California’s Casiano Fervent in the Faith, Persistent in the Pulpit
By Carl Stagner
Hollywood, Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge, big cities, and tall mountains often come to mind when people think of California. In reality, the state, which encompasses 163,696 square miles, features one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. From sandy beaches to sandy deserts, from lush vineyards to lush forests, the scenery is as varied as the culture. Consider the town of Joshua Tree, for instance, where the Church of God movement is represented well by a congregation known as Sky View Chapel. While young entrepreneurs head to shoreline cities, techies surround Silicon Valley, and aspiring actors flock to the Los Angeles metro, Caucasian retirees are among the dominant demographic relocating to sunny climes like Joshua Tree. This is the very crowd Hispanic pastor Abe Casiano has been blessed to shepherd over the course of two decades.
Abe Casiano came to the Church of God movement in the late 1980s after having begun ministry with the Assemblies of God. As a Church of God associate in San Bernadino, California, Casiano was further formed in the faith and learned firsthand the experience of multicultural ministry. Once his senior pastoral work began in Joshua Tree—a city of only about 8,000 people surrounded by hundreds of miles of desert in south-central California—Abe was ready to begin what would prove to be a long and consistent stretch of kingdom work.
“At first, my concept of ministry was that I was the pastor, and I was in charge,” Abe Casiano remembers. “But, after my third year at Sky View, my whole concept changed. I would learn, and can see now, that compassion and listening are key factors to ministry longevity.”
With a name like Casiano, many unfamiliar with the Joshua Tree congregation assume a Spanish-language service distinguishes their Sunday morning experience. Actually, the church is composed largely of white senior citizens who fled winter-plagued regions of the country for a mostly sunny and warmer Southwest. Pastor Abe takes it all in stride; he knows where God has called him to serve, and that’s enough for him.
“No one in my congregation speaks Spanish besides me,” Pastor Abe explains. “Nevertheless, I’ve always pastored an English-speaking church other than the multicultural, mostly African-American church in San Bernadino. But we’ve been successful. Sure, sometimes being Hispanic in this area is challenging because there’s a lot of discrimination. Sometimes people prefer not to go [for spiritual support] to a pastor who is Hispanic. But you still have plenty of those who are genuinely seeking God.”
Pastor Abe estimates that only 5 or 6 percent of the population of his town is Hispanic, unlike many other of the towns in that region of the United States. But the retiree community remains an important field of souls in which to labor. Therefore, one of the frequent emphases at Sky View Chapel Church of God is fellowship. These folks like to have fun!
“Especially before COVID, but now starting up again recently,” Abe explains, “is that we are hosting themed Sunday gatherings and events. Every three months, we’d have a different theme. Each decade, for instance, people would come dressed up for that period of history. Recently we did a Western Day, and there were prizes for best-dressed. We’d do a law enforcement theme, or a fire department theme, and not only would people dress up like those [first-responders], but we’d also talk about how we could help them. So, something good always came out of how we could apply it in our communities. People really get involved.”
Though the church continues to stretch its growing outreach muscle, one of the biggest blessings of the church is its proximity to an elementary school. Because the school is only a block away, the church has had a history of offering Awana to the local children; at times, a hundred kids would show up. The church’s steeple can be seen from the interstate highway, which has attracted passersby to their premises down through the years, as well. Like other churches adapting to COVID, their online video ministry has also extended the church’s reach and helped sustain the ministry through lean times. Sky View Chapel Church of God praises the Lord they’re debt-free and look forward to what the future has in store.
Abe Casiano has served on the Ministries Council, the BLRC, committees with focus on reconciliation, and has offered interim executive leadership and pastor care for the Hispanic Council (Concilio Hispano) of the Church of God. His prayer for Sky View Chapel Church of God is one of continued expansion of reach and effective impact on their local community.
It’s a delight to honor yet another leader fervent in the faith and persistent in the pulpit.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org. Learn more about the Hispanic Council (Concilio Hispano) of the Church of God (in Spanish) at www.conciliochog.org. Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 through October 15.