By Stephanie Guevara
Traveling around the world might be common on a person’s bucket list, but less common is traveling to Iraq to help refugees.
East Los Angeles student Raul J. Manzo, 38, is an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel Montebello. He became interested in going to Iraq after discovering that Iraq had one of the world’s largest refugee camps.
After three years of praying about this interest, Manzo saw an opportunity to travel when he went on a missionary trip to Thailand.
In Thailand, Manzo met a missionary, who works with an organization that helps fight sex trafficking.
He was also planning to make his next trip to Egypt and Iraq.
Manzo saw this as the perfect opportunity to fulfill this desire to help refugees.
Manzo has traveled to different countries with his church to help out people in need, but going to Iraq will be one of the craziest trips, according to members of his church.
According to Bethany Castillo, a member at Calvary Chapel Montebello, CCM, Manzo is a person with great boldness because he is going to Iraq.
“This trip has been on Juny’s (Manzo’s) mind for a long time and God has given him the boldness to go to Iraq,” Castillo said.
Castillo has traveled with Manzo on missionary trips and says it is a blessing to be able to travel with him.
Manzo lives on a Biblical motto on and that motto encourages him to go to Iraq and help the refugees.
“One of the reasons why I want to go to Iraq is because of what the Bible says in the Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8,” Manzo said.
Before Manzo became an assistant pastor, he didn’t care to go to church. It was at East Los Angeles College where Manzo was invited to a Baptist church. According to Manzo, after the first time he attended that church, his life changed completely. Since then, Manzo has developed a desire to help people with different needs.
Manzo recently started to attend ELAC after taking some semesters off.
Growing up as a kid, Manzo wanted to pursue his dream of being a professional skater, but destiny had a different route for him.
Manzo was 19 years old when he first started to attend ELAC, but when he was in his 20s, he began to work for Fuel TV.
According to Manzo, becoming a pastor was the last thing he thought of.
“I didn’t want to become a pastor because being a pastor take up a lot of responsibility, but God called me,” Manzo said.
Many youth members at CCM look up to Manzo and admire him. Jeremy Solis, a member at CCM, says that Manzo has always has helped him a lot in times of struggle.
“He’s the person I go to when I struggle because he always has an lightening word for me,” Solis said.
Although Iraq is one of the toughest places for an American to travel, Manzo has inspired youth members of this church to go Iraq.
“I wanted to go with him (Manzo). I told him that he should plan a youth trip so that all of the youth from church can go to Iraq,” Rebecca Mendoza said.
Mendoza has gone to many countries on missionary trips with Manzo, such as Japan.
Manzo begins his trip to Iraq in January and hopes to bring a word of comfort to the Iraqi refugees.
“Most of these children are being taken by ISIS and trained to become killers,” Manzo said.
His desire is to plant hope in the hearts of the Iraqi refugees and bring love to all children and their families.
“The majority of these kids, their parents were killed by ISIS. We are going to be able to go to the orphanages and share hope and love through the gospel,” said Manzo.
*Members of Calvary Chapel Montebello also include Campus News adviser Sylvia Rico-Sanchez and staff writers Jacquelyn Gonzalez and Bryce Ronquillo