Hispanic Power Couple
Eva Rodriguez had been serving as a church's associate pastor for more than three years when the senior pastor suffered a moral failure that disqualified him from leadership. Although she sensed the Holy Spirit's urging to step into the senior position, many in the congregation refused to support her because of her gender.
The conflict wrenched her heart. She continued to seek guidance from the Lord. Her husband, Samuel Rodriguez, also an Assemblies of God pastor, is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a network of more than 40,000 churches in the United States and 440,000 in Latin America. He told his wife, "You were born to preach," verifying what she heard from the Holy Spirit.
With that, she planted Centro Cristiano De Adoración (Christian Worship Center) in a member's living room in Sacramento, California. From the Spanish-language church's first gathering of 18 adults and children in 2006, today the church is flourishing under its new name, Cántico Nuevo (New Song). Eva Rodriguez is its senior pastor.
The couple maintains a high national profile. In 2008 Eva's prayer opened the Republican National Convention; Samuel's prayer opened the convention in 2012. Samuel frequently appears on Fox News. Time magazine named him among the world's 100 most influential people of 2013. He's a key adviser to Trinity Broadcasting Network's new English-language Hispanic faith-and-family channel called TBN Salsa.
Four years ago, Samuel Rodriguez became senior pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center, a multiethnic English-language congregation that shares a building with Cántico Nuevo. Between the two churches, weekend attendance is 1,300.
Juggling family and ministry has proven challenging for Eva.
"If you are a woman pastor, you're also a mom and a wife," she says. "To balance those three out, it's not easy." She adds that male pastors often have a wife at home who cooks, cleans, helps children with homework, and goes to games. Her husband had a demanding job and an extensive travel schedule.
"I did pay a price, but today there are no regrets," Eva says. "My kids love church and love God. At the end of the day, so many lives have been transformed by the ministry."
The couple shares a vision: making the Hispanic community self-dependent. To that end, they aim to help Latinos gain skills to increase their ability to serve one another, strengthen the next generation, and thus become empowered to achieve their dreams while following Christ.
"You don't have to be the woman behind the man, but the woman next to the man and work together," she says. "A lot of women have low self-esteem. My aim is getting these women to believe in themselves and what the Lord has called them to do."
Nick Garza, secretary-treasurer for the Northern Pacific Latin American District of the Assemblies of God, has known the couple for more than 20 years, dating to when they were district youth directors for the AG Eastern Spanish district.
"They have some of the most Pentecostal youth meetings I have ever seen -- hungry for God, powerful, intense," Garza says. "They're extremely dedicated to revival. Their church is very experience-driven, that every service should have altar time and free flow of the gifts of the Spirit."