For many years, Karla Moreno Camacho resisted this role. Now she embraces it.
If Karla Moreno Camacho is not already on your shortlist of RCA leaders, she should be. She serves at Nueva Esperanza, the church she and her husband, Israel, planted six years ago. She’s taking seminary classes. She serves the denomination as a member of the Commission on Race and Ethnicity and the guiding coalition for Women’s Transformation and Leadership. She facilitates a Spanish-language leadership collaborative for women, helping them grow in leadership. And she’s a working mom of two teenagers.
Camacho has not always embraced her call to church leadership.
She grew up in an evangelical church in Tempe, Arizona, that had what she calls “controlling leadership.” That, plus the church’s lack of support for women in ministry, made her wary of serving in a visible leadership role. After getting married, she and Israel worked as youth leaders for many years, but another sour experience with that congregation’s leaders, coupled with the toll ministry had taken on her marriage and children, confirmed her resistance.
“I didn’t want that again,” she says. “This cannot be what serving God is.”
But, she says, God was already pursuing her. “God began to deal with my heart and Israel’s heart … [and we] came to a realization that God had something great for us.”
That great thing was an invitation from New Hope Community Church (RCA) in Gilbert, Arizona, to plant a church. Camacho says she had been yearning for the body of Christ to embrace her, and that’s exactly what she felt. Through the interview process, Camacho and her husband felt welcomed and empowered by New Hope, a church in a denomination they were only just becoming familiar with. That sense of rightness through planting Nueva Esperanza went a long way in dismantling the wall of resistance Camacho had built. (Even the name Nueva Esperanza, which means “New Hope,” gave her a sense of God’s providence; the Camachos had settled on the name before knowing that New Hope would be the parent church.)
“It took about three years [to overcome the internal resistance],” she says. “Israel would say, ‘Karla, God has called me,’ and I’d say, ‘Oh good! I’m going to be right behind you.’ But it all began to change when God would speak through people who said, ‘God is calling you to lead alongside [Israel].’
“In Spanish, they’d call me ‘pastor’—pastora. And I’d say, ‘Don’t call me that; I’m just the pastor’s wife.’ I wanted to be behind the scenes all the time, but God was pushing me out to the front.”
And Camacho is finally taking her place out front. Supported by her husband, children, extended family, church body, and the wider denomination, she is taking on new leadership roles, getting theological training, and bringing others along.
“God is still developing areas in my life that I resist and am afraid to take on,” she says. “I feel like God is there, taking my hand and walking with me on this journey. If I’m afraid or broken, I know that I’m going to continue on because I have hope.”
Karla Camacho describes her journey into the RCA as moving into a new house. “It means that the old things don’t fit,” she says. “So I’m leaving my resistance behind.”
One of the ways Camacho is leading is by serving as a bridge. It’s a role she has long had a hunch she would fill. Many years ago, someone approached the Camachos and told them, “You will be a bridge to many people of different cultures and different languages.”
Today, that’s exactly what she is doing, according to Liz Testa, the RCA’s coordinator for Women’s Transformation and Leadership, who has mentored Camacho. Camacho serves as a bridge to younger women, to Hispanic women, and even to Testa herself, making a way for them to feel at home in the RCA.
“She has blessed me in my life,” says Testa, who is bilingual and has roots in several cultures. “Karla told me, ‘We prayed for a Spanish speaker to come and be a denominational leader so our women can connect.’ It gave me my own sense of belonging and purpose. She really encouraged the Spanish side of me to find a place of belonging.”
Camacho has no intention of letting up any time soon; you can hear the energy in her voice.
“God is leading us to be the bridge to others,” she says of her work at Nueva Esperanza. “Our passion is in equipping and bringing up new leaders, with the understanding of spreading the gospel. We want to be an inspiration to people who are asking, ‘Where is God leading me?’”
Grow as a leader. Learn more about women’s leadership collaboratives at www.rca.org/womenlc.
Discover more about the process of planting a church like Nueva Esperanza at multiply.rca.org.
Praise God for leaders like Karla Moreno Camacho and pray for others who are still coming into their own.