Citizenship buoys father-son Hispanic pastors
FLORIEN, La. (BP) -- Arturo Us is "thankful to God I'm a U.S. citizen."
Us, who hails from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, ministers to Hispanics throughout three Louisiana parishes (counties) as pastor of El Aposento Alto Baptist Church in Florien.
"It's not easy to get citizenship," Arturo Jr. said, "and this is a big blessing in our lives. God brings blessings and this is part of it."
Us' daughter Eunice, the organist at El Aposento Alto church, earlier became a U.S. citizen. Another son, Rueben, pastor of Emmanuel Hispanic Baptist Church in DeRidder, La., currently is applying for citizenship and Us' wife Isabel is still learning English to one day become a citizen.
Us' journey to America began at a time when he believed he didn't need God. The year was 1985. Although his wife accepted Christ into her life, Us was enjoying a life of partying and luxury.
Then, one evening, everything changed.
While driving around town in his car, Us hit a taxi and was sent to jail for driving while intoxicated.
"I said, Lord where are You because I need You," Us recounted. "One thing I had heard is that when you have troubles, it's time to ask God for help.
"He showed me His mercy," Us said. "I was set free."
Once he was released from jail, Us made his decision public on Oct. 20, 1985. For the next year, Us grew in his faith, serving as a Sunday School teacher. Through this experience, he felt called to plant a church in his hometown of Mereda.
The church started in Us' home with his family and some neighbors. For the next 16 years, he continued to preach the Gospel, see lost souls saved and plant churches.
But he began to sense God's next call -- to move out of his comfort zone and move to America through learning of the need for a Spanish church in Florien after meeting a missions team from the area who had traveled to his city.
At first, Us' wife did not want to move. When he asked a second time, Isabel passed on the opportunity. But on the third time, after hearing Us preach on the need to leave everything behind and follow Christ, she agreed to follow's God's leading.
They moved to America for their new journey on April 29, 2002. Us arrived on a Monday and learned that he would lead his first church service the next Sunday.
"I asked where are the people and was told you will go get them," Us said. "I got families quickly in the week before the first service on May 5. People are looking for a church and this was the only Spanish church we had in the area. They are looking to hear something they can understand."
The first Sunday, he started with nine people; the following week, 15 people came. The church now averages 45 on Sundays, many of whom are only in America for a limited time since they must return to Mexico or another country when their visas expire.
Us also serves as pastor of a mission that meets at the District 8 Baptist Association office in Natchitoches, La. Started in 2013, the mission was begun so people who worked in the morning could attend the services, which take place at night. Average attendance is 30.
Since he started in Florien, Us has baptized around 500 people. What God has done is amazing, despite the challenges, he said.
"It's hard to be pastor in America," Us said. "It's harder than Mexico but I love to do it."
The members do not live close to the church. Sometimes, "I travel 75 miles to visit someone to come to church on Sunday or who needs counseling," Us said. Sometimes, "I get a call at midnight" asking him to serve as a translator in various circumstances.
El Aposento Alto Baptist Church is the only constituted Hispanic Baptist church in the District 8 Baptist Association, said Ron Thompson, assistant to the coordinator of missions and ministries. Thompson said from what he has observed, Us works hard to train both congregations at Florien and Natchitoches to be missions-minded.
"It is unbelievable how much energy he has and he never stops," Thompson said. "He's always on the go and doing things to increase the ministry.
"He has a transient congregation, yet makes an impact," Thompson continued. "His attitude is, he is sending missionaries out when they leave. He takes everyone in when he can, loves them, shares the Gospel and truly develops disciples."