Rev. Isabel Gomez: The Man, The Myth, The Legend Will Be Missed
Rev. Dr. Owen Ross writes, 'He made me, like all those around him, feel welcomed and included in whatever space he was in.'
Rev. Dr. Owen Ross is the Director for the Center for Church Development at the North Texas Conference.
I met Rev. Isabel “Chabelo” Gomez in 2001 when I was doing clinical pastoral education at Parkland Hospital. Rev. Gomez was the chaplain, working primarily on the maternity floor. Most patients and family on the maternity floor do not call on chaplains. Yet when they do, it is generally in extremely tragic circumstances. I shadowed Rev. Gomez and learned the ministry of deep compassion.
A friend once told me, “The most joyous people are those who have experienced tragedies.”
Rev. Gomez was a joyful warrior for justice and compassion. Having grown up in racially segregated Dallas, having witnessed and experienced so many social and personal tragedies, he had a joy born of a resilient Savior that was contagious to all with whom he came in contact.
In the early 2000s I was planting La Fundición de Cristo (Christ’s Foundry) as a non-Latino planting a Latino church in Dallas. I did not know how I would be received by the other Latinx ministers in the area. Latino/a pastors from the North Texas Conference and the Rio Texas Conference would meet regularly. I had some trepidation going to these meetings as I wondered if they were exclusively for Latino/a clergy. Rev. Gomez had experienced rejection in his life and knew what that felt like. He made me, like all those around him, feel welcomed and included in whatever space he was in.
In scrolling through his Facebook page, one can see how many friends he had and how much he enjoyed taking pictures and posting those pictures. I would often make his page, and I would also post our pictures on my page with the caption, “With the man, the myth, and the legend Rev. Isabel “Chabelo” Gomez. Comments on the post would affirm this introduction.
Rev. Gomez was an honest man who did not put on airs, who walked in solidarity with sufferers of this world and with those who loved them. One of my favorite pictures of Rev. Gomez was in The Dallas Morning News on July 24, 2021. The picture was of Rev. Gomez blessing the grave of Santos Rodriguez, a 12-year-old boy who was shot by a Dallas policeman playing Russian roulette with the boy in 1973 while trying to get a confession from him for stealing $8 from a vending machine. The blessing was on the 48th anniversary of the murder and was accompanied by a long-overdue formal apology from the Dallas police chief. Rev. Gomez performed the blessing that day, “No mas” / “No more.” Rev. Gomez was “the man” for moments such as these.
In November 2021, when Chabelo was diagnosed with cancer, the doctor told him he has about six months to live, “So if there is anything you want to do…”
Rev. Gomez said he thought and thought about it. He shared, “I had no desire to jump out of an airplane or take a long trip. I like sleeping in my own bed.” However, after thinking a while about what he wanted to accomplish with his limited time, he shared that he wanted to tell the story of the Rio Grande Conference to Latinx clergy in North Texas.
The Oxford Dictionary defines of myth being “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon.” Rev. Isabel Gomez embodied the stories and history of the Rio Grande Conference, especially in North Texas. United Methodist ministries with Hispanic/Latinx people in Texas are built on the shoulders of people like Rev. Isabel Gomez and Rio Grande Conference pioneers. I encourage you to listen to his story here.
Rev. Isabel Gomez was a remarkable man who lived a legendary life. His greatest gift was how he made those of us around him feel or be aware of how remarkable we each are and how much his resilient Savior loves us. His life, ministry, joy and compassion are worthy of emulation.
Rev. Gomez lived almost a year after his diagnosis. He shared stories and visits with many friends and family members during that time. He finally received his victory on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, when he passed into glory to be with his Savior and his beloved wife, Katy. Doubtlessly he heard on Nov. 10, 2022, “Hiciste bien, siervo bueno y fiel” (“Well done, good and faithful servant”).
Rev. Isabel “Chabelo” Gomez, the man, the myth, and the legend will be missed.
Published: Friday, November 11, 2022