The Winding Road of Danny Flores
When Danny Flores immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1999 he didn't know the Lord and he didn't know how to speak English. Today, he is quite familiar with both.
Flores is the passionate district youth director (DYD) of the Assemblies of God Midwest Latin American District. He accepted the Lord at an AG youth convention, where he says he also received a calling to the ministry. He enrolled in Master's Commission in Chicago, where he became program director after graduating. He later became a youth pastor.
In 2010, his mentor Wilfredo "Choco" De Jesús asked Flores to plant a church in Camden, New Jersey.
"I saw a person who has a teachable and obedient spirit," says De Jesús, himself a former AG Midwest Latin American District youth director.
Flores agreed to accept the challenge, and flew to the East Coast from the Windy City every weekend.
"Initially I hated it - going after the unreached, people nobody else wanted," says Flores, now 33. "But a passion grew in me for church planting. I've seen what God can do in a high-crime area." The church is now pastored by Stephanie Arroyo.
Two years later, De Jesús asked Flores to oversee the new Spanish-language campus of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, the largest congregation in the U.S. Assemblies of God. It didn't bother De Jesús that Flores still had relatively little experience.
"I gave Danny the opportunity, not to be tested, but to grow within his gifts," says De Jesús, 50. "As a senior pastor, I have to be patient as I disciple and mentor new pastors. The test was not if he could run a church, but if he could be obedient."
In addition to his DYD duties, Flores as New Life Covenant Spanish campus pastor preaches to a combined 550 adherents in three Sunday services. The church is located 1½ miles west of the main campus.
Flores spent his first 17 years in his native Monterrey, Mexico. He says his mom accepted Jesus as Savior while she carried him in her womb, and prophesied that he would be in the ministry.
As a youth, Flores didn't have much interest in the Lord. Drugs and gangs occupied his time in Mexico, but he wound up living near friends in Ligonier, Indiana. Templo Betel attendees conducted an outreach at the mobile home park where Flores lived - and was getting high. He agreed to attend the youth convention, where he both accepted Jesus as Savior and quit illegal drugs cold turkey.
He began attending New Life Covenant, which at the time had only English-speaking services. He learned English by listening to sermons, watching television, and reading magazines. Within two years of knowing no English, Flores had become fluent enough to preach in the new language. He now speaks without a trace of a Mexican accent.
Ironically, Flores now is preaching in Spanish on Sundays to first- and second-generation immigrant crowds that are almost exclusively Spanish speaking. For De Jesús, it's a perfect fit.
"Danny's leadership is very instrumental since first generation Latinos are a large demographic in our city as well as within our Movement," De Jesús says. "He is able to cross and connect with generations to preach and teach the good news all to the glory of God."
In 2008, Flores wed his wife, Ibeth, whom he met at a youth convention. Ibeth, whose parents are AG ministers in Texas, serves as worship director for the New Life Spanish church . The couple has three children.
In his DYD role, Flores is on the lookout for new leaders.
"I want to focus on raising up a generation of young men and women who have the potential to plant churches," Flores says.