When I (Dominic) met Ernie “Chico” Perez, he and his wife Shelia were among the faithful remnant of a rapidly declining congregation. The handful of members left at Hope Memorial Lutheran Church in the West Adams neighborhood of South L.A. wondered how much longer they could hang on. The building was in disrepair and the mission to be an anchor of history and tradition was no longer resonating with the new neighbors, many of whom now speak Spanish as their first language.
Ernie cast a vision for a new Hope, an resurrected and re-invigorated congregation that would be the hands and feet of Jesus on the streets. “Because Jesus lives,” Ernie said, “Hope is ALIVE!”. The congregation boldly chose to re-plant the church – meaning that other than location and theology, every other aspect of ministry would be envisioned through the lens of their neighbors. This included the space, which would require extensive renovation to allow for a more open and flexible gathering area. Ernie led the effort to raise the money and teams needed to help in the renovation work, which was completed in July 2017. Since the replant, Hope L.A. has seen a slow and steady increase in weekly attendance from neighborhood families who took notice of new life at the church. What began as a neighborhood outreach event through music and BBQ has developed into another ministry, The House of the Common Thread, which takes the gospel to the streets of other neighborhoods- often suffering as a result of violence and poverty- and blesses the city with Gospel song and spoken word.
Ernie is a true local leader, doing the ministry at hand – equipping himself through Lay Ministry classes and dreaming of bigger things- like ending gang violence and homelessness in his community.