The ministry trajectory of our founder, Dr. Jesse Miranda, was forever altered by the 1992 LA Riots.
As irony would have it, Dr. Miranda, my father, was on a return flight from a Stanford University symposium on the Hispanic church in community. The billowing smoke suddenly surrounding the descending airplane he first thought to be coming from an engine. The pilot quickly announced there was civil unrest on the ground. My father's second thought was, "how am I going to get home with all the traffic?"
As he explains it, "I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit interrupt my selfish concern, saying, "you have forty to fifty churches in Los Angeles, what are they doing to bring my peace?""
The aftermath of the "Rodney King" riots would for Dr. Miranda, Superintendent of over 400 Spanish language Assemblies of God churches in the western States, expose the lack of presence or influence in South and Central Los Angeles.
In reflection, Dr. Miranda recalls a newspaper headline "Blacks Riot", with an accompanying picture of Korean business owners on the roof with rifles as their stores were being looted by a majority of Latinos while a single Black man observed the scene, leaning on a light pole.
He would leave the superintendent's office later that year and begin his academic career as an associate dean at Azusa Pacific University, where he built an Urban and Ethnic Ministries program, training Korean, African American and Hispanic pastors on the nuances of Christian testimony and presence in an urban context. Dr. Miranda would insist that the courses be taught by professors that understood the context, and that the classes be held in the neighborhoods, the "ghettos and barrios" of Los Angeles, not exclusively in the sterile classrooms
in Azusa, 30 miles away. He continued this effort at Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, where the "Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership" was established.
Currently, the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership has both a presence on campus at Vanguard University and as a 501(c)3 organization committed to leadership and community development in the urban centers.
At the time, I was a youth correctional peace officer assigned to the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier, CA. The wards of the State, many who lived in Los Angeles, were hyper and stirred by the unrest. Resigned to the many injustices the minority communities endure from law enforcement in dense, urban settings.