The seeds of Parroquia Emaús, a new congregation in Racine, Wis., were planted 15 years ago when its partner, Emmaus Evangelical Lutheran Church, started after-school and summer camp ministries for children in the congregation’s inner-city neighborhood.

Participants came from largely working-poor families where 80 percent of the children live at or below the poverty line. When pastor and mission developer Jhon Freddy Correa was called to start Parroquia Emaús, he built up the new faith community through Emmaus’ existing ministries.

Through their children, parents became involved with Correa’s home Bible studies and prayer groups. Over time, people asked for a more formal worship experience, so Correa organized all-Spanish services on Sundays after Emmaus held its morning worship.

These services are important to the largely Latino new start because some Latinos felt rejected in Racine, Correa said. At Parroquia Emaús, “Latinos feel included—they feel like family,” he said. “They feel God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. They feel listened to. Some felt rejected [in their community] but now feel at home.”

As part of its ministry, Parroquia Emaús partners with two local colleges to provide courses for the Latino community. The results are paying off. More than 70 community members worked through Parroquia Emaús to complete the GED exam. And the neighborhood ministries for children continue. About 30 children are enrolled in the after-school program. About 30 children attend the congregation’s five-week summer camp.

Emmaus’ pastor, Mary Janz, said the new congregation “has been a huge asset to Emmaus Lutheran. The kids of Parroquia Emaús bring a lot of life. The parents are people of strong faith—to hear their stories is inspirational.”

This story was first published in the newest edition of Stories of Faith in Action, an annual ELCA publication highlighting how Mission Support—a portion of your offering that is sent to your synod and churchwide organization—is making a difference in our country and around the world.

Mark Brewer
Brewer is a freelance writer living in Elizabeth, Ill.

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