Sandra and Carlos Rios
Carlos & Sandra Rios: blending together

By Stanley O. Williford
Director of Publications

When someone tells Head Usher Carlos Rios that they are from the South, he has a humorous reply:

“I’m from the South, too – South America.”

Carlos is from Lima, Peru, which attaches to the nation of Colombia on its northeastern border. To many people, Colombia conjures up the horror of drugs and violence, and that’s exactly what the Rios family was fleeing when they left their native country in 1979.

Carlos said his paternal grandparents had a vision that the prevalence of so much drug activity would be a danger for their grandchildren. His mother and father were urged to get the children out of the country. The parents applied and received visas to come to the U.S. That was 39 years ago, when Carlos was 11. Once here, they applied for and were granted citizenship.

Years later, Carlos and his brothers Jose and Louis, and sisters Maria and Olga, would go on to accept Jesus as both savior and Lord at Crenshaw Christian Center.  But that was after Sandra Cabrera came into the picture.

Sandra was born in San Jose, California, of Puerto Rican descent. So how did she and Carlos meet?

Sandra met Carlos’s sister Maria first and brought her to CCC, and eventually Carlos and the other three Rios siblings followed. Sandra had grown up on 90th and Budlong Avenue, near the CCC campus.

Sandra had two children and was coming out of bad relationship. She admits that she didn’t like being alone, but she said this to the Lord:

“I’m not going to go out and look for a man. I going to wait for You to bring that man to me. He’s going to have love me and love my children and be evenly-yoked in the Lord with me.”

It wasn’t long after that Carlos approached Sandra at a birthday party for one of his nieces. Even though he had known her as his sister’s friend, he had never paid much attention otherwise, so Sandra didn’t think much of it initially. But Carlos persisted. 

They came to Crenshaw on their first date, and Carlos proved to be the one God had for her.

Carlos was raising two young daughters – Chelsey and Ashley.  Sandra was raising two sons – Philip and Marcus Brown.

Pastor Milt Jackson, now-deceased, married them 23 years ago. But it wasn’t just two young people coming together. It was the blending of two young families.

Sandra’s son Philip Brown, who served in the church’s audio department, was killed in a car accident by a drunken driver in 2011. He was only 19.

Carlos and Sandra have two sons together, both of whom have served as ushers – Carlos, 22, and Jeremiah, 15, who is still in high school. The couple have six grandchildren – five boys and one girl.

Carlos and Sandra have gone to Lima three times since their marriage.  The first trip was to see his maternal grandfather who was gravely ill and near death. They didn’t go unprepared. Besides family prayer, they took a cloth that former Spanish Ministry Assistant Pastor Gilbert Burns had prayed over.

Before he left, Carlos said he made this confession: “I refuse to go back to my home country after twenty years to bury my grandfather.” He was right. When they arrived, his grandfather was doing much better and sitting up.

However, they returned after three years, it was to bury another grandfather – his paternal grandfather.  

Carlos has been the Reception Auxiliary Head, which includes the ushers and the hostesses, for five years. He admits that when Pastor Frederick approached him about taking the position, he was somewhat unsure because of his long work hours and the fact that he was still raising young children. But it has worked out well, and, he says, been a good experience. 

Sandra, who loves to dance and once danced competitively, began to serve in Children’s Church. She served there for three years as one of two Music Makers, where she taught and danced. Sandra didn’t start singing until Dr. Betty made a request for bilingual help ministry workers to serve in CCC’s Spanish church.  Later, Crenshaw CEO Angela Evans, asked her to join Faith’s Messengers. She now sings with the choir and the Worship Ensemble.

Like her dad, Ignacio Cabrera, a musician who sings and plays violin and trumpet locally, Sandra is drawn to music. She formerly played saxophone.

Carlos is a supervisor at Delta Airlines. Sandra is a phlebotomist for LabCorp, one of the nation’s largest laboratory networks.  The phlebotomist is one who is trained to draw blood for clinical or medical testing. 

To lose weight and get in shape, Sandra took on a huge physical challenge and began training at The Camp Transformation Center last June. On May 18, she began a Spartan race called The Beast, the biggest race of a trifecta (or three) races, with obstacle courses that required entrants to trudge up and down Big Bear Mountain six times in order to win the first portion of a three-part medallion. She was one of about 3,000 who took on the challenge, but not all completed it.  With temperatures ranging as low as 30 degrees at various points, she also was weighted down with a backpack containing water and various snack foods.

It took her nine hours to complete the course, and like the others who completed it, she was awarded the first segment of the three-part medallion.

Now she’s preparing for the Super Spartan challenge in August, which will complete the second part of the trifecta and the medallion. To complete the final part of the trifecta and fill her medallion, she will sometime in the future enter a third grueling race.

Carlos’s interests involve soccer, detailing cars and collecting both tennis shoes and colognes. Sandra says he’s also very handy around the house, with his penchant for taking care of the domestic chores.

Carlos and Sandra Rios, two hearts blended into one.

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