Pastors Luis and Ruth Solero grew up in the slums of Manila in the Philippines. Ramshackle huts leaned on one another for support, slouching in shadows cast by towers of trash. The air was just as dense—clogged with car horns, the foul aroma of refuse, and the pitter patter of children racing through the streets, dirt latching to their heels as they ran. Luis and Ruth had no reason to think their lives would, or could, ever change. But even then, God had a plan. “I thought there was no hope for me,” Pastor Luis says. “But then one day a group of Christians came to our community and started sharing about Jesus.”
As a teenager, Luis first encountered the Lord in a Bible study, while Ruth met God in a vacation Bible school program. But for both, it was the genuine kindness of those believers that compelled them to accept Christ. “I felt the love,” says Pastor Ruth, “the sincerity of what they were doing.” In the same way, Luis’s first visit to the Bible study remains branded in his memory. “That was the beginning of the work of Jesus in my life,” he says. “As soon as the Bible study leader opened the door, the words that he said struck me. He said, ‘Jesus loves you.’” Luis and Ruth wanted their lives to reflect that same love and eventually felt God leading them to pursue full-time ministry.
Following Luis’s graduation from Bible school, the Soleros accepted their first ministry position in 2001 in Hawaii. They moved to Honolulu and spent several months serving at a Filipino church—Luis as the youth/worship pastor and Ruth as the Tagalog preacher (the first language of many Filipinos). They learned to speak English and Ilocano (a different dialect in the Philippines), familiarized themselves with the Hawaiian culture, and continued to seek God’s guidance for their future.
During this time, the Lord placed a new vision in their hearts to plant a church, and Luis and Ruth soon shared this calling with a fellow pastor and friend in Hawaii. “Why don’t you go to Seattle?” he responded. “There’s a group of Filipinos there that don’t have a pastor.” The Soleros took some time to pray over the opportunity, but immediately they knew—God was opening a door. “Long story short,” says Pastor Luis, “after one week, we said, ‘We’re going to Seattle.’”
Cold and Confused
Though the early years of their ministry were filled with transitions, the most formidable change for the Soleros was their move to Seattle in December 2002. Born and raised in heat and humidity, Luis and Ruth struggled to adapt to the sharp, biting cold of their new city. “Seattle is like stepping inside a freezer!” Pastor Ruth explains. “And we didn’t have any winter clothes!” But even then, they trusted God’s leading and focused their attention on the names and numbers their pastor had given them. “One by one,” says Pastor Luis, “they said, ‘I’m sorry, we are no longer meeting.’”
Added to their constant chill, the Soleros became poor, lonely, and lost. “We didn’t have money, we didn’t have any relatives,” he explains. “We didn’t know what to do.” They moved into a cold basement apartment and began using food stamps. Ruth started working at a Home Depot. And Luis wondered where they’d gone wrong.
Despite their discomfort, the Soleros knew God had a plan. He had led them to this city. He knew their future. So, in the face of cold and confusion, they held fast to hope. “One day, we went to a new construction subdivision and pretended that we were going to buy a house,” says Pastor Luis, “but our intention was just to lay our hands on those empty homes and claim that those families would become part of our church.” That hope was enough to keep the Soleros going, enough to keep their vision alive.
Meeting the Neighbors
With no preexisting church family to adopt, Luis and Ruth spent their time meeting people in the community—and found some unconventional ways of doing so. “We went to parties we weren’t invited to,” Pastor Ruth laughs. “It took us months before we started the Bible study, because we had to get to know people first.” But in time, their persistence paid off. By 2004, they began to congregate with 15 people in a small garage. And a year later, they officially launched Hope of the City Church in a warehouse with 150 people. Since then, the growth hasn’t stopped. “We moved 12 times,” says Pastor Ruth. “We were growing too fast!”
Alongside their booming congregation, the Solero’s vision for the future of their church has expanded. They’ve broadened their impact by offering services in English and Tagalog and planting multiple locations in Seattle and even in the Philippines. Among these changes, Luis and Ruth have sought out strategic relationships with leaders in the community, so as to discover, target, and address the specific needs of their people. “Ruth is influential with the influencers of our city,” says Pastor Luis. “We’ve become friends with the chief of police, fire chief, and one of the former mayors. We’re thinking of the best ways we can connect with our community.”
Hope of the City’s dinner church originated from such a relationship. Following a conversation between Pastor Ruth and the local public school principal, the church decided to create a new campus at the school and offer families, teachers, and even neighbors a free meal. Eventually, they hope to build on the concept by purchasing another facility near the church and beginning a dream center. “I believe we can start in small ways—like feeding those families in schools,” says Pastor Luis. “If we can start with that, I think we will navigate well for this bigger vision for a dream center—not only feeding people but helping them with the struggles in their life.”
Hope and a Future
As Pastors Luis and Ruth reflect on their past and look forward to the future of Hope of the City Church, they know they can trust God to lead their lives. “When we were at the praying stage, God gave us Jeremiah 29:11,” says Pastor Luis. “We took the word ‘hope’ as the name of our church, and the mission statement became ‘bringing hope to every life.’” The Scripture reads, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future’” (NIV).
In the heart of Manila’s slums, God had a plan for Ruth and for Luis. In the cold basement apartment, He knew their future would be brighter. “I thought there was no hope for me,” Pastor Luis says again. “But then one day a group of Christians came to our community and started sharing about Jesus.” Today, as Pastors Luis and Ruth develop relationships with neighbors and leaders, feed families in their local school, and share the love that led them to Christ so many years ago, they extend this message of hope to their city. To people who have no reason to believe their lives would, or could, ever change. God has a plan for each of them. And He has led a group of Christians to their community to share a message with them—a message of love, hope, and new life in Christ.
Pray for HOTC
• “We want to be more effective in our community.”
• “We want to plant more churches in Washington.”
• “That we stay healthy so we can serve Him many more years.”
–Pastor Ruth Solero
CEP and HOTC
CEP and HOTC developed a partnership and a friendship in 2014 when they purchased a permanent church home in SeaTac, Washington. “The dream, the prayer, became a reality because of CEP,” says Pastor Ruth. “Because of the property, our church is not here temporarily. It tells our city that we’re serious in reaching our community for Jesus.” Pastor Luis adds, “CEP met our needs right away, and we’re so grateful.”