Heritage and Hope: Bert Bocachica
Heritage is not just where you come from; it’s how you carry that history forward. Sojourners highlights ministers, artists, and activists putting their faith into action fueled by their heritage and hope. In this video, Pastor Bert Bocachica and his wife lead a church called El Santuario, a Spanish congregation in the Bronx borough of New York City.
My name is Bert Bocachica. People call me Pastor Bert. And I'm from the Bronx, New York, although currently, I’m living in Yonkers, New York, but I’m still doing ministry in the Bronx ‘cause that’s where our church is located.
The church that my wife and I’m currently pastoring is called El Santuario. It’s a Spanish congregation. El Santuario in English is The Sanctuary.
It all started with a "No," ‘cause we did not want to pastor a church. That was the last thing on our mind.
We did 21 years of the Rap Fest ministry — hip hop in the streets. And at the church we were at, at the time, we organized this outreach called “Love the Block.” And we went out into the street, in the neighborhood, in Westchester Square area — and we realized that everyone that was coming for prayer was asking for prayer — but in Spanish. And there was not enough people there equipped to pray for these people in Spanish.
We didn't have enough Bibles in Spanish. We didn't have enough counselors in Spanish. And, I think, from that point on, God just started tugging on our heart.
Doing Rap Fest, most of our ministry for 21 years was geared towards an English speaking crowd. Rap Fest was a local ministry with global exposure. And the purpose of Rap Fest was always to just minister to the local neighborhood using music that they could relate to — even though it was in the Spanish communities. But there's a Spanish-speaking community within New York, that, at times, feels uncatered to. Because you could be fluent in the language and not understand the culture.
Basically, every summer, I spent the entire summer in Puerto Rico, which is what helped me gain my confidence in the Spanish language, the Spanish traditions, the Spanish heritage, Spanish roots.
Ninety percent of the people that walk into the church are Spanish- and English-speaking people; they just prefer church in Spanish. You know, like they — you grew up listening to certain verses in that language, and when you hear them in that language, it means something. And it's something about singing a worship song in Spanish. It just seems so — different! It just comes across a little more passionate for some reason.
Mi esperanza para mi comunidad [My hope for my community]:
My hope is that we can be an impact in our neighborhood. You know, most churches were closed for 18 months, but how sad is it when those churches come back and realize they weren't missed? I don't want to be that church that was not missed. My hope is that everyone around us will see us and feel the same passion that we're delivering, and get closer to God through that.