Column: The Tortilla — A Christian Invitation
Published 9:27 am Monday, June 26, 2023
By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith | Community Columnist
Felipe Rangel of Jemison enjoys sharing part of his culture with others — the tortilla. Growing up in northern Mexico, tortillas were a large part of his childhood and heritage. Tortillas, made from ground corn, developed in Mexico at least 7,000 years ago. Indigenous people cultivated the plant into the modern corn that we eat today. Rangel, with the help of his wife, Yaneth, and friends, make homemade tortillas for the community which serves as a bridge for friendship and sharing the gospel.
“The natives didn’t realize it at the time but they were creating hybrids of corn,” said Rangel. “What they started out with was very harmful to the stomach, but years later, it evolved into the corn that we eat today.”
The Rangels use an industrial-sized machine to make tortillas at their home in Jemison. Their tortilla brand name, “La Milpa” comes from the native Nahuatl word, “Mil-pa” which means “a cultivated field.” La Milpa Tortillas also serves as a historical moment for the Hispanic community of Chilton County, as tortillas have never been made and packaged locally for sale.
Felipe also uses the tortilla business as an avenue to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
“When you share the message of Jesus Christ with someone, many times it makes people feel uncomfortable,” said Rangel. “Not only do people keep their doors closed for safety, but many times they keep their mind closed to the gospel. Instead of going out in the community, knocking on their door to talk about Jesus and bothering them, I make tortillas and the people come to me. I am not bothering them at home, they are coming here with an open mind for tortillas.”
When patrons visit La Milpa, Felipe uses the example of the tortilla and the scripture from Matthew 4:4.
“Jesus said, ‘It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ The scripture reference identifies a need for bread, but also a need for the direction of God in our lives.”
When Rangel first came to the United States, he lived in Houston and witnessed high-crime incidents within his community. When he and his wife moved to Alabama he could see the same pattern of crime starting to develop and a need for increased evangelism.
“It has been a blessing to live here and know Christian people that are also interested in reaching others with the gospel,” said Rangel.
Rangel, with the help of Bud Harrelson of Verbena and Victor Talley of Clanton, formulated a plan several years ago to target ethnic groups within their own community to share with them about the love of Jesus Christ, each person specifically looking for Anglo, African-American or Hispanic people.
Since Rangel first began evangelizing, he became a vocational minister and has helped plant four churches within the Southeast — Church at Bethel in 2004 with Wayne Hughes, Seventh Street Baptist in Bessemer, Buford Ave Church in Atlanta and most recently, Iglesia Bethel at Christian Life Fellowship in Calera.
In addition to making tortillas he enjoys playing soccer, forming soccer camps for children and spending time with his wife, three children and grandchildren.
La Milpa Tortilla is located at 20 County Road 1003, Jemison. Open to the public on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
For more information, contact Felipe Rangel at 205-299-2279 or visit La Milpa Tortillera via Facebook at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089660583697.