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God of His Seasons

District Superintendent Emilio De La Cruz overcomes an aimless youth to follow the Lord’s plan for his life.

Emilio De La Cruz’s father asked him a Hobson’s choice question. Did the 8-year-old boy want to stay in the family home in Rupert, Idaho, with his mother, Maria, or accompany his father, Raul, as he moved out?

The decision to stay with his mom as his parents divorced proved to be disastrous from the start, as a parade of violent, alcoholic male figures populated the home. At 12, Emilio started taking drugs, which triggered his own lifestyle of crime and violence — as well as stays in juvenile jail.

In an altercation with a friend at 17, a shotgun discharged, and police arrested Emilio. His oldest sister, Maria, could have bailed Emilio out, but chose to leave him there. For weeks, Maria parked outside the jail during her lunch hour and prayed. Emilio started to read a Bible in his cell.

Scriptural truths didn’t sink in too deeply for Emilio. He tried to bargain with God, vowing to forsake hard drugs — and stick to just marijuana — if the Lord got him off the hook. Nevertheless, De La Cruz, charged as an adult, received probation rather than serving a sentence.

He accepted a girlfriend’s invitation to attend a Spanish-language Assemblies of God church. While high on marijuana De La Cruz walked into the service. He had never heard of the Christ the preacher talked about. Yet he realized something inside him had changed.

“From that moment — I didn’t recognize it then as the touch of the Holy Spirit — I lost all desire to use drugs and to drink,” De La Cruz remembers.

The next week De La Cruz returned to the church on his own, and after an altar call surrendered his life to Jesus. The following week at the altar he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Almost immediately, De La Cruz sensed a call to ministry. He attended Southern Arizona Bible College and became an AG evangelist. After marrying his wife, Elvira, De La Cruz spent 14 years pastoring a Mexican church, Centro Cristiano, in Manson, Washington. During his tenure there, Centro Cristiano planted five daughter congregations.

In 2000, De La Cruz moved to Avondale, Arizona, and began a Mexican church with 10 people. For four months, Emilio and Elvira lived in the church with their two daughters, Jennifer and Emily, relying on saved funds to make it through. Today, New Life Covenant Church has 250 regular attendees.

Adherents are primarily Hispanic, with a sprinkling of African-Americans and Caucasians. De La Cruz leads an English Sunday service at 9:30 a.m. and a Spanish one at 11:30.

The congregation includes a few former drug addicts and ex-gang members, some of whom have gone through a men’s discipleship program started by Carlton Pageant six years ago. A residential home is located on church property. The home helps up to nine men recently released from prison or jail transition on the outside and, ideally, become productive members of society.

“We try to get them back to work, back with their family, back on their feet,” says Pageant, a 62-year-old African-American who himself struggled with drugs and lived on the streets for years. “We want to make sure they are solid.”

The rehabilitation home includes Christian-based Bible studies and church services designed to give purpose to life. A quarter century ago, Pageant graduated from a similar residential discipleship program sponsored by Dream City Church called Church on the Street.

De La Cruz has a heart for such men. During his youth, De La Cruz despised both his Mexican-born parents. Yet God healed him of his hatred. After not seeing his dad, Raul, for 22 years, De La Cruz tracked him down. Four years ago, he led his father to the Lord at the age of 82. He baptized his mom, Maria, at 83.

Today, De La Cruz, who turns 60 on April 17, is also superintendent of the AG’s Hispanic Southwest District, which encompasses Arizona. New Life Covenant Church recently planted four AG churches around Arizona with Cuban pastors.

De La Cruz has published three books, Leading With Vision, Love Out Loud, and God of My Seasons.

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.