PASTOR / ELDER RUBEN MARTINEZ Ruben was born in 1954 into a migrant family who worked the fields together every summer. He met the Lord before starting college in Houston to study medicine. He spent several years bouncing between colleges before winding up at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). After several years there, he decided to attend The University of Texas at Dallas to earn a Bachelors in Business Administration in 1984. He then returned to DTS to complete a Masters degree in Theology. He returned to South Texas in 1987 and started Living Word Evangelical Free Church. Ruben was ordained by the Evangelical Free Church of America in November of 1991. He continued his theological training after starting the church and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in May of 2001. Besides starting the church, Ruben also maintained a private counseling practice from 1988 to 1995. He met his wife Nancy shortly after starting the church. They got married in November of 1988. They have 5 children; Stefanie, Gabriel, Grant, David and Desiree. Ruben has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Rio Grande Bible Institute (6 years) and the EFCA National Board of Directors (3 years). He has traveled to Africa, Australia, Israel, Mexico and most of the U.S. His passion is helping people change by knowing God and his Word.
RENE OLIVAREZ – ELDER Rene grew up in a Christian church since he was 7 years old. He dedicated his life to serve the Lord as a sophomore in college at 19 yrs. old. Rene and his future wife Norma met and served together in a college ministry called Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) till graduation While attending college, Rene founded and led the youth ministry for a Hispanic Baptist Church for approximately 5 years. He was also called upon to teach, preach and lead as deacon/elder. By the age of 30, Rene assisted in the construction of a 5000 sf church facility putting to good use his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. The church began in 1995 in his parent’s house in a stable with chickens & goats attending the service. They started with just his parents and pastor’s family and grew to approx. 50-70 members. The youth group also grew up to approximately 30 kids…of which most members were new believers that were won for the Lord through outreach. In June 2004 the Olivarez family moved to Living Word. Rene has served as youth leader, taught Sunday School, preached occasionally, was previously head deacon and has led the men’s breakfast for approx. 2 yrs. Rene and Norma Catalina Flores Olivarez have been married since 11-21-98. Their children include: Nate, Sarah and Katalina.
MARK VEGA – HEAD DEACON Mark was born and raised in McAllen, Texas, Mark is the 7th of 8 children born to Mr. Ramon and Irma Vega. A graduate of McAllen High School and Texas A&M University – Kingsville, he has attended Living Word Church since 1999. Mr. Vega has been employed with McAllen Public Utility since 2003 and enjoys being a husband to his lovely wife Daniela and being a dad to his daughter, Nicole and son, Marky. Mark currently serves in Finance.
PETE VILLANUEVA- DEACON Pete was born and raised in Donna, TX and has been employed by General Electric (GE) for about 10 years. He is married to Ana and they are the parents of four daughters. He came to know the Lord in his early 20’s. He has served in various ministries such as Deacon, Elder, Youth Leader, Sunday School teacher. His passion is to mentor and encourage people to live for Christ.
Daniel Gonzalez – DEACON Daniel was born in McAllen and raised in Rockport ,Tx . He has been employed with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley ( UTRGV ) for 18 years and is currently the Superintendent of the Grounds Maintenance Department. He is married to Elizabeth Gonzalez and together have a blended family of 10 children. Led to the Lord 13 years ago he turned to the Lord and lifted his arms and surrendered to him as his Lord and savior. Daniel has attended Living Word for a year and a half and knows this is where the Lord has led him and his family. Favorite song – Greater by Mercy Me Favorite verse -Be still know that I am God Psalm 46:10
LUCIANO B. LEAL (CHANO) – DEACON Chano was born in Nyssa, Oregon and raised in Alamo Texas. He served with the United states Marine Corps for six years as a Staff sergeant in Camp Pendleton California and Okinawa Japan. After honorably discharged he was led to Christ by Pastor Ruben Martinez in 1980. He served with the U.S. Customs Service which later became U.S. Customs and Border Protection with the Department of Homeland Security. He is married to Sylvia for over 42 years and reared two daughters and two sons. He has since retired from the government service after 42 years in protecting America’s front lines. His passion is to lead others to Christ and to serve with Living Word Evangelical Free Church.
