Those tending to booths outside could easily hear the music reverberating within.
Veraliz Cuellar leaned over the table to straighten one of what appeared to be hundreds of DVD’s lying on its surface side by side. Each bore an identical cover: that of a red-shirted man chastely nuzzling a black-haired woman while the pair hovered in a sort of hazy soft-focus, cloud-like ether.
Wearing a black, white and red paisley dress, the voluptuous 39-year-old with a dark bob cut and a bird-like face watched over boxes, telling any interested buyers that the discs contained Renee Molina’s, the pastor at her church, Restauracion Elim Internacional, sermons.
Were Cuellar to say her goal was to haul in moulah, she’d be in trouble, as the string of booths set up next to one another and peddling shofars and menorahs and Christian CDs would provide stiff competition.
Brimming with throngs of Central American Pentecostals, L.A.‘s Sports Arena hummed with life on a June Friday at 9 p.m.
Representatives of the city’s Pentecostal churches had banded together in a decision to hold an Pentecostal convention from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. that night to welcome Miami-based Central American Pentecostal pastor, Guillermo Maldonado, and to pray for peace in Los Angeles.
Walking through any door at various points around the arena would lead to a view of thousands standing side by side, swaying with one or both hands in the air, accepting the entry of the Holy Spirit while allowing the slow-dance-like rock tune “Gracias, mi Senor” (“Thank you, my Lord”) to wash over them.
Cuellar knew what it felt like to experience that kind of rapture. Born and raised a Catholic in El Salvador, a friend of hers brought her to a Pentecostal prayer meeting when she was 20-year-old, and she said in Spanish that there was something “different about how the leaders presented the message, something more emotional.
“It reached me as my parents’ religion had not,” she added. “Joy overcame me as He filled my heart.”
She said she liked working the booths because she wanted to help spread the word, not because the profit would bring either her or her church money.
“No one religion or church is better than the other,” she said. “But a human being has necessities and feels a vacuum and the need to speak with God.
“The message in our religion transforms lives,” she continued. “It’s a refuge from materialistic society.”
Echoing the sentiments of other missionaries, she said she would speak to anybody about Pentecostalism. Those attending the convention were already members of the Movement, but Cuellar said she’d work outside the arena and the church to welcome others to the fold.
“We’re all doing our jobs and trying to bring as many souls to the church and heaven as we can,” she said with confidence.