“Eight simple words say it all,” said the Rev. Isaac J. Canales1. “We ‘Impact the World One Family at a Time.’ ”
That is the mission that drives the Mission Ebenezer Family Church in Carson, California, and its senior pastor, who will be the chaplain-in-residence for Week Four at Chautauqua Institution.
“We have a jumbo sign that can be seen off the 110 Freeway. It lights up the whole South Bay and is visible for a mile all around,” Canales said. “Hope for the family is what the congregation is all about.”
This will be Canales’ first time at the Institution, but he has heard about the idea of Chautauqua, about the intellectual and religious interplay that occurs on the grounds. He will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship service in the Amphitheater; his sermon title will be “Don’t Forget to Remember.” He will speak about his faith journey at the 5 p.m. Sunday Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy.
He will speak Monday through Friday at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service in the Amphitheater.
His sermon titles will include “A Ride with Carmen,” “God Will Make A Way,” “Nothing but a Dream,” “Forgiving God” and “Mijo, the Lord Will Provide.”
“The biggest difference the church is making is in the loving and caring for our youth and children in the inner city,” Canales said. “We serve a lot of single mothers; the dads are in jail or just not present. They are raising latchkey kids alone and we offer them great love and good family models.”
There are about 100 girls in a ministry called GEMS Girls’ Club. Once a year, beauticians, lawyers, doctors and other professional women come and do the girls’ hair, paint their nails and host a mother/daughter ball where the girls learn how to conduct themselves, follow table manners and to praise and worship God.
For boys, there are the Royal Rangers, staffed by Vietnam and Korean veterans, who “evangelize, equip and empower” young men to be lifelong servant leaders. They participate in activities like camping and soap box derbies.
“Sometimes these are the only trophies they get, and they need to experience success,” Canales said.
Mission Ebenezer Family Church was founded by the Rev. Miguel and Lupe Canales (Canales’ parents) as a Spanish-speaking congregation. They started with 15 adherents in 1960, and now have over 3,000 adherents.
Today, they have services in Samoan, Tagalog, Nigerian, Spanish and English.
“We are a multicultural church with about one-quarter each of the congregation who are Pacific-Asian, Hispanic, African-American and Anglo,” Canales said. “We are proud of what God has called us to do.”
Canales received his bachelor’s in religion in 1974 from Vanguard University/SCC, and in 1978 graduated with a masters of divinity from the Harvard Divinity School. He earned his Ph.D. in New Testament in 1993 at Fuller Theological Seminary under the late Ralph P. Martin, a noted British scholar. Canales spent 20 years at FTS, rising through the ranks from graduate assistant, adjunct instructor, adjunct professor, and finally assistant professor of New Testament and the director of the Hispanic ministries department. He resigned to serve as president of the Latin American Bible Institute, a position he held for six years.
Canales is a published author and has participated in the documentary series “Mysteries of the Bible.” He and his wife, Ritha Brubaker Canales, administrative pastor at Mission Ebenezer, have been married for 40 years. They have three sons, Joshua, David, Jacob, who all are part of the Mission Ebenezer pastoral staff, and eight grandchildren.