Joe was born in Nyssa, Oregon and raised in Alamo, Texas. He currently serves as Army Instructor for the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at PSJAISD district that teaches students character education, student achievement, wellness, leadership, and diversity. A graduate of PSJA High School and Liberty University. Joe previously retired from the US Army. He currently lives in Alamo, TX with his wife Letty and two sons Joey and Jimmy.
His favorite Bible verse is “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
NATHAN STEELE — WORSHIP LEADER Nathan, 38, grew up as a military kid and spend his childhood living everywhere from San Antonio to England. At 9 years of age, his father felt the Holy Spirit tug his heart to full-time service. When he was 13, his parents were called to the Rio Grande Valley, and Nate has been here ever since, attending Living Word EFC for 22 years. Nate married his high school sweetheart, Kendra, at 20 years old and has been blessed by the Lord to have 7 beautiful children: Kenneth, Margaux, Ezra, Teiarose, Tabitha, Cassidy and Chloe. Nate graduated UTPA in 2007 and has practiced as a Registered Nurse for 10 years, working in pediatric intensive care where he has witnessed God’s miracles on a regular basis! He also attended Word of Life Bible Institute, earning a certification in Biblical studies. His passions are people, music, and God.
ENRIQUE “GRANT” MARTINEZ – YOUTH LEADER Grant is a graduate of UTRGV and Edinburg North High School. He has a B.S. in Civil Engineering and is a licensed Engineer in Training with hopes of attending seminary in the future.
He accepted Christ as Savior when he was 4 years old on a camping trip to Colorado. Raised in a pastor’s home, he is the third child of Pastor Ruben & Nancy Martinez. He is a familiar figure in the Worship sound booth & subs as percussionist with the Worship Team. He also has taught middle school kids during summer classes. Grant has led the lifeguards at Camp plus providing piano lessons for several of the church kids. His passion is to point people to Christ and help them find and grow in relationship to HIM.
Grant leads the Youth Group ministry on Friday evenings with devotional, social activity and food plus Biblical teaching on Wednesday evening and Sunday morning. Grant is married to Ayssa Guajardo Martinez. The couple are parents of daughters Riley Cadence Martinez born in September 2016 with another child Natalie Joy born in August 2018.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION SUPERINTENDENT
Christy Martinez – CE Superintendent Christy was born (1981) and raised in Corpus Christi, TX. From birth she was taught to know and love God. Growing up in a Christian home where her family attended church faithfully throughout her childhood, she does not recall a time when she didn’t know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
Christy married David Martinez in 2000 and together they moved to McAllen, TX. She graduated from UTPA
with her BA in Communication Studies in 2003. Christy and David have been blessed with three sons:
Shaun, Cole, and Jace. Their family has attended Living Word since 2015. Christy is a stay at home mom
who home schools and runs an essential oil business. She loves to learn about education and her desire
is to serve God and His people.
NANCY MARTINEZ — LEADER OF WOMEN’S MINISTRY.
Nancy was born and raised in Oneida, NY. She went to nursing school and has worked as an LVN in a variety of settings over the years.
She came to the salvation knowledge of Jesus Christ at 24 years of age. She met and married Pastor Ruben in 1988. They have been married for 30 years, have 5 grown children and 5 grandchildren. They buried their oldest child in 2017. Together they continue to serve our great God here at Living Word!
KRIS DRISCOLL — ASSISTANT LEADER OF WOMEN’S MINISTRY. Kris was born, raised and raised her family in Southern Wisconsin. She, her parents, & siblings were reached with the gospel by the First Baptist Church of Clinton, WI and Kris gave her life to Christ at bible camp when she was eight years old. She felt called to missions at a young age but other things in life took precedence for many years.
Kris has two children, Ellen and Patrick and four grandchildren. Kris was a trained dental assistant and dental assistant instructor. Later she and her mother, Shirley Driscoll, owned and operated a restaurant for eleven years and next she managed the school food service operations for two Wisconsin school districts.
The opportunity for missions came to Kris in 1996 and 1997 when she went on short term mission trips to Honduras. Kris became a full time missionary in 1998 serving with the EFCA until 2007 in Tegucigalpa Honduras. In 2007 she came to the Valley to help care for her elderly parents and continues as a missionary working in the U.S. with EFCA Hispanic Ministries, GATEWAY Theological Institute and Immigrant Mission.