Reaching a Salad Bowl of Cultures in L. A.

If you asked Send City missionary Robby Pitt which people groups he was trying to reach, he would have a hard time giving a short answer. The city of Los Angeles is so diverse in so many ways that it would be hard to pin down.

Just start with the size and the population. “Greater L. A. has over 19 million people,” Pitt said. Those people are spread over a vast geographic area that includes 70 miles of coastline, large areas of desert, and the 10,000-foot Mount Baldy. The city has 4 million people in 114 neighborhoods. The county as a whole has 10 million, with 88 cities.

Then consider the language barriers Pitt faces. “Over 55% of the population speaks a language other than English at home.” And knowing a little Spanish would not solve the problem—as many as 224 languages are spoken in Los Angeles County.

“I have learned so much about the world right here in L. A.,” Pitt said. “I especially enjoy serving alongside of church planters.” Some come from outside the city, and Pitt helps them learn the culture. But the indigenous church planters have been called from among their own people.

“Together we strategize and envision how to reach their communities and their people groups for Christ. Walking with them—praying, encouraging, challenging, strategizing—is a tremendous privilege.”

It is a privilege with huge challenges. The melting pot metaphor just does not work here. Pitt called Los Angeles a “huge salad bowl with a mix of cultures, languages, ethnicities, socio-economic variety, and religious variety.” The ethnic neighborhoods include Little Saigon, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and even Tehrangeles. Pitt is constantly looking for ways to strengthen existing churches while getting new ones off the ground.

He often has to teach church planters what the Southern Baptist Convention has to offer. Quite a few are “first generation” Southern Baptists. “Many of them are discovering how diverse [the] SBC actually is and how beneficial being part of this denomination can be,” Pitt said.

Anna Kathryn Hardin is a writer in Hoover, Alabama.

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