Pastor Reaches Growing Audience Through Spanish Radio
Speaking in public made the knees of timid Adelita Garza knock and her lips turn purple. But at age 16, she sensed God called her to a speaking ministry: "Specifically, traveling the world and preaching the gospel," she says.
As a student at Bethany College, she recognized an additional calling as an evangelist.
"I hadn't preached before," Garza says. "It was something I felt in my heart."
Despite what she saw as limitations, she refused to say no to God.
"My greatest success is to say yes when I'm freaked out," she says. "The greatest success is the courage to say yes."
Today, Garza, 42, is lead pastor of Puente de Vida, an Assemblies of God congregation she planted in 2009 in Santa Paula, California, an agricultural community of 30,000, of whom 80 percent are Hispanic. She also hosts the prime-time morning Spanish-language radio program "Adelante con Adelita," four minutes of encouragement weekdays on Radio Nueva Vida, the largest Spanish Christian network.
The show, which started this year, aims to bring an uplifting gospel message to Latina women, the network's largest demographic of listeners.
"Radio Nueva Vida didn't have any women preaching," she says. "That factor was huge for me. That's why my yes to the radio program became so strong."
Garza finds the word adelante as a positive term because it means forward or onward in Spanish.
"We want to encourage listeners to not be stagnant, but to physically and spiritually move into what God has for them," Garza says. "We want listeners to be encouraged and to live out their God-given dream and potential, to move forward, no matter the circumstances in their lives, knowing that God is with them."
John Jay Wilson, director of leadership networks for the Assemblies of God, describes Garza as a uniquely gifted communicator with a heart for the community. She's also a popular speaker on AG campuses where she encourages college students to start church plants, no matter their vocation.
"She resonates with both male and female students, especially with female students who see her as a role model, being a senior pastor," Wilson says.
Garza, whose grandparents and father came from Mexico, was born in Washington state, the 10th of 13 children in a family of agricultural workers. Today she believes she still has a sense of that global outreach calling God to her as a teenager.
"I think I am traveling the world," she says. "I'm just not doing it like I envisioned it."
"Adelante with Adelita" is broadcast on 38 stations in 10 states, including California, Texas, and Florida. The program has international reach via the Internet on Nueva Vida, Glorystar, and Sky Angel.
While Garza had never imagined herself as a radio personality, neither had she ever seen herself as a leader who would bring interdenominational unity to her adopted city's faith communities. Following a spate of homicides, she spearheaded a movement to unify Santa Paula churches. This movement became "Light of the City," a faith-based outreach to love and serve the community. In 2014 she was elected president of the city's police clergy council.
"In the journey, God confirms things," Garza says. "In my saying yes I became a church planter, and in my yeses God opened the opportunity to have a radio program."