Persevering Through Job-Like Trials
Most people after suffering a heart attack and stroke, being diagnosed with diabetes, encephalitis, and multiple sclerosis, plus negotiating for the release of relatives abducted in Mexico — all in the same year — wouldn’t eagerly anticipate the next assignment from the Lord.
But Daniel Isaac Tellez went through all these troubles in 2012. And instead of curtailing his spiritual pursuits, he sought more. Tellez is pastor of Hagerman Christian Center as well as the Southern Idaho Ministry Network men’s ministry director.
“Rather than wanting to give up, I was excited,” says the 48-year-old Tellez, who goes by his middle name. “I felt privileged that God trusted me on a journey of growth.”
Tellez is the middle son of Assemblies of God ministers from Mexico, Nazario and Gregoria Tellez. Nazario, an evangelist, died in 1974 at the age of 38 after being stabbed in the back 11 times by religious extremists who warned him to stop preaching the gospel. Isaac was just 4 at the time. His mother relocated to the Mexicali Valley 15 miles south of the California border. Gregoria, now 78, has pastored Centro Familiar de Fe (Faith Family Center) the past 44 years,
In 1995, Isaac planted a church in Mexico. A Builders International team from Hagerman Christian Center led by Assemblies of God world missionary David E. Godwin, who recently retired, helped with the construction. That same Idaho church invited Tellez to be its pastor in 2001. Within a year, his wife, Miriam, and the couple’s three children all had immigrated legally from Mexico.
“It was an English-speaking congregation and I didn’t know much English, and none of them spoke Spanish,” Tellez recalls. “The church was patient to grow with us.”
Hagerman Christian Center had 35 attendees when Tellez arrived. Now there are 100 regulars — in a town of 880.
Tellez’s health woes began in January 2012, when he suffered a mild heart attack upon returning from a missions trip to St. Lucia and discovered 1,000 gallons of propane had been stolen from the church. Two weeks later he had a stroke.
In March of that year, a physician diagnosed Tellez with multiple sclerosis. A second medical opinion confirmed the presence of the disease.
“Doctors told me I would be handicapped, lose my voice, and lose my strength,” Tellez says. “So far, none of that has happened.”
In April 2012, Tellez visited a doctor because of excruciating pain in his neck. Medical tests detected encephalitis. He says a virus keeps the right side of his brain constantly active, even when he sleeps.
Rather than being filled with self-pity, Tellez decided to take advantage of his overactive brain activity and enrolled in Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He earned a bachelor’s degree in ministry leadership last year.
In May 2012, Tellez experienced the financial fallout from his initial hospitalization.
“I almost had another heart attack when I got the bill for $67,000,” Tellez says. “I had no insurance.”
Yet the church’s investment in the community returned to bless Tellez. Hagerman Christian Center gives cash and other gifts to local schoolteachers every year, paints curbs on the town’s main street annually, and in 2007 had paid for a $120,000 renovation of the police station, including donating 1,200 hours of labor.
People in the community held a fundraiser to help pay Tellez’s medical bill and raised $7,800. The hospital wrote off the rest.
In September 2012, sex traffickers in Mexico abducted the wife of Tellez’s younger brother, Jacob, and the couple’s four daughters. Isaac acted as negotiator for a $35,000 ransom, but says his older brother, Abraham, received a vision from the Lord as to the whereabouts of the kidnappers. Federal police liberated the five females, with no one harmed and no ransom paid. Jacob is now associate pastor at Hagerman Christian Center, while Abraham assists their mother at the Mexico church.
Tellez believes the stress of the abduction episode triggered type 2 diabetes. His diagnosis came in October 2012.
Despite all the health setbacks, Tellez preaches every week and he hasn’t stopped going on biannual church missions trips. Typically, he sleeps only from 2-6 a.m., then wakes up to read the Bible, study, and prepare sermons. He usually takes a 15-minute nap in the daytime. Tellez says he tries to pace himself, and herbal remedies are boosting his immune system.
“Every time I see him, I encourage him to slow down, but so far he hasn’t listened to me,” chuckles Network Superintendent Doyle Fulkes. “He’s still going all the time.”
Fulkes, who has known Tellez for 17 years, finds him to be energetic, enthusiastic, and intelligent.
“It’s an inspiration to see him when you realize all he’s lived through.” Says Fulkes, 66. “He’s learned English, studied hard, got his degree, and proven himself to be a good pastor to a stable, solid group of believers.”
Tellez says through his medical odyssey he has learned to be more focused on Christ instead of ministry activities. Miriam helps her husband with administrative duties. Daughter Ana is worship leader at the church, while sons Daniel Isaac Jr. and Eliu Abraham also are involved in church music ministry.
“Doctors have no clue how I am functioning, how I am walking, why I’m not in a wheelchair,” Tellez says. “It’s the grace of God. God has given me the strength to continue to serve him to the best of my capacity. I try to maximize whatever time I have.”
In January, physicians identified new lesions on Tellez’s brain.
“I do not know how much more time I have left,” Tellez admits. “But I live every day as if it’s my last. I want to maximize every second of life until the Lord calls me.”
In the meantime, Tellez doesn’t want to stop learning. He has been accepted in the master’s program at Northwest University.
“Regardless of diagnosis and prognosis, the Christian walk is an adventure of joy and love,” Tellez says. “I enjoy it to the fullest.”IMAGE - Pastor Isaac Tellez (left) and Superintendent Doyle Fulkes.