José Hernandez Part 2
José Hernandez Part 2

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LIVE with Pastor José Hernandez: Marching for Godly Solutions, Part 2

Compiled by Sherri Spencer

Pastor José Hernandez grew up in Watts, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles (L.A.), CA, which has been greatly impacted by gang activity and riots throughout the years. Hope Central Watts Calvary Chapel has been a beacon of hope through Jesus Christ since José began the fellowship in September of 2011. Calvary Chapel Magazine editor Tom Price interviewed José recently.

In Part 2 of the interview, Pastor José explains how important the investment and partnership is between the church and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). He also shares his history as a gang member and return to Watts as a pastor.

prayer walk

Pastor José leads the prayer march to the local LAPD precinct to show unity between the community and police in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Pastor José congratulates the police for stepping up in several ways, including filling in for girls who didn’t have fathers for the annual father/daughter dance.

Share what your relationship is like with the Los Angeles Police Department.

During our outreaches in the community, a lot of the time we get to partner with the LAPD. We had a huge Christmas outreach one time where they closed down the street for us, and we had a stage and preached the Gospel. These men and women are actively participating in, and doing, great things in the community.

They were present for the prayer walk; they were there to serve us, they stopped traffic for us, and they walked with us. It turned out to be a really good time of prayer, and praying for them, because they are in a very difficult spot right now.

prayer walk

A member of the community carries the cross as a symbol of peace during the prayer walk organized by Hope Central Calvary Chapel Watts, CA.

Can you share how the LAPD are policing differently than when you were a young man?

A lot of people who are screaming to defund the police don't know that the LAPD has a special unit called Community Safety Partnership (CSP), and these men and women are responsible for creating programs in the inner city that serve the kids. One is a Girl Scout Troop that has hundreds of kids. The LAPD and Hope Central Watts came together eight years ago to start the first-ever Father-Daughter dance in Watts; it’s now annual. We had little [5th-grade] girls who don't have a father in their life be escorted to the dance by a police officer. Bridging the gap between the community and the police. We went to five schools, and about 500-600 girls have gone attended this dance. They’ve been blessed, prayed over, and introduced to the Gospel. It was the LAPD who helped to start it.

Another program started by the LAPD is the Watts Rams, a peewee football team that is connected to the Los Angeles Rams. Then you have a program an officer started called Operation Progress, where they mentor kids. A police officer is assigned several kids and they do after-school programming. They go to their school, check up on them, and take them on field trips. Some officers go into their own personal wallets to fill the needs of some of the kids. LAPD officers are doing some great things in the community.

prayer walk

Members of Hope Central Calvary Chapel Watts, CA join the community and local police to display unity as part of an organized prayer march amidst racial tension in the country. Pastor José Hernandez, Hope Central Calvary Chapel Watts CA, has formed a strong bond with local LAPD and notes many local officers have donated money from their own pockets to help youth initiatives.

Can you share a little bit about your story of being a gang member and how you ended up as a pastor?

The steps of the school where we started the prayer walk was the school where, when I was 13 years old, I was initiated into a gang. So, talk about a full circle. Growing up I had a lot of the same problems the kids in my community have, and I think that's why God has me here. I didn't have a father in my home. My father was very violent and abusive to us and was in and out. I found comfort in the streets with my friends. We were the bad boys, and the girls liked bad boys. We ran the streets and there was safety in numbers.

"A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation." Psalm 68:5

Some of the real issues in the community are when you don't have a father in the home to really raise the kids and to show them the love and affirmation of God, and when you don't have somebody who is pointing them to the fear of God. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of knowledge; then these kids make bad decisions. In some cases, they start to like it. So, [I didn’t begin to fear God] until I actually hit rock bottom, when I got locked up and was looking at facing a lot of [jail] time. But God had mercy on me. I was released on probation, started a job, and a guy told me about Calvary Chapel—I was literally living right across the street from Calvary Chapel Downey. I went to the church because I wanted to do what was right, and that is where God began to do a work in me. It took about 10 years for me to actually surrender my life to God.

prayer walk

Pastor José speaks to the community during the prayer march.

How did the Lord lead you to return to Watts after growing up there?

After growing up in Watts, I never wanted to go back. I finished classes at the Calvary Chapel School of Ministry in Costa Mesa, CA, and planned to return to Downey to pastor, but God called me to return to Watts. I wasn’t excited. The pastor at Calvary Chapel Downey, Jeff Johnson, would always say, “Outside these doors is your mission field.” Watts, located 25 minutes west of Calvary Chapel Downey, is where you have housing projects, gangs, drugs, prostitution, and sex trafficking.

During a mission trip to Haiti and preaching under a house collapsed by an earthquake, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Did you want a building, or do you want a church?” At that point, I realized that I was looking for security, because I had never had it. I was looking for security in a paycheck, in an office, in an institution, and Jesus was asking me to make Him my security. God is faithful, because here we are nine years later, and God is still growing us in ways that I would have never thought. We have probably served around 250,000 plates of food to the community. Since the pandemic hit, we’ve been serving about 100 families each week all the essentials; a lot of the people in the community don’t have a car to go to the stores searching for what they need or they’re on food stamps. We are loving on these communities, going back to Matthew 5:16.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

We’re doing what God has called us to do. All we do have are a few loaves and a few fishes, because we’re a little church in Watts, and we don’t have very much. But God takes that, and He multiplies it every single time. For the last nine weeks, 100 families each week had food on their tables, because God decided to put us in a place where I never wanted to go back to.

 

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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