Pastor Netza never intended to stay in Palmdale long.
“When I moved here, I thought I’d stay for a year. Maybe,” he says, while driving to the home of one of his church’s Food Pak recipients.
Seventeen years later, he’s not just living here, but he is one of the established local pastors of the city.
If you drive just over an hour northeast of Los Angeles, through Joshua trees and desert, you’ll find yourself in Palmdale. Located in the Mojave Desert, it’s a commuter town, with many of its residents making the long drive into L.A. for work during the week.
“I lost everything,” he said, describing the point in his life when he hit rock bottom, just before he moved. He decided to relocate from his home in Pasadena to Palmdale, in order to be closer to his sister after he went through a brutal divorce. Far from God, his life continued to spiral downward, as he battled an addiction to alcohol. He said his low came when he stumbled into the church of Casa de Dios, completely drunk.
“I was so embarrassed, but the pastor told me not to leave. He asked that I stay in the church and listen to the message,” Pastor Netza recounts.
He had no idea that he would later become the head pastor of that very church in which he sat.
Fast forward to 2018, and Pastor Netza’s church is a well-established part of CHF’s West Mercy
Network. For eight years, he and other volunteers from the church have faithfully served in distributing bulk food, as well as Food Paks, to the people of Palmdale.
Once a week, volunteers from Casa de Dios make the trek to CHF’s Los Angeles distribution center to pick up produce and Food Paks to bring back to their community.
The food that is delivered to the homes of recipient families is helpful, but there is a greater function behind this gift. When Pastor Netza walks into the homes of recipients, he has a chance to know them on a deeper level.
As they share each Food Pak or toy, Pastor Netza and the volunteers on his team have a precious opportunity to know the lives of Palmdale families. With ongoing visits, emotional walls are broken down, and prayers are requested.
One of the newer recipient families in the Food Pak ministry is a family of three. As the father holds his 3-year old boy, he tearfully asks for prayers for his elderly mother, who is currently hospitalized due to a heart condition.
Meanwhile, a few miles away lives Melinda, who is with her sister and brother in-law. During the week, she drives an hour and a half to work in the fields of Bakersfield. Her husband was deported to El Salvador seven years ago, and there is no sign of them reuniting. Now that she has an established relationship with Pastor Netza, she is looking to him for godly wisdom and guidance.
As Pastor Netza grows in relationship with each family, he has opportunity to share the hope that is only found in the gospel—that true salvation is found in the work of Jesus—and he has a front row seat to see families’ lives transformed by the power of that message.
This story of God’s radical grace toward us is not a distant concept to Pastor Netza. When he explains Jesus’ sacrifice, he is able to explain how he himself was saved from a life of sin. To him, the gospel is personal, active, and practical, and in sharing his own story of healing and restoration, he can point others toward hope.