Practice What You Preach

“I have a heart for the community and serving people. That’ s why I chose to work at UMRC,” said Wendy Lato, Human Resources Manager and Benefit Administrator.

Wendy loves making a difference and intentionally focuses her skills and time to build strong communities. As an Associate Minister at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, Committee Chair for the Michigan Chapter of Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, and member of the North-end Ministerial Alliance in Detroit, Wendy practices what she preaches.

Wendy started her career working with Wedgwood Christian Youth and Family Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan and just prior to coming to UMRC, Wendy worked with the City of Detroit as the Benefits Manager. She spent 14 years building her career and climbing the ladder, and she enjoyed her job, but something was missing.

“I was constantly driving but never satisfied, never at peace,” Wendy said. “I grew up in the church where my father was the pastor, worked with young people and sang in the choir, but I never knew I would literally bring the word to the people.”

In 2004, Wendy went to a Victorious Christian Women’s Conference, one she attended every year with her mom, and after hearing a session on prayer and God’s calling, she felt God telling her to go and preach His word to the world.

“I thought what? I’m very introverted and quiet; why me?” Wendy said. “I felt like David from the Bible—I had all these brothers and sisters. Why would God choose me?”

Not quite sure it was the right path for her, Wendy decided to wait. The year following was spent in what she calls “the wilderness,” where she experienced a lot of losses and a lot of things that caused her to slow down.

She went back to that same women’s conference a year later, and a female minister said, “That word you got from God, no matter how long ago it was, is still true.”

Wendy was shocked. Then, she felt that same calling from God to go into the world and preach His word.

So, she did.

Wendy became a minister, and one month later gave her first sermon in June 2006. Ten years later, Wendy is the Associate Minister at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, preaching and heading up the youth ministry.

It’s not an easy job caring for so many, but Wendy loves it.

“The words that I speak rest on the lives of people and are like the rudder on a boat,” Wendy said. “It can turn a life one way or another based on how I help them understand or fail to help them understand.”

Even though she lives over an hour away, Wendy is at her church in Detroit every single weekend.

She believes in truly being part of the community, which is why she is also on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Chapter of Sickle Cell Disease Association of America—to help spread awareness of this disease that greatly affects African Americans. She is also part of the North-end Ministerial Alliance, which helps low-income seniors and disabled people live safely through home renovations and remodeling.

“My job in life is to be a catalyst for change,” Wendy said. “This is what God has called us to do—consider things differently, meet people where they are at, and impact a change.”

Wendy’s calling to community and to care for people is why she chose to work at UMRC. She was living in Manchester and working in Detroit, but wanted a job closer to home that was in line with her calling.

“I saw how UMRC values seniors and treats them with respect. This shows true love and care—this is true ministry,” Wendy said.

Along with her time in community, Wendy is currently working on her MBA through the American InterContinental University.

Wendy currently lives in Manchester with her husband, Simon, whom she met in 2010, married in 2012, and spent two years living long-distance from America to Nigeria until they were finally able to live together in 2014.

“What I love about my husband is his commitment to people, to community, to his parents, and to our six children,” Wendy said. “It is his natural tendency to seek out people who are hurting and care for them.”

Together, they have traveled to Canada, where four of their kids live and attend university, and Nigeria, where one son and Simon’s family lives. Their youngest child still lives at home with them.

“I never would have guessed I’d end up here,” Wendy said. “But God calls you to love Him and your neighbor as yourself. Who is my neighbor? Everyone. We don’t just cast people away; we help.”