Pastor’s Email Leads to Ministry in Salisbury
Story by Evan Knott
Cesar Gonzalez, pastor of the Beacon of Light church in Salisbury, Md., wanted to learn how his church could more meaningfully minister to the community, so he decided to take a simple step: He sent an email.
“As we came to the middle of the summer of 2020, it was very clear to me that the world had changed,” says Gonzalez. “Even though we didn’t know when the pandemic restrictions would be over, it was plain to see that we could not go back to normal. I spent months praying and studying, and God gave me a simpler, clearer understanding of the gospel. The gospel is about healing, and we achieve that healing through humility before God and—just as importantly—our fellow human beings.”
In February 2021, Gonzalez emailed the city of Salisbury inquiring about service opportunities for his church to minister to people in need. He received an immediate reply.
The city of Salisbury informed Gonzalez that there was a new community center on Newton Street that was ready to open, but they needed community partners to help run the programs after the original partners backed out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gonzalez reached out to Greg Carlson, pastor of the Park church in Salisbury, Md., and Jean Pierre, pastor of the Salisbury (Md.) Spanish church. After meeting with their church boards, the three churches decided to partner to run programs out of the new community center.
The city agreed to allow the three churches to use the Newton Street Community Center for free, even covering the costs of utilities and insurance. They also helped to fund various programs. The center will be used as a food pantry and as a center for youth and children’s programs, including FLAG (Fun Learning About God) Camp and Pathfinders. Additional plans are underway to hold seminars on practical topics such as personal finance and health.
“We often talk about Christ’s method alone, which undoubtedly should be our only guide in ministry, but, as good as we are at inviting people to ‘follow me,’ we are generally not great at mingling, showing sympathy and ministering to their needs,” says Gonzalez. “What I came to realize as I prayed for a way to move forward post-pandemic is that the greatest benefit of the first part of Christ’s method alone is not to the people we are ministering to, but to ourselves—it changes us, and that change is a deeply needed one.”
Gonzalez is excited about what the future holds for ministry at the new community center: “My church members are so excited for this outreach opportunity. This has given the congregation a new spark. God was there waiting for us to ask, and here it is.”