First Communion is a very important rite of passage in the Latin and South American countries. Amigos en Cristo strives to serve the needs of the whole person: mind, soul and spirit.
On Sunday, October 2, Khamila Pérez-Abrajim, joyfully celebrated her first communion through the ministry of Amigos en Cristo Lutheran Chruch, Bonita Springs.
Every year the Amigos Center helps hundreds of families reunite and stay united through the low-cost, legal immigration services provided. Pictured here is Gaspar Mejia. Through the help of the Amigos Center he was able to bring his wife and four children here to the United States. Out of gratitude for the work of Lala through the Amigos Center, they came and brought her a very elaborate handmade blouse from their native Huehuetenango, Guatemala. It is a typical indigenous outfit only from that region. Many families do not have the money to pay for expensive immigration services yet they are very grateful for the services the Amigos Center provides. This was their heartfelt way to show their appreciation for Lala and the Amigos Center Immigration ministry.
Pictured here is: Luis Fernando (eldest son), Juana, Lala (Immigration Specialist) & Gaspar Mejia.
Also in the past month, Amigos Center partnered with the Mexican Consulate to help people with Passports and educating them on their rights and the services the consulate provides. The Amigos Center also partnered with The Health Department of Collier to do a Health Education class.
Amigos Center in Immokalee is proudly serving over 25 students in our Literacy Program on Monday. Students are arriving early and staying after class to study and practice what they learned so they can move to our Rosetta Stone program. Director of Development, Leah McCann led one of the classes today and had the students singing the months of the year. “It was moving to hear the group sing and really staying focused to remember the months. It was even more moving to see them helping one another and encouraging one another to participate.” As the need continues to grow, we work diligently to accommodate everyone at their current level. We continue to pray for a Haitian Creole volunteer to assist us in our Literacy Program. If you are interested in volunteering in Immokalee, please contact Karl Glander at: (239) 657-3822.
Two new pastors are on the way. The last week of August Pastor Selle traveled to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO to participate in the orientation of two new students who are beginning their formal theological studies leading to ordination into the pastoral office of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Herminio Pagan, Messiah Lutheran Church, Naples, and Saint Luc Charelus, Haitian Immokalee Lutheran Church both made their first visit to the seminary campus. They joined dozens of other first year students from all across the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Pakistan, Laos, Sudan and even Mongolia. This is a four year program of study. What an inspirational thing to see people from across the globe with such joy and dedication to our Lord Jesus Christ. Our circuit now has three students studying for the pastoral office at Concordia Seminary. Andre Mezilus is now a vicar and is in his third year of studying in the Ethnic Immmigrant Institute of Theology at Concordia Seminary.
Quinceañera, Desiree Martinez, beams next to her father, Enrique, during her coming out party in North Fort Myers. Latin American girls often celebrate their fifteenth birthday (16th in Puerto Rico) with family and friends with an elaborate party. Traditionally, the Quinceañera marks a turning point in a young woman’s life when she is allowed to date boys, go on outings with friends, be allowed a degree of greater independence, etc. Since Pastor Selle baptized Desiree when she was seven years old, he was invited to consecrate the event with both Word and prayer. A common theological theme at such an event is that the young woman is now at an age when she is to live out her baptismal covenant with God as an adult woman, no longer as a child under the tutelage of her parents.
In order to maintain high standards of financial integrity, our Amigos ministry maintains a standing Financial Review Committee. The committee:
- establishes and periodically reviews our financial investment policy;
- assumes responsibility for oversight of the annual audit, review, or compilation of our financial statements;
- is responsible for the selection of an independent accountant; and
- investigates any reported violation of our employee policies.
Members of the committee are (pictured left to right) Pat O’Donnell, (owner of O’Donnell Landscapes, board member of Amigos en Cristo and former chairperson of the United Way of Lee County Campaign Drive); Tom Cioper (Former president of Zion Lutheran Church, Fort Myers and retired Major Account Manager of Motorola Semiconductors); and Denny Brown (retired CFO/CEO of Owens Illinois Latin American Division, former volunteer Financial Consultant for Amigos Center and long time community volunteer).
Armando Ortegon is our first Amigos Center Chaplain. Since the retirement of Rev. Lomba last March, we no longer have a full-time pastor in Immokalee. Our Immokalee staff felt the need to create the position of volunteer chaplain to help fill that void. The Chaplain is responsible for providing spiritual services to the clients of Immokalee Amigos Center. The chaplain connects the spiritual services of our Immokalee Lutheran Church with the social services of Amigos Center by actively engaging and listening to the patrons of Amigos Center in a Christ like manner. The Chaplain offers both group and individual prayer to our clients, staff and volunteers. Born in Colombia, Armando has no problem communicating with the many Hispanics who come into our center. Armando is in charge of our Marriage Enrichment ministry in Bonita Springs and is one of Pastor Selle’s advanced theology students. In the near future we expect to also have a Haitian Chaplain serving along side of Armando. This will be a important since about a third of our clients are Haitian.
Andre Mezilus, our Mission Developer for Haitians in Immokalee, received his vicarage assignment from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on July 20, 2011. Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, issued Andre his vicarage assignment during a special service at the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus located on the seminary campus. Four other Ethic Immigrant Institute of Theology (EIIT) students received their divine calls during the same service. Andre has successfully completed 11 of the 16 EIIT courses required to graduate. Upon graduation, Andre will receive his Theological Diploma from Concordia Seminary, thus making him eligible for a divine call into the ministry of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Recently retired LCMS pastor Steve Hess began serving as Andre’s mentor during this past summer semester.
As part of our Amigos en Cristo pastoral staff, Andre is a key person in our vision to establish three Haitian Lutheran Churches in Southwest Florida by the year 2013. We envision these churches to be in Immokalee, Naples and Fort Myers. Also key to our vision is our second Haitian worker, Saint Luc Charelus. Saint Luc begins his theological studies with the Ethic Immigrant Institute of Theology on August 30, 2011. His mentor will be Rev. Richard Browning, Hope Lutheran Church, Bonita Springs, FL. A grant from the Zimmer Family Foundation of Sarasota, FL is underwriting a portion of the theological studies of Andre and Saint Luc.