NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
In April 2013, the CLC declared fellowship with the Iglesia Luterana Confesional Mexico (ILCM, Confessional Lutheran Church Mexico), led by Pastor Juan José Olvera, who is forty-three years old. Pastor Olvera was trained by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)-affiliated seminary in Torreón, Coahula. He graduated in 2006, served churches in Juarez (across the border from El Paso), Gomez Palacio, and Torreón, and was a seminary professor. He also traveled to Cuba to teach Hebrew and Pastoral Theology courses. He left the WELS-affiliated church body over the doctrine of fellowship and concerns over the adequacy of their pastoral training.
Pastor Olvera was born in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico; which is across the border from El Paso, Texas. He grew up in Torreón, where he met his wife Claudia Bucio. They now have three children: Claudia Johanna, seventeen; Maria Elizabeth, fourteen; and Daniel, seven.
Pastor Olvera had heard about the CLC in seminary. He initially contacted Pastor Michael Roehl in Bismarck, North Dakota, six years ago (October 2012) after finding St. Paul Lutheran Church’s website. After much correspondence, Pastor Roehl, President Eichstadt, and Pastor Daniel Fleischer met with Pastor Olvera at the end of January 2013 for extensive doctrinal discussions. The meeting took place in Nuevo Progresso across the border from Weslaco, Texas. Pastor Olvera came with detailed plans to form and develop the ILCM.
In 2014 Pastor Olvera and his family moved from Torreón to Ciudad Juarez to evangelize and to start a congregation there. In addition to this congregation, there are three mission churches: one in Torreón, one in Gomez Palacio (which is next to Torreón), and one in Ciudad Acuña, each with ten to fifteen people attending and being served by seminary students. Pastor Olvera has been teaching five seminary students: Carlos Holguin and Juan Carlos Chihuahua in Juarez, Braulio Bassot and Miguel Sanchez in the Torreón/Gomez Palacio area, and Luis Casango in Acuña. He has also started a pre-seminary program with three men (sixteen, seventeen, and thirty-eight years old) to prepare them for seminary classes and to help with worship services. Because the congregations do not have the means yet to support him, Pastor Olvera works at a secular job to provide for his family.
Pastor Olvera and the ILCM have faced many financial and health challenges, including his wife’s cancer, his diabetes—which has led to kidney problems and the need for eye surgery—and many problems due to poverty and drug-related violence. In September, Seminarian Carlos Holguin suffered a heart attack, and the Lord brought him into His eternal rest. Carlos was thirty-eight and was planning to get married in October. This past July, seminary student Miguel Sanchez in Gomez Palacio was mistaken for a drug dealer. He was kidnapped and executed. While we rejoice that the Lord has brought Miguel home, we pray for his wife Nohemy and two children, six and eight years old, who are left behind. Drug-related violence continues to plague northern Mexico, even making it dangerous to go out to eat as there is a real possibility of being caught in the crossfire of an assassination attempt of someone else in the restaurant.
Pastor Olvera has a number of Spanish-speaking contacts in El Paso, Texas. He is applying for a US visa so that he will be able to enter El Paso and serve them as well.