Editor: Act Locally Waco is sharing a series of blog posts — Faith Doing Good — about local religious groups working in the community. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.
By Briana Garcia
The Spanish-language congregation of First Baptist Waco, led by Associate Pastor Israel Loachamin, has created a program called La Puerta to help the Spanish-speaking community have access to resources in Waco.
La Puerta, meaning “the door” in Spanish, uses social, legal, educational, mental, and medical services for the Waco Hispanic community to connect with others.
“Our mission is to be under the umbrella of ministry of accompaniment in the practice of hospitality,” Loachamin said. “This is why we opened La Puerta.”
Since 2017, La Puerta has focused on three key approaches, Loachamin said. These are educating, advocating, and accompanying. Through these three, the Hispanic community can learn to speak English and to overcome barriers in the community.
“We have a space, and we create a space for people to come and bring their friends and feel comfortable,” Loachamin said. “Everyone is welcome to our ministry.”
The program especially helps the immigrant community, Loachamin said. La Puerta has resources to help the community in times of trouble and worry by connecting people with legal services.
As an immigrant, it is hard to trust reliable legal resources, Loachamin said. But First Baptist tries to find dependable attorneys in Waco to guide the immigrant community and help them feel comfortable in their surroundings.
In 2018, La Puerta created an Immigrant Task Force. It meets two to three times a year, and anyone from Waco or Central Texas can join and talk about how they can support one another. They also go to health fairs with agencies to help build relationships.
“We made a friendship with the attorneys,” Loachamin said. “We like to expand the service to the community.”
Loachamin said some people in his congregation and in the community are struggling. “We provide classes in the Spanish program for people to talk about their fears and to have an idea that they have a group to speak about their problems with one another,” Loachamin said.
La Puerta also provides resources such as clothing, food, education, and medical services.
It is important for the Hispanic and immigrant community to feel like they have all the resources they need to feel welcomed and loved by the First Baptist community, Loachamin said.
When groups of immigrants come to the United States, they do not know the English language or have many friends, but they have skills, Loachamin said. La Puerta has created groups such as a sewing class where they can develop additional skills and develop friendships.
“Another group that we have created makes organic soaps,” Loachamin said. “A group of eight women have been doing well for two years and are selling their product and in the process of opening their own shop.”
Faith is a big component when it comes to the Spanish service and La Puerta, Loachamin said. Teaching others in the community and expanding their knowledge about faith is what Loachamin and other pastors at First Baptist Waco strive to accomplish.
“I know that faith at First Baptist is not just to be practicing in myself,” Loachamin said. “It is the living process and how I want to show my faith.”
Briana Garcia is a Baylor student-athlete and journalism major with a concentration in news-editorial major and minor in corporate communications.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].