Romeo Gonzalez can’t talk long in a conversation without preaching about the love and glory of Jesus, his friends say. The member of Primera Iglesia del Pacto Evangélico in Bell Gardens, California, has shared that love in word and deed since giving his life to Christ more than 40 years ago. He has shared it in other parts of the world, in jails and prisons, in his church and the neighborhood it serves. He has mentored students at Centro Hispano de Estudios Teológicos, the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Hispanic training center. He has served as a lay preacher, usher, deacon, and director of evangelism. If there is a need in the church, he will fill it.
For his broad and long-term ministry, Gonzalez was presented with the 2021 T.W. Anderson Award at the Covenant’s 135th Annual Meeting today. The award has been presented at each Annual Meeting since 1985 to laypersons in recognition of their outstanding service to their church, community, profession, and the broader world. It is named in honor of the only layperson to be elected president of the Covenant.
Gonzalez came to faith while attending First Covenant Church in Los Angeles, where he had been invited by a friend. Only a few weeks after his conversion he sensed God calling him to open his house for prayer meetings. A couple of people showed up at the first meeting. That number grew over the next 25 years. “The house would be filled, and there were people on the porch and in the yard!” he said. The meetings started at 8 p.m. on Friday nights and often lasted until 6 a.m. on Saturday.
Gonzalez has a passion for evangelism. “We can’t just talk about Jesus inside the church,” he said. “Jesus is the light of the world and we have to go outside the church. We are the light of Christ. We have to go into the streets and the restaurants and the bars. I want people to know Jesus in their hearts. I tell them, ‘Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. I don’t care what you have done. Jesus loves you. You can be a new creation.’”
After a career in accounting, Romeo retired at 62 and dedicated his life to ministry, including starting an outreach to older adults to disciple and offer counsel to them. He sends birthday cards to every person in the church. “I pray for everyone every day,” he said.
Gonzalez said of receiving the award, “All glory to God. None to me. All glory to God.” He is the first Latino to receive the award.