I had a delightful conversation with Misael Fajardo-Perez over coffee recently.
Fajardo-Perez, a native of Mexico City, is the mission development pastor for the Wenatchee Valley Latino Ministry, in partnership with the valley's two Lutheran churches. He's building bridges to the Latino community.
Mainstream churches are struggling with declining membership around the country. Here in the Wenatchee Valley, with the growing percentage of Latinos, thoughtful churches like the Lutherans are making efforts to embrace the diversity that is happening here.
Fajardo-Perez impressed me as an open-hearted, community-spirited individual who is going where people are and engaging them in conversations and activities. For example, he's organizing Saturday walks on the Apple Capital Recreational Loop trail and participating in the city's diversity advisory council.
When he came to Issaquah from Mexico to attend Trinity Lutheran College, he was the only native Spanish speaking student and gained an appreciation for what it feels like to feel out of place. It was a vulnerable feeling, he told me, that was alleviated by his involvement with the church.
That experience gave him insights into why some folks facing similar challenges sometimes end up making bad choices by getting involved with gangs and drugs.
He talked about finding creative ways to build community outside the church. In a real sense, he sees opportunity in breaking traditional approaches and exploring new avenues to relate to people.
It struck me that Fajardo-Perez and I have similar challenges. Our institutions are in a rapid state of change, which requires us to find innovative ways to connecting people and provide them with a meaningful experience.
At the heart of Fajardo-Perez's work is a passion for "developing a community of faith that really serves the community and that develops leadership within the community." His focus on community service rather than conversion surprises people, he told me.
We can expect Fajardo-Perez to make a difference in this valley, with his open mindset and commitment to serving the people who live here.