May 2015
Facing Leadership Challenges

Come As You Are

This article is also available in Spanish aquí.

Sometimes God calls us to serve, to love, to lead, even though we may not think we have the right gifts for the work.

I believe every person has a gift that each has to discover for him or herself. When I arrived at Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Houston I met people who helped me do just that.

My family started attending church through my aunt Carmen Luz who invited us whenever she could. It was one of those invitations you really can’t say no to because you know it means a lot to the person. I was about thirteen years old and was not really into church but I was looking for a place to hang out with friends. On Sundays, my parents made us go to church and I would sleep through the whole service. Eventually I started going to church on Wednesdays because a few friends from school attended.

During this time I lost a very close cousin of mine and I remember asking, “Why?” I don’t know whom I was really addressing the question to, as I didn’t really believe anyone could answer it. My mom said, “Ora, habla con Dios, que él conoce tus necesidades. Pray, talk with God, He knows your needs.” This is when I realized that I was missing out on something special.

The Church can show us that God is the God for all – no matter what. My church family prayed for me, called me when I did not show up for services, and worried about my family. I think we all long to relate to someone. We all have a battle we are fighting. Relationships are key in doing God’s work.

My first ministry in the Church was serving as an acolyte. I recognized this was a group of more than 100 young people to which I could belong. At the time, I saw it as a way to get involved; I know now it was a blessing and a call.

Some years passed. Our spiritual director, Rev. Alex Montes-Vela, was called to the priesthood, and after several months I became a leader of this youth group. During this time of change, I noticed the group was diminishing. The biggest challenge for me was with my thoughts: What were we not doing, or what were we doing wrong, since the youth were not coming? I sought help and many people prayed for me and helped me in the ministry. I always had support from one source or another. I talked to my priest and I realized that my calling was still youth ministry but I also had to have a career. I knew I had to continue my studies to better serve the community. I decided to get my teaching degree.

During those years of study and work I felt that maybe it was not my calling to work or participate in church as a leader. I felt sad but never alone. I decided to distance myself a bit and focus on finishing my studies and start my career. I left my position as a church leader and finished my education. The ministry of the Church was always in my heart. I decided to do as little as possible while still serving. I started helping in the nursery and then I realized I could do more things and there could not be any more "buts" such as, I do not have time, I'm tired, I get off work late, the youth is not coming, there is not enough help, we do not have money to do extra things with the youth, etc.

My discernment continued and eventually I became involved in international programs of The Episcopal Church. I went to different events where I worked with many young people from around the country and the world - something I had never imagined since I had never left Texas except when I went to my parents’ home country, El Salvador. During these events I would pray, mostly at night, and asked God to help me find my calling.

After several years of discernment I am still in a church that supports me, where I can express myself, and where I have had doors open to more opportunities that have helped me grow spiritually. At present, I have returned to work with the youth group because I know that God has called me – I still do not know to what magnitude - but I know I have been called to work in God’s Church, with God’s people. It has not been easy or perfect, nor am I perfect, but I know that everything I do is worthwhile.

We need leaders who can come with an open heart. We do not seek perfect people but people who come with their armor that is God to serve, to love, to lead, and especially to work.

Come. As you are. The Church needs you.

Lucy Cabrera Montes was born, raised, and lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Thanh, and Luna, their puppy. She is an active leader in Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo. She graduated from the University of Houston and is an elementary school dual-language teacher. She loves to eat food from all over the world, walk, and travel.

Try This
When looking for leaders look in all places of the church. Young people want to participate and are an asset to our church. This can be done by inviting them to coffee, a young adult retreat, movie nights, sports, the possibilities are endless. Be authentic and always genuine with your words and your actions. Be flexible when communicating this includes social media, Facebook group, text messages, e-mails, and other short forms of communication.


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Cultivating Leaders: Look to the Bible by Lucy Cabrera Montes

This article is part of the May 2015 Vestry Papers issue on Facing Leadership Challenges