Thanks to Riverside Presbyterian Church Pastor Edwin Andrade, Loudoun County is home to its first Hispanic Presbyterian church.
Andrade moved with is wife, Karina, from south-central Los Angeles to Sterling one year ago.
"God called me here," Andrade said.
In Los Angeles, Andrade worked with African-American and Hispanic populations. Andrade’s congregation, not too far from the 1992 L.A. race riots, worked to bridge the gap between the two communities.
"We worked on co-existing in the same church," he said.
He also started children’s computer and tutoring programs there.
Andrade gave up his job in L.A. to start Loudoun County’s first Hispanic Presbyterian Church one year ago.
"This is a growing community," Andrade said. "It has provided me an opportunity to teach to avoid problems that have occurred in divided communities like L.A."
ANDRADE, who was born in Guatemala and raised in Los Angeles, works closely with the immigrant community. His goal is to connect Loudoun County’s Hispanic immigrants with the rest of the community.
"I want to serve the Hispanic community in the area," he said. "I hope we can also educate the general community about issues Hispanics are concerned about.
Currently, Andrade is working to build a network of local residents to fight against H.R. 4437, a federal House bill that would make illegal immigration a felony.
"This issue is affecting us. It’s not happening somewhere else. It’s happening in Loudoun County," Andrade said. "It affects us, our neighbors and our children’s classmates. It’s right in our backyard."
In an effort to be heard, the pastor sends e-mails to Loudoun County clergy and Hispanic leaders, informing them of issues affecting the Latin community.
"I am an advocate," he said. "I am a voice, to bring important issues to attention."
COMMUNITY LEADERS like Laura Valle is familiar with Andrade’s e-mails.
Valle is the president of La Voz, a community-based organization that acts as a conduit between the Hispanic community and government agencies and organizations to promote self-sufficiency in Loudoun County. On Thursday, Valle opened up an e-mail from Andrade informing her of the immigration bill.
"He is well-informed and active in the community," Valle said.
Andrade said he wants to bring important issues like immigration to the attention of Loudoun County residents since it is such a diverse community.
RIVERSIDE PRESBYTERIAN Church administrator Laura Perry said Andrade is an integral part in the church community.
"His presence has been huge," Perry said. "He blends our two communities together."
The congregation worships on Sundays, at 10:35 a.m., at Potomac Falls High School in Sterling, in both English and Spanish.
"We are choosing to stay as one congregation and worship in two languages," Andrade said. "We live out what our community looks like outside."