written by Isa Torres, art by Barbara Schwarz OP
This was how the sermon of Dr. Raquel Contreras began at our El Paso luncheon where we honored the women who lead in ministry in El Paso. This luncheon was the last area event of 2023 held by Texas Baptist Women in Ministry. First Baptist Church of El Paso graciously opened its doors to host the appreciation luncheon for women in ministry in which the executive director of Editorial Mundo Hispano, Raquel Contreras-Smith served as the main speaker for the event.
“This is the first TXBWIM has been here in El Paso through an event like this one,” Raquel said. “It is then an honor for me to be here with you.”
An event like this, where women in ministry received appreciation for responding to the calling God gave them, definitely served as a response to a need for many in that room. Here’s a summary of the sermon Raquel preached.
“Sometimes we may feel alone as women in ministry, like we don’t have an identity,” Raquel remarked. “We may feel overlooked and even invincible. But nonetheless, God sees us. God is the one who called us and God is the one who gives us the strength to continue moving forward.”
Raquel used a very well-known passage in Luke 13, and invited the audience to look at it through the eyes of the woman the passage mentions. A woman who sought to serve the Lord wherever she was, and do whatever God called her to do. “God might have called her to wash the dishes, to change a baby’s diapers, or tend the needs of a person in need of advice,” said Raquel. “This woman was always willing to do what God told her to do. That is the type of woman we will see here.”
The story begins in verse 10 and it denotes the type of interaction and relation Jesus has with women, said the editor and publisher of Editorial Mundo Hispano. The setting Luke 13:10-17 paints is full of difficult norms and traditions. During the day of rest, Jesus is found teaching in the synagogue. There, he encounters an unnamed woman who has been crippled for 18 years. After seeing the woman, Jesus calls her right away and heals her saying, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Jesus touches her and the woman gets up and praises God!
But the synagogue leader’s response is far from joyous. He instead admonishes people, telling them to come and be healed on other days, but the Sabbath. Jesus then responds, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
“This woman cared about the things from God,” Raquel pointed out. “Throughout her suffering, she still moved to be in the place where she would encounter God.” A woman without identity, rejected because of her gender and despised because of her illness, who definitely must have felt alone, still sought God, Raquel taught. “Many of us feel alone, we feel lonely even when we are in company of others. Often we are identified by our relationship with others, or the things we do, but not because of who we are.” That is the difference Jesus makes here, when in Luke 13:12 it says “Jesus saw her.”
“Even when I feel no one else may see me, Jesus sees me,” Raquel said.
Raquel took a break from the passage and shared about the things she felt when people’s lives were impacted because of COVID-19. More people were staying at home during those days, but Raquel’s work became more demanding. She was joining multiple Zoom calls throughout the day for ministries all over the world. She had been widowed for 22 years and with everything she was doing in 2020, she realized she was connecting with people all over the world, but she still felt alone and unseen. So she asked God to meet someone again. She then met a man with a very similar background as hers. He was born is South America from American parents who were serving as missionaries there.
“We started going on walks, learning about each other’s families, and then we got married,” Raquel shared. “So one day, while watching a movie at home, I asked him, ‘when did you think you would want to marry me?’ And he said, ‘the first day I was at your house.’ And at that moment I was made aware of how God sees us.”
In the passage, Jesus calling comes after he sees this woman, and that is the same calling that has transformed the lives of all the women at this event, Raquel explained. “It doesn’t matter what sort of calling you have received, it could be a calling to be a pastor or to teach a class for children, that calling comes from Jesus Christ.”
“And after Jesus sees us, and after he calls us, he also gives us a new identity,” she said. “When Jesus is questioned why he healed this invisible and rejected woman on the day of rest, Jesus highlights her identity. A daughter of Abraham.”
“Our identity is not on what we do, but on who we are,” Raquel explained. “We are daughters of God. God has called us and God continues calling us till this day.”
Raquel’s sermon served as an encouragement for many in the audience. Carmen Estrada executive director of Mustard Seed Café in El Paso, and Anyra Cano director of programs and outreach at Fellowship Southwest, joined Raquel for a Q&A with the audience. The time served as an opportunity to build networks, as well as collaboration opportunities for ministers in the area.
We appreciate FBC El Paso for providing a space for this, and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationships with the women God has called to ministry in El Paso, Texas.