There are some men of the cloth who consider it a great leap of faith to leave their hometown to move to another town in the same state, let alone to move from one state to another. Then there are fearless men like 37-year-old Lincon Guerra, who understand that God’s calling knows no geographical bounds.
Ten months ago, the Panama native, his wife and their three children left their familiar surroundings and families in Texas and North Carolina to move to central Iowa to heed the call to rescue a small Hispanic mission in Des Moines and to serve the growing Hispanic community in West Des Moines.
Like his father and father-in-law, Guerra started working as a pastor for the Lutheran church 10 years ago. He first planted churches in the South before moving here to serve as the Hispanic missionary pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in West Des Moines.
“It wasn’t in my plans to come to Iowa, but then I got a call from Shepherd of the Valley. My wife and I prayed where God would take us, and last December my family and I came here to meet with church leaders and Pastor (David) Dahlke and it clicked for us,” says Guerra. “We saw the need for the mission in Des Moines, because it was suffering and needed a pastor, and we wanted to see it continue. Pastor Dahlke has a heart for the community, no matter what ethnic group, and we received the support and love of the church from the beginning.”
After accepting the job, Guerra immediately started working to move part of the Des Moines congregation to Shepherd of the Valley where, with the support of the church, he and his wife began teaching English as Second Language classes. As many as 115 adults and 50 students are enrolled in classes that are led by approximately 30 volunteers, many of whom are members of the congregation.
“This program builds a bridge between the Hispanic community and English-speaking community, so that everyone benefits,” says Guerra. “Our goal is to eventually offer bilingual services next year.”
Teaching adults and students to read, write and speak English not only benefits learners at school and work, but at church, too, he says.
“It’s also about learning the word of God,” says Guerra. “The first need in life is spiritual.”Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church 3900 Ashworth Road 515-225-1623 www.shepherd-valley.org Traditional service: Sunday 8 a.m. Contemporary Praise Service: Sunday 10:30 a.m. “Come As You Are” Service: Saturday 5 p.m.