“After this the Lord…sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place.” (Luke 10:1) In my travels around the Texas District, I have discovered that most of the missionaries have a partner in their ministry. The obvious answer is that the Holy Spirit comes alongside these people, guiding and sustaining them in their call to bring the Good News to those who have not heard. However, what has become clear to me is that most of these missionaries have a spouse working with them in their ministry. Pastor Nelson and Perla Rodriguez are a wonderful example; two called and dedicated workers in the harvest field.
Nelson Rodriguez is the pastor at Comunidad De Gracia in Houston. Ordained in 2012, Pastor Rodriguez took his first call to LINC Houston to shepherd God’s people at Comunidad De Gracia. Perla, his wife of nearly 15 years, serves as the executive assistant to the mission director at LINC Houston and is a deaconess. Together, they work among the community in Houston’s Greater East End. A multi-cultural area, full of people who know God’s love, along with many still searching to hear about Him.
Nelson and Perla share such a passion for serving God’s people. Both have a desire to serve, not only in the capacity as called servants of God, but to make a difference in the daily lives of those in the community. As I visited with them, they exhibited not only a true love for one another, but a love for the ministry in which they serve.
Nelson is from Puerto Rico, and Perla is a native Houstonian. They met at a dance in Houston and Nelson became involved with the church through Perla at San Pablo Church. Later they began leading a bible study at Comunidad De Gracia. As their relationship grew, so did their faith in God. Nelson was invited to a bible study lead by Mark Junkans, Executive Director of LINC Houston. Nelson was the only person to show up for the bible study, but Mark was able to point him to becoming a minister of the Gospel. Nelson points to that moment as the “tap on the shoulder” from the Holy Spirit to become a servant of the Word. Through the Center for Hispanic Studies in St. Louis, Nelson was ordained into the ministry.
A series of events cemented Nelson’s place as the shepherd at Comunidad De Gracia. Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area and many came to Houston to escape the poor conditions resulting from the destruction in that area. As people came to Houston, the Astrodome became too crowded and people began to look for other areas as shelter. The community center director at Comunidad De Gracia was overwhelmed with the situation and Nelson mentioned that “if we don’t do something to help these people, who will?” The facilities at Comunidad De Gracia were equipped to handle some of those seeking refuge and so many people came to the church for relief. Nelson and Perla were presented with the opportunity to witness to many people there, bringing a family to Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism.
Comunidad De Gracia continues to minister to the community in a number of ways:
- A food pantry, in partnership with the Houston Food Bank, is operated on a regular basis.
- Classes are offered to the community using the classrooms.
- An Easter festival is presented to the community each year, with help from the students at Lutheran South Academy.
- The elementary school across the street from Comunidad De Gracia has also welcomed Nelson and Perla by allowing them to come in and offer assistance to those families in need.
- Comunidad De Gracia worships around 60 people each Sunday, and offers bilingual services.
A true partnership in ministry, Nelson and Perla Rodriguez continue to confirm the words of Mark chapter 9, verse 35: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” This verse is painted on a mural in the food pantry area of the church and is a testimony to the servant nature of Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!
By: Lanny Moore
Texas Partners in Mission