Photo essay: Hispanic spirit in ‘Dairyland’

In his quest to reach Mexicans far from the border, Missionary-at-Large and Vicar David Blas shares his faith throughout Sheboygan County, Wis., striking up relationships in barbershops, Hispanic grocery stores, dairy farms and Mexican restaurants.

“I preach the Word,” says Blas, but God “is the one who does the work. He touches the heart, touches the people, and He brought the people who need to be saved, not me.

“I’m just His hands and feet, and God has all the credit.”

Even though they make up less than 7 percent of the mostly Germanic population, Hispanics are the largest — and fastest growing — minority group in Wisconsin, “America’s Dairyland.”

And Blas — 36, married with two sons and Puerto Rican by birth — aims to reach them in spite of hardships that have plagued his ministry. At one point, the roof of his family’s apartment caved in, destroying most of their possessions. And one month into his education at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor and needed surgery. She has since had a second tumor and a second surgery, but despite it all, Blas still believes you only give your best to God for His gifts graciously given.

Now, his presence as vicar at St. John Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Wis., is evidence of God’s hand at work, as is this: four area LCMS congregations “not only talking about” Hispanic ministry, “but pulling the resources together” (from all 21 LCMS churches in Sheboygan County) to serve their Hispanic neighbors as Sheboygan County Hispanic Outreach, notes the Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, director of LCMS Church and Community Engagement.

The Rev. Nathan Meador, senior pastor at St. John’s and Blas’ supervisor as well as assistant coordinator of LCMS Stewardship Ministry, likens the ministry’s challenges and future growth as being akin to “grafting Hispanic roots on the Lutheran tree. We don’t have to come up with something new,” he says. “What we have is the gold standard, the Gospel … we just have to translate it into a culture of the world in the communities we’re already living in.”

Blas already is holding weekly Bible studies at two congregations, and prays that God will bring people together to hold a weekly worship service in the near future.

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Story and photos by Erik M. Lunsford (erik.lunsford@lcms.org), manager of Photojournalism with LCMS Communications.

Posted March 8, 2016

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