Latino Ministry on the Plains
In 2011, when Daniel Lopez made the 1,500-mile trek from his hometown in Mexico to Trinity Bible College in North Dakota, he knew little English. But he felt certain God had placed him on the path to the Assemblies of God school.
Six years later, Lopez has made North Dakota his home, serving as associate pastor at Grafton First Assembly of God, with a focus on ministering to the small town’s Hispanic population.
Lopez met Heidi Arin at Trinity and the couple wed last June. Lopez, 26, officially joined the Grafton AG staff under lead pastor Dave Sjostrom last September. Daniel and Heidi quickly jumped into the community, working bivocationally and establishing relationships, with plans to start a Spanish-speaking Bible study this month.
Lopez grew up in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where his father planted and pastored an AG church. Lopez initially planned a business career, but switched as he felt increasingly drawn to the ministry.
In 2010, Lopez traveled to North Dakota to spend time at Minot First Assembly of God, a church that long had supported his father’s ministry. One of Daniel’s friends, Minot native Kristan Faul, encouraged him to attend Trinity, offering to enroll with him at the same time.
Lopez and Faul started attending the following year, and Lopez says his friend was monumental in helping him understand English better.
“He in a sense taught me the language,” says Lopez, who graduated with a degree in Christian Leadership in 2015. “He was a tremendous blessing.”
After a year as an intern at Minot First, Lopez received the job offer at Grafton First from Sjostrom, who had been seeking someone who could focus on reaching the town’s Hispanic population and lead the youth group. Grafton has nearly 4,300 residents, and around 15 percent are Hispanic.
Sjostrom, 68, says Lopez’s arrival has brought a younger presence to the church of almost 100.
“We’re in the time of harvest right now,” Sjostrom says. “We’ve experienced growth since they’ve come.”
Lopez says he and Heidi desire to impact the entire community.
“Even though I’m Hispanic and we are focusing on Hispanics, we don’t see skin colors, we don’t see flags, we only see souls,” Lopez says. “That’s our heart.”