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A Bridge Across Borders

How Omar helped close divides in his city & beyond

By following Jesus’ call on his life, Omar has found belonging and opportunities to be a “bridge” to others in East LA, India, and beyond

Eight-year-old Omar Cova crossed the border into Mexico to visit family, just a few years after he had first left it for the U.S. “I had never seen that level of poverty before,” he recounted. “I saw a lot of kids my age selling things to fend for themselves, and it made me cry. It was before I knew God, but it was the moment that God started to change my heart—there are people that are struggling, and I can’t ignore them.”


Omar grew up in Downtown Los Angeles, California, where he and his family worked in the garment district. He and his brother helped sew, iron, and sort clothes from a young age. “Summers had no summer camp for me,” he laughed, remembering his childhood. While running deliveries for his parents, Omar witnessed the city’s poverty firsthand and was again overcome with compassion for his neighbors.


These seeds that God planted in Omar sprouted when he gave his life to Jesus at the age of 19 with a simple prayer: “I’ll follow you anywhere. Just don’t make my life boring.”


“That’s when it hit me: people like me, that grew up in the city, that are bilingual, that are Latino—we can minister in places like this! Jesus said that they would know his disciples by how we love one another. Diversity of culture, income, and ethnicity in ministry expresses the fullness of that love. That closes our cultural divides.”

Although Omar wanted to pursue ministry abroad, Jesus called him to remain in Southern California and be a “bridge” to his neighbors. For 10 years, Omar lived and worked in a local urban marginalized community, mentoring youth, breaking up fights, celebrating quinceaneras, helping addicts recover, and experiencing a wide spectrum of joy and pain in urban ministry. “I learned that I’m not saving nobody,” he said. “I just have to plant and water seeds, and have the wisdom to see how God is transforming people.”

Omar disciples local leaders at Hope Community Church in East Los Angeles

When he heard God say that his local ministry was complete, Omar left to pursue a Master of Arts in Transformational Urban Leadership (MATUL) at Azusa Pacific University. Through MATUL, Omar and his family were sent to live and learn in India for 17 months. He would finally experience ministry in a foreign place.


“When we left, my children were the same age as I was when we first came to the U.S.,” he reflected. “It’s like the story repeats itself, but for the sake of Jesus. The first time we crossed the border, I felt like Jesus was saving me by bringing me here—and now, he’s sending me.”


Despite crossing borders to encounter a drastically different culture, climate, and set of customs, Omar quickly felt at home in India. He heard things like, “Your values are very similar to our values,” and “You like spicy stuff, too?” His new neighbors had never met a Mexican-American person before, but the experiences of familial bonding, lingering after celebrations, and switching between languages were deeply familiar to Omar.


“That’s when it hit me: people like me, that grew up in the city, that are bilingual, that are Latino—we can minister in places like this!” he said. “Jesus said that they would know his disciples by how we love one another. Diversity of culture, income, and ethnicity in ministry expresses the fullness of that love. That closes our cultural divides.”

Omar now serves as the Servant Partners site leader for East Los Angeles, where he disciples and develops local leaders. His journey has taken him across borders near and far, but wherever he goes, he knows he is a bridge.


This story was published in the 2022 Annual Report.


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