local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 public meetings

 previous edition

 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info
 classifieds info
 internet info
 sun valley central
 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs
Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Friday, June 4, 2004


Life feels abundant for Tito Rivera

Latino minister reaches out to more groups

Express Staff Writer

The world is smiling on Tito Rivera these days and he seems closer to God than ever.

And it has nothing to do with elevation, even though mile-high Ketchum is closer to the sky than his native Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Futbol Festival director Tito Rivera (left) leads the Wednesday evening Latino services at Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum with his "right hand man," Glauber Rangel (right). Express photo by Jeff Cordes

Rivera, 48, the new Latino pastor at the Church of the Big Wood, lives and works in Sun Valley ("the weather doesn’t bother me!") and his outreach ministries include soccer and surfing—the Surfista ministry, he calls it. He’s even going to try surfing in Brazil.

Things are good.

He ministers in Blaine County Jail and at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. He travels a lot. He’s the main man at a new Wednesday night church service for Latinos in Ketchum. His window cleaning business is going gangbusters.

One of his business cards is his Abundant Life Ministry, Ministerio Vida Abundante, which quotes from John, saying, "I have come that they may have life….more abundantly."

This weekend, Rivera is the force behind the Cinco de Junio soccer or futbol festival at Ketchum’s Atkinson Park. Hundreds will come to kick the ball, eat the food, hear the music and hopefully heed Rivera’s message of unity.

"I try not to represent religion itself. I represent Father God," he said.

Rivera is just another minister of God who likes to follow the seasons. Thousands of them have passed through Sun Valley—some emphasizing God more than others, some in the guise of ski bums—but Tito Rivera is a New School Latino ambassador. He skis. He’s going to surf, God willing.

"It’s not about religion, it’s about the love of God," he said, putting the same thought in a different way.

His enthusiasm is contagious.

Not bad for a guy from Puerto Rico who has three children, three grandchildren, one very successful business and a briefcase full of plans for bringing together the Latino community in the valley.

Increasingly over the last decade, the Latino community has become a major part of the working class in the Sun Valley resort. Rivera recognizes the challenges they face and hopes to provide things that may be missing in their lives.

Rivera said, "The Latino community is very hard working. The way I see it, they work a lot of hours, 10 hours a day if they have to, and they don’t get paid a lot of money.

"There are a lot of Latin Americans in the county. My understanding is they come here to make money, but a lot forget to search for God.

"I’d like to have the Latino community focus not just on money, but on God. I remind them to be proud of who they are. And that lifts them up."

Since he was young, Rivera’s travels through the U.S. and his faith have guided him through many phases. He has always been industrious. His jobs leave a trail across the country. Although he’s had his ups and downs, there’s been a constant in his life.

When he was 14 he gave his life to Christ. At 33 he decided to serve God the rest of his life. He was 43 when he came to Sun Valley. For the last five years, he said he has drawn closer to God than ever before.

He grew up with his grandparents in Puerto Rico and attended school there through the 11th grade, but Rivera also visited his mother frequently in Brooklyn, N.Y. She sold jewelry on the streets of the city. He knows the Big Apple well.

Rivera spent four years in the U.S. Army as a Specialist E-4, in communications and teletype. The Army paid for two years of schooling at Brooklyn College. He said he didn’t get much out of college. For Rivera, it’s been a working life.

He’s done framing and construction and been a general contractor during 25 years in the building business. His stops include Little Rock, Ark., Kansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Sixteen years ago, he was a ski instructor at Ski Apache in New Mexico. He moved to Jackson Hole, Wyo. for 14 years, building custom homes.

In Wyoming, Rivera married his current wife, Dartha, from Lander. They’ve been married eight years.

Preaching the Gospel in a number of places, Rivera did evangelical work in Africa, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Five years ago he was on a mission trip to Africa with Don Kremer, former pastor of Valley Christian Church in Hailey.

Rivera said, "Don said to me, Tito, you can’t imagine the need for a Hispanic ministry in Hailey. There wasn’t any ministry other than Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Catholics. So that’s what I do here now.

