The changing face of Grace

News

You want to reach your community in its entirety, but how do you connect with those who don’t look like you or speak your language? It’s easy to feel lost. One church in Tracy, California, recognized its community needs and started praying. God responded in ways they didn’t imagine.

Grace Church today is reaching Hispanic families in Tracy, California. Over 60 years old and primarily Caucasian, the church had had this dream for some time. Jon Field, lead pastor since 2006, says, “Our city is a little over 30 percent Hispanic, and there was a heartbeat in our church to reach that community in a greater way. We wanted to have a Hispanic pastor on staff. Then God sent Luis Floriano through our doors.”

Floriano had been looking for a pastor to partner with and decided to visit a local church. That’s when he stopped at Grace. Says Field, “We went to coffee, and when I heard his heart, and he heard ours, I thought we could be ready in two or three years to add a Hispanic pastor. But then again, I knew we never would’ve found Floriano had he not walked through our doors.” (See more about Floriano on page 18, of the fall 2015 issue of Point.)

Miraculous outcome

It  was a terrible time (2008) to bring on a new pastor. Grace was involved in a building campaign, and the economy was in a recession. Although financially it did not make sense to add another pastor, Field did. For over a year, while Floriano applied for a work visa, Grace could not pay him a salary. But God provided every step of the way. Field calls it miraculous.

 Floriano and his family had emigrated from Mexico because he felt God calling him to work among Hispanics in the United States. The Florianos were navigating the complicated system to stay permanently. Two church families provided free housing for them, and others helped pay bills and supply groceries. While he waited for his visa, Floriano taught ESL classes at Grace.

“It was a great partnership for our English speakers too. They help him teach conversational English,” Field says. “That was the church’s first major outreach into the Hispanic community. Floriano also worked with the schools, helping Hispanic families navigate the school system and parent their children in a new culture.”

One church, many congregations

Today Grace Church holds five services each weekend – two in Spanish.  Although its services are in two languages, one thing the church is not: divided. Field stresses that Grace is one church with many congregations. Volunteers from both congregations together set up and break down for services. And the Spanish services run concurrently with English services.

“We make it a priority to operate as one church. It’s been a huge value for us,” Field says. “We have folks who go to both services, depending on what language they are more comfortable with.”

Grace has also used its facility for Korean and Filipino services. The decision to welcome all types of services has left its imprint on the church and on Field.  Grace is in the process of building a new campus, so hosting other groups is currently on pause.

‘It brings me joy’

“The beautiful thing has been seeing the blessing of God,” he says. “As soon as we brought Floriano on staff, the rest of the church became dramatic more multiethnic. There’s just something about God’s blessing as we trusted him for this. It changed the face of our church.”

Field says the church accurately reflects the community. Not only has faith been built at Grace, it is sustained. Over the past five years, attendance has grown steadily from 250 to over 600 people worshiping in two languages.

“I ministered in Hawaii for seven years, and though I am Caucasian, having a multiethnic church again just warms my heart,” he says. “It really reflects the kingdom more and more, and seeing our church reflect the city brings me joy.”

 Allison Hurtado is a Point contributing editor.

    Point - September 2018

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