From Puerto Rican paradise to a New England winter
October 30, 2017
I am Veronica Soto-Feliciano, 37 years old, born and raised on a small island in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico. I come from a family that has been serving God in the PC(USA) for over 35 years. I’m one of three children in a family that loves to celebrate their happiness and failures with all the extended family.
Today I am married, living in the Greater Boston area with my husband and my oldest nephew. My parents and other family live in the northwest area of Puerto Rico. I’ve been a speech and language therapist for over 15 years and an applied behavior analyst (ABA) counselor. I was ordained 10 years ago, as a pastor by the Noroeste Presbytery in the Synod of Boriquén, Puerto Rico.
In Puerto Rico, it is summer all year long. Puerto Rico has beaches, forests, mountains and beautiful skies, like a paradise. In Puerto Rico, I was a bivocational pastor, working 30 hours in a small church (Iglesia Presbiteriana en Quebrada, Camuy). I served God there for seven years while also working 40 hours as a speech assistant with children with disabilities.
When I came to the United States, to Boston, it seemed like the worst winter of New England. It was a very difficult change and time for me. I came because I received the call to serve God in a Hispanic church, Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana “Elim” de Boston, as a part-time pastor. It was a surprise for me, because I never imagined that one day I would come to serve God in this part of the United States, and to be the pastor of the only Hispanic church from the PC(USA) in the New England area.
God moved me from a Caribbean paradise to a New England winter. I lived alone in a new city for the first seven months, because my husband was still in Puerto Rico helping his family and searching for a job.
At first I spent days asking God, “Why?”
In Puerto Rico, I had a house, work and my family. Then I felt God’s call. He was preparing me and my family for a new journey, to serve others in need, and to make my faith grow.
God moved us before Puerto Rico’s social and economic situation collapsed and gave me the opportunity to have a loving church to serve, meet members from the Presbyterian church who have come from Central and South America and the Caribbean, and work in a nonprofit organization that helps children and young adults with autism as an ABA counselor.
As a Puerto Rican, I am by law a natural-born citizen of the United States, but this surprises people.
Many people, even at church, ask me, “How can you be a citizen of United States if you are from Puerto Rico?” I have seen how people look at me when they hear my thick accent. But with my thick accent, and my cultural background, and with God in front of me, I can say, “Dios es bueno, más que Bueno.” God is good, more than good!
When I look at my journey, I can say: “Thus far the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12).”
God called me to a very new place, and I said, “I am here, O Lord.”
It has been a journey of ups and downs, but God has been with me and my family. I have seen his glory, I have seen his love and his mercy around me, around my family and around the church that by the grace of God I am serving now. The journey has had its difficulties, but God has been giving me the strength and support that I need to continue serving. No matter where I’m sent, I am preaching the good news of salvation to my Hispanic-Latino brothers and sisters and testifying about his blessings to other people around me.
Veronica Soto-Feliciano, Pastor of Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana “Elim” de Boston
Today’s Focus: Puerto Rico
Let us join in prayer for:
Presbytery of Boston Staff
Wren Colle, Administrator
Cindy Kohlmann, Resource Presbyter
Kelsey Rice Bogdan, Moderator
Charles Stapleton III, Vice Moderator
Sharon Wright, Immediate Past Moderator
T.J. Demarco, Stated Clerk
Andrew Parmelee, Treasurer
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Loving God, thank you for creating a beautiful diversity of beings in your image. For your intercultural community of faith, we are ever grateful. Amen.