Church planting in Brooklyn: An Interview with Church Planting Wife Melinda Pacheco

Q: What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier in your planting journey?

Melinda Pacheco: Being my husband’s biggest cheerleader, even when I didn’t know or understand the church planting game. In the beginning, I was too concerned with big-picture items, like how things were going to work financially and always being afraid and wondering how much I could really trust my husband in this, instead of focusing on how I could celebrate the small victories

There were so many wins we could have celebrated, even though they were small. Even the “small” victories are actually big ones because it’s for the kingdom. Anything we do for the kingdom — even though we perceive it to be a small win — really isn’t small.

Q: Understanding that all planting wives have a unique role in their plant, what’s one way you’ve contributed that stands out?

Melinda: One of the biggest things was making sure I took care of my husband, Edwin. So, making sure that I tended to his needs — whether it’s just being a sounding board, hearing him out or just walking alongside him. I try to make sure I’m taking care of him at home and allowing him to do ministry well, because I want him to have a home that’s peaceful (well, as peaceful as it can be with 14-year-old and a 9-year-old children).

This has freed me up and has allowed me to do what I do best, which is hospitality and speaking with people and getting to know people one-on-one. The one thing you’ll see me do the most, I’m going to be that person to make sure that I greet people, whether it’s coming into our buildings or our food pantry. I want everybody to feel welcomed. I want them to see the pastor’s wife (yes, the pastor’s wife) is speaking to you, and we are reachable. We are not on a pedestal.

Q: Your community has the second-largest low-income housing ratio. How are you leaning into the gospel when you’re serving in a community where the needs are great? What are you doing to remain hopeful when the needs seem never-ending?

Melinda: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a blessing to our ministry and has opened up opportunities as a church plant. We had this idea of how we wanted to reach the community in a greater way than what we were doing, but we just didn’t have the means. But during this pandemic, it has allowed us to think differently, and we’ve asked, “How can we be the church, not being in a church?” We realized the church doesn’t have to close — we are the church.

We looked for the needs in our community and realized our community needed food. There was a lady already doing pop-up food donations, so we decided to partner with her, and that took off. So lately our ministry has been a COVID-19 relief pantry, and that has opened up so many opportunities for us to connect with people one-on-one, building relationships, and speak to people we have never had the opportunity to speak to before. Now our ministry and the gospel that we bring isn’t just saying “Jesus saves.” It’s “yes, Jesus saves, but before I even get there, let me show you about this Jesus.”

We’re just meeting the needs of the people by feeding them. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, I don’t know if our church would be where we are right now. Before, we were trying to reach people and bring them in, and it was working, but it wasn’t where we wanted it to be. Now we’re at a place where we may not have room for the people once we do open our doors again.

Q: How do you believe the way you and Edwin are serving your community is shaping your daughters’ view of what it means to be a believer?

Melinda: Both of us grew up in Christian homes, but it was more of a religious legalistic background. For Edwin church was every day of the week up until he was a teenager, and then he started making decisions for himself and backed off.

I was similar. I grew up with the mentality that I knew I needed God, but I just couldn’t be in church all of the time. Everything was always very legalistic. Everything was negative, and you couldn’t do this. And God doesn’t like this, and this is bad, etc. We want to make sure we show our girls balance because we didn’t have that balance.

Now that school is over, the girls do food distribution with us on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but we do it as a family. Heather, our youngest, loves to get involved, and our oldest loves to work with little children. Whatever kids come out, she’s great with them.

The harder we work — ministry-wise — the harder we also play. So, if we kill it on Tuesdays and Saturdays and we are just giving, giving, giving, we make sure the next few days, we recover and have downtime, we unplug, and we give each other space because we need it (we’re in a small apartment). This is where a lot of our deep conversations happen.

Q: What has been a high point in your planting journey?

Melinda: In the very beginning of church planting while we were trying to figure out what route we were going to go, Edwin was going through this awakening on what he believed, as far as what Scripture really says, versus what we learned. I was going through my own awakening, and I kept wondering, “How do I know what he’s saying is right?” I had a “you do you, and I’ll do me” attitude — that’s the New York attitude — and I told him I’d jump on board when he got it together. I did that for a while and it hurt him, and it hurt me and our marriage because we weren’t united.

But there was this one day we had this conversation that started to get heated, and he just said, “I really need you to be on board with this.” In that moment, I got really mad, and all I could do — with tears in my eyes — was say, “Well, how do I know that? Tell me what is it that you know that this is it.” And just turning around and seeing him — this big guy — with tears in his eyes, and he says, “I can’t tell you. I just know. I know, this is what God wants us to do.” And just him saying that, seeing the passion and the way he said it, something clicked.

From then on, I never questioned if church planting was for us. And I started asking: How do we do this? What do you want to do? What do you need me to do? It was it was a low point, but at the same time, it turned out to be a high point because from then on, I’ve been his biggest cheerleader. I’m all in.

Melinda Pacheco is married to Edwin Pacheco. They live in Brooklyn, New York and planted Redemption Church. They have two daughters — Isabella and Heather.

Published August 6, 2020

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