Not long after coming to the United States, Rev. Claudia Ruiz was part of a non-denominational church, unsure of whether she would pursue a call to ministry. She loved her church, felt drawn to help in various ministries in her congregation, and felt known and seen by her pastor. Longing to be better equipped for her volunteer service, she heard about FLAMA classes within The Wesleyan Church, and (after enrolling), continued journeying through the process until she had enough classes to move toward licensure.

“Someone told me, ‘You have enough classes; but now you need to decide what to do.’ And that’s when God called us to the ministry.” Rev. Ruiz’s first charge was as a youth pastor near Indianapolis; and then around 15 years ago, God called Ruiz to Richmond, Indiana, where she started Casa de Alfarero. The church grew, and the people in the congregation became a real community – journeying with each other through both joys and hardships – and as Ruiz noticed the congregational community growing, she also started to realize the growing need for Spanish-speaking churches in the surrounding area.

9 years after planting Casa de Alfarero, Rev. Ruiz helped begin Casa de Oracion in Union City; and as that church continued to expand, Rev. Ruiz noticed a need in the community of Portland, Indiana – and launched Portland’s Casa de Esperanza.

Navigating cultural differences has been a central challenge for Rev. Ruiz and her volunteer teams. With congregants hailing from various Latin American countries, language barriers and distinct cultural practices often present hurdles.

“They are not the same; they are totally different churches,” reflected Rev. Ruiz. “Even when you join the service, you can see how Casa de Alfarero has a majority of people from Mexico. Oracion is 90% Guatemalan; the songs we do, they are from Guatemala — it’s quite different. Esperanza is from everywhere — we see something different about everyone. That’s what is unique — we work in different cultures, and people are accepting how this is moving.”

That compassionate acceptance is a central part of Rev. Ruiz’s approach to ministry: as an immigrant herself, she understands both the importance of retaining the culture of your heritage, and the importance of creating a hospitable space for others’ cultural roots to grow, as well.

“That’s what church means to many of those we work with: help for adjusting to different cultures,” said Rev. Ruiz. “That’s how I get involved with people, and that’s how people get close to God: they know someone can help them and be with them, so they come to church one day, looking for help, and we believe God will continue to help others.”

Rev. Ruiz’s network of Hispanic congregations is living out the Acts 1:8 call to go to “the ends of the earth”  – partly by going to other countries (Ruiz’s congregations believe deeply in God’s global work) – but also by creating a hospitable space where those who are resettling from other countries can find a rich tapestry of relationships that demonstrate the love of God.

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