about what the Bible means when it talks about my neighbor and also how to keep the command that Jesus Christ gave us to make disciples in all the Earth.”

JEBP invited another Spanish speaking mission, Immanuel, Kansas City KS to join them in their efforts. The interaction between the two congregations was lively and their gifts affirmed and encouraged each other.

Another lay leader shared the importance of continuing in this process. “I enjoyed the conference immensely. I look forward learning more in the near future so that we grow in what it means to be Jesus’ witnesses in today’s Busy World.” JEBP is following up the workshop continuing in the training and discussing strategies in their Bible classes. We look forward to seeing what other exciting developments will unfold in this ministry.

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