When Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. visited Nueva Esperanza UMC in Tulsa on Aug. 17, more than 150 people attended the late-afternoon service.
The great turnout was a big blessing, said Pastor Daniel Llanos Jimenez.
The bishop preached on "Detours, Obstacles, or Opportunities." That title speaks to the determination by this primarily Hispanic congregation to reach and disciple new people, said Rev. Llanos.
Nueva Esperanza began in 2002, meeting in shared space. The congregation gained new life in March 2012, when the people moved into a permanent location: the former Harvard Avenue UMC building.
"We have experienced struggles and also moments of brokenness," said Llanos, "but thank God we continue forward, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, handing out food through our food pantry and, lately, going out to the streets one day a week."
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Nueva Esperanza searches out those who are homeless, "to whom simply we are giving a hug, a box with food, prayer when they ask for it, and a farewell with the simple phrase ‘Remember, Jesus loves you,’" explained the pastor.
The church’s food pantry has expanded to serve about 1,000 people per month. In 2012, about 700 hungry people were assisted monthly.
Five church members are enrolled in the Conference’s Academy for Part-Time Local Pastors at Okmulgee. They are: Arturo and Rocio Amaro, Josephine Jimenez, Rosangela and Frank Slager.
"In our pilgrimage we have had to take detours," Llanos wrote after Bishop Hayes’ visit. But those led to opportunities to glorify God’s name as Tulsa residents see God’s hand in the ministry by the people of Nueva Esperanza.
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