"I preach that you should help your neighbor and get involved with the community."

After ministering at Valley Christian Church for three years, Rivera was approached last year by elders at Church of the Big Wood. They wanted Rivera to take the new position of Latino pastor at the Ketchum Presbyterian church.

He said, "They asked me if I’d like to start this new ministry for Latin Americans. They wanted me to pray about it to see what God put in our hearts. We did, and we decided it would be an honor to do it."

Rivera took the job last fall and has worked closely with elder Ken Carwin, owner of Hailey’s Wood River Inn.

Meanwhile, Tito and Dartha’s business, Sun Valley Window Cleaning, has kept them extremely busy and has provided some of the funding for his missionary work. "We have over 800 clientele in our community," he said.

In January, Rivera started his primary ministry, which consists of Wednesday evening services. The idea was to provide a mid-week, music-based service that would appeal to Latinos of any denomination, and of any nationality. His salary has been paid out of the church’s mission fund.

It’s been a big success, drawing audiences of up to 50 or 60 people. At one point, Rivera said, people from 13 different nations attended the service.

Many in the Wednesday congregation were Brazilians who had come to work for Sun Valley Company. They had stayed legally in the country through a system that allowed them to work in the U.S. for five months, return home for a couple of months and repeat the visa process once again.

"A lot work for Sun Valley Company, and that’s the reason they come here from all nations," Rivera said. "They take side jobs while they’re here—in restaurants, hotels and landscaping—but their main focus is working for Sun Valley."

However, in March, the federal government enacted a change in the visa process that reduced the number of positions Sun Valley Company could fill with foreign workers for seasonal jobs. The changes affected the Latino population here, including the Brazilians. Many didn’t receive visa extensions and had to return home.

"We lost a lot of the Brazilians," said Rivera. "But what we want to do is to attract all Latin Americans, not just the Brazilians. That’s been my focus—and that’s one reason why we put this futbol tournament together for this weekend."

Rivera and his wife Dartha just returned to Ketchum from a two-week trip to Brazil. While Tito was away, his "right hand man," Glauber Rangel conducted Wednesday services. Three-year resident Rangel, a Brazilian, is a head chef at Bald Mountain Pizza in Sun Valley.

While in South America, Rivera visited family members and wives of Brazilians who are members of his Ketchum congregation. He visited seven churches of different denominations. He brushed up on his Portuguese. He came up with the idea of the Surfista ministry, which will take at least another trip to Brazil and a few surfing lessons to formalize.

Other than its strong work ethic, the Latino community has contributed something very valuable to the valley, according to Rivera.

"It’s a relationship, a way of getting along with other cultures," said Rivera. "Sun Valley is very wealthy, but the world isn’t just about wealthiness. Here it’s about different cultures and getting along with different people."

Saturday’s Cinco de Junio soccer tournament at Ketchum’s Atkinson Park will be a festive, filled with food, fun, music and kids playing in the playground equipment.

The idea of naming it Cinco de Junio came from Tito’s wife Dartha, who likened it to Cinco de Mayo. "My goal is to have a tournament like this every year on the first Saturday in June," said Rivera.

Rivera said, "The ones I chose for the directors of the soccer tournament were Ciro, a Brazilian who lives in Hailey, and Jose, who comes from Peru and lives in Woodside."

His right hand man Rangel added with a laugh, "They’d play futbol every day if they could, that’s their life. They don’t have a second job because they still want to play futbol all the time."

"We have enough food for 300 to 400 people," said Rivera. "We’ll have music all afternoon by the grills, and trophies for the first through third places, and I brought back a boxful of medals, t-shirts and caps, all from Brazil! It will be fun for everybody."

Rivera has three children—Alissa, 26, who has a one-year-old son and lives in Tucson, Ariz.; Quila, 24, who has a six-year-old daughter and lives in Tucson; and son Cal, 19, a framer like his father who has a three-month-old son and lives in Little Rock, Ark.


City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.