For seven years, the Central District Conference (CDC) supported Daniel Rodriguez, a bi-vocational pastor serving the Hispanic congregation Iglesia Agua Viva (IAV) in Omaha, Nebraska, as he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Now, as the newly appointed CDC minister, Rodriguez has a chance to give back. His own training drives a passion for leadership development as he seeks to serve district pastors.
“I really wanted to use my training in a God-honoring way,” Rodriguez says. “He opened so many doors for me to get training, so I wanted to do something that was related to ministry. The Central District supported me all of those years, so maybe this is God opening that door for us to (give) back in a way.”
A calling and a girl
Rodriguez did not intend to stay in the United States when he came on a visa to attend high school in Omaha at his aunt’s invitation. He wanted to learn English to secure a higher-paying job and attend college in his hometown of Ciuadad Juárez, Mexico.
As a child, Rodriguez had watched his parents and older brother actively serve at church, so naturally Rodriguez plugged into a church in Omaha, IAV, where he led the youth and joined the worship team.
During that time, he felt a call to preach. He also met a girl.
“The reason that I stayed (in the U.S.) was God’s calling, first of all, and then the idea that I was going to marry this beautiful girl,” he says.
He and Wendy married, and Rodriguez applied for and received U.S. citizenship. The couple has two children. Three years into their marriage, Rodriguez became IAV’s lead pastor, a position he held for 12 years.
More than a diploma
Rodriguez was in his early 20s when he became pastor, having taken theology classes but never attending a formal institution. With IAV unable to support him full-time, Rodriguez started a carpet-cleaning and car-detailing business.
Former district minister Rick Eshbaugh observed Rodriguez’s passion for learning and offered support.
“Daniel has always impressed me as someone who is hungry for learning and eager to teach,” Eshbaugh says. “Early on when (IAV) asked him to be their pastor, he made a commitment to train his elders (and) leaders to be partners in ministry. He followed through with this commitment by leading them through a multi-month training program. At one point he asked me if there would be a way for him to receive more training as a pastor and leader. He wanted to provide more for his church. … He didn’t do it just to receive a diploma, but to prepare him for additional ministry and leadership.”
The CDC paid for Rodriguez’s tuition and the equivalent of his part-time salary. He also received a scholarship through MB Foundation’s LEADGen fund. He earned his bachelor’s degree in ministry leadership from Moody Bible Institute in 2020 and his Master of Divinity in pastoral ministry from Moody Theological Seminary in 2022.
“I really appreciate the Central District for all of those years supporting me, not just for going to school and getting the training that I wanted—and I needed it at the time—but supporting my family as well. It was an incredible blessing.”
Rodriguez began as CDC minister on Aug. 1.
Helene Wedel, a member of the executive board that hired Rodriguez, describes him as a unifier, visionary and “man of prayer, filled with joy and a crazy fun sense of humor.”
“In Daniel’s short tenure as CD DM, he has already begun work toward a continuing education program for CD pastors and church leaders,” Wedel says. “God has uniquely prepared the Central District, USMB, and Pastor Daniel for this ministry.”
To provide affordable pastoral training, Rodriguez and district pastors with seminary training are developing free theology classes in hermeneutics, New Testament and Old Testament. Rodriguez has connections with professors also willing to teach. Instructors will be paid.
Rodriguez will translate courses into Spanish, with courses also offered in Amharic and possibly French or Swahili. He hopes the first classes will start in January.
“It will look a lot like the cohorts that we do at the national level, but it’s going to be more (like a) college level class where people are going to do assignments,” Rodriguez says. “It’s not going to be accredited. We’re just looking for getting people tools that they need to be better leaders in the church.”
In addition to training, Rodriguez is passionate about spiritual formation, leadership development and church planting.
Because the CDC no longer has two district ministers, Rodriguez’s administrative assistant, Rhonda Swiers, will help shoulder the workload.
Rodriguez wants to visit the district’s 39 churches and travels on weekends, working from home Monday through Thursday and taking Friday off.
To combat isolation for rural churches, Rodriguez is orchestrating a Zoom prayer time and would like to strengthen churches and pastors in unity with devotionals.
“We have great pastors, so I think that’s one strength that we have in the Central District,” he says. “Really, really good pastors passionate about Jesus (and) passionate about their churches, so that makes it easier for me to come alongside them. I’m here to help.”
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.