PerezThe Rev. Angel L. Perez, an LCMS leader in Hispanic ministry, died Nov. 24 at his home in in Apopka, Fla., after a long, debilitating illness. Perez was 68.

A memorial service was held Dec. 2 at Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Fla., with a committal service at Highland Memory Gardens, Apopka.

Perez, who served as the Synod’s counselor for Hispanic ministry from 1994 to 1998, was responsible for helping LCMS districts to equip congregations to begin new Hispanic missions. In 1998 he left that post to become an LCMS missionary to Puerto Rico, where he served until 2002. From 2002 to until his retirement in 2008, he was a missionary for GOSPEL Mission in Orlando, Fla.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Perez studied at the Synod’s Concordia universities in Austin, Texas, and River Forest, Ill., before completing colloquy requirements for ordination through Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1985.

In 1994, as president of the Synod’s Standing Committee for Hispanic Ministry, Perez helped launch the first LCMS Hispanic mission society, the National Society for Hispanic Missions. Perez also served from 1994 to 1998 as chairman of the Lutheran Hispanic Conference.

Other service to the church includes work as a missionary to Hispanic people for the LCMS Oklahoma District (1991-97) and as pastor of El Buen Pastor Lutheran Church in Cleveland (1986-91); Cristo Rey Lutheran Church, Oklahoma City (1991-97); Principe de Paz, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico (1997-2002) and Ascension Lutheran Church, Casselberry (2002-08).

The Rev. Dr. Douglas R. Groll, former director of the Hispanic Institute of Theology, now Center for Hispanic Studies, at Concordia Seminary and who continues to teach there part time in his retirement, met Perez — a teller of “good jokes” — in 1978 after returning to the U.S. from missionary service in Venezuela.

“Throughout the ’60s and ’70s there were strident voices within the Puerto Rican communities in most eastern cities, decrying housing discrimination and general civil-rights abuses against Latinos in general and Puerto Ricans in particular,” Groll said. “Even within Cleveland there were angry firebrands who became quite vocal. Angel knew them all and was always able to extend an arm of love and understanding and was a gentle bridge of peace between Latinos who disagreed with one another and between Latinos and the Anglo communities who really did not understand the problem at all. Angel was a peacemaker.”

Groll added that Perez’s ministry “was always that of the love of God in His Son, Jesus Christ. Angel always preached that and lived that. He rejoices with his Savior now, but we will miss him.”

Survivors include Perez’s wife, Maria; five children: Luis (Elizabeth), Stacy (Carmen), Michael, Ricardo (Kandyce) and Victoria (Benny) Romero; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.