“What Has He Done With My Church?”
Missionary to America Trinidad Castaneda
It was clear to everyone. After more than a century, the church in Arvin, California, had to close. “New” people had moved in. The majority spoke Spanish, and because of barriers of culture and language, the twenty five people left in the old church were not able to share their love with these new residents. But, instead of selling out and allowing their building to be turned into an apartment or restaurant, they searched for a larger church nearby, one that would honor the soul of the building, one that would use the building as a tool to reach the newcomers. They found that church in St. John Lutheran Church, in nearby Bakersfield.
And St. John, Bakersfield found Missionary to America Trinidad Castaneda. The church did change, and some people wondered, “What has he done with my church?”
“Trini,” as he is known to his friends, came to Chicago when he was five years old. Born in Durango, Mexico, like many, he and his family followed his father to the US, searching for a better life. They settled in Chicago; the commuter train behind the house kept them awake sometimes. Trini had no idea he would grow up to be a missionary to America. However, he found meaning in working with Rev. Julio Loza, pastor of St. Matthew, on 21st street in Chicago.
As he grew into a young man, he helped out at St. Matthew, becoming a youth worker.
He began taking classes in a special program at the Hispanic Institute to prepare Spanish speaking pastors. The courses used an adult, “action-reflection” model. It was “just in time” learning. The courses made more sense to the students because what they taught was needed by the missionary at the time – they gave Trini what he needed to minister to young people. During those days he worked odd jobs; like St. Paul, he was bi vocational. Called to Oklahoma City, he stayed nineteen years, beginning a mission among immigrants from Latin America. That is when the call came to Arvin.
The first thing he did after arriving was to scope out needs of the Arvin community. There was an old service building, where food and clothing was shared with the poor, and where children could come after school for tutoring. The building was in terrible shape. The new missionary organized a team from the old core group to paint and make repairs on the run down building. Spanish speaking people who used the facility were impressed with the changes, and were more impressed with the concern of this older Anglo church. Missionary Castaneda began worship in Spanish. That was three years ago. Today seventy people worship the Lord there, fifty of them at the Spanish service. And then the missionary did what all good missionaries do.
Trinidad Castaneda began a training course for adults. Seven graduated from that home grown training – and are being challenged to begin study through the Hispanic Institute. Some of them will become missionaries. This is what St. Paul and the other apostles did. This is what missionaries do.
“What has He done with my church?” He has brought a new spirit. He, the Holy Spirit, has taken hold of that hundred year old church in Arvin – and given it His missionary spirit. Praise the Lord for what He’s done.