In celebration of the 50 years of the Office of Race Relations (ORR), we are featuring the stories of people in the CRC who have been actively demonstrating a passion for multicultural congregations and a commitment to antiracism. We call people who have been exemplifying these ideals, “Champions of Justice.” These “Champions” are the nominees for the Dante Venegas award that will be presented at Inspire 2022 in Chicago on August 5th.
We are proud to introduce Jose Rayas as one of these nominees.
Here’s a little more history about Jose and his work:
Jose Rayas answered a call to serve the El Paso Sunshine Community CRC as an Evangelist in 2002. He spent the first three years getting to know the community as an intern working at Sunshine while preparing to launch a new church. It was a time when the CRWRC (presently World Renew) was working on a collaborative borderplex church community development strategy in El Paso, Tex.
Jose from his theological training and an Asset-Based Community Development approach, he facilitated a community shared vision. From the community, a few formed the church launching team and by Easter Sunday of 2006, Valley Ridge Community Church held its first worship service. By then a community had shared the gospel through ESL programs, created sweat equity housing, and engaged in public health infrastructure development.
One example: People in the community had paid their taxes but the roads were not always paved, or sidewalks installed. Packs of dogs ran loose in the dirt roads in the communities surrounding Socorro, Tex. just outside El Paso. The church and community based group worked to correct this injustice. On another initiative, even the children were involved when a simple school presentation on the danger of smoking ended up inspiring city leaders to advocate for no smoking policies in public spaces.
As a pastor in a Hispanic church it is important to establish the trust of the community, says Rayas. “If you don’t have trust, you don’t have the right to preach to the people.”
Valley Ridge Community Church did not become a mega church, but God used Jose to impact people with the gospel in a way no mega church could. He shepherds more than the people who come on Sunday - he is a parish shepherd in his community.
Over the years, Jose has been part of a leadership team raising leaders in El Paso and Juarez.
Jose has been married for 36 years to his wife, Valerie. Together the two have created a wonderful partnership in marriage and ministry. They are the proud parents of three grown children: Adriana, Jackie and Mark.
You can read more about Jose in this article (Network - October 2017). A recent accomplishment to note: Jose was the first Latino elected to be the president of synod this year and presided over an intense and challenging gathering of the CRCNA.