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.
JON WHITE – ELDER Jon White was born and raised in Austin, TX. The son of a “used plane salesman” he was accustomed to flying everywhere. He attended Texas A&M University and graduated with a degree in accounting. He Moved to Dallas and worked as a CPA before attending Dallas Theological Seminary. He met his wife Libby while working in Dallas, TX, where they married in 2007. They served as missionaries in Puebla, Mexico for 2 ½ years before arriving in the valley in 2012.
They were blessed to adopt their son Robert the day he was born in September of 2013. Jon currently serves as a missionary with Camino Global. He ministers as a professor of missions and controller of finance at Seminario Bíblico Río Grande (SBRG). His passion is to see God’s name glorified among all nations, and he serves as president of the world missions committee SBRG.
PETE VILLANUEVA- HEAD 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.
MARK VEGA – 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.
EDDIE SILVA – DEACON Eddie was born in McAllen, the second of three boys, in 1973. He grew up in Pharr and attended PSJA High School where he first met his beloved wife Susy in 1989. They recently celebrated 20 years of marriage and are parents to three beautiful children; Megan, Isaac, and Emma.
After much defiance, Eddie came to know the Lord in 2006. He wholeheartedly became conscious of his sinful disposition and now clings to the soul-cleansing blood of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. After living 15 years in Arlington, Eddie moved back to the Valley in 2009 and prayerfully landed here at Living Word. He serves on the deacon board and has taught the Wednesday night Warrior’s class for 5 years.
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.
PAUL BAERG – DEACON Paul was born into a Christian family in 1947 and grew up in Butterfield, Minnesota. At the age of 15 Paul accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. After graduating from high school, he attended a bible college in Omaha, Nebraska. After graduating from college, he returned to Minnesota to farm… which he did until retirement in 2017. Paul served on the church board at his home church in Minnesota. He also served as Butterfield Township treasurer for 16 years.
In 2002 Paul became a Winter Texan after his father passed away. Paul was his caregiver for 13 ½ years after his mother passed away. Paul and Corina Hendley were married in 2009. Paul enjoys working as a team and loves to ask questions to understand the situation and spur innovation.
JOE LEAL – DEACON
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
ANA VILLANUEVA – CHRISTIAN EDUCATION SUPERINTENDENT Ana was born in Rio Bravo, Tamps., Mexico. Where at the age of 4, Ana felt a desperate desire to live in the house of God and become a Catholic Nun.
At 6 years old, Ana and her family became legal residents of the USA and at the age of 19, Ana and her dad were sworn in as American citizens in the same ceremony. At the age of 23 she received Christ as her savior.
As a migrant Farm worker Ana fell in love with the Red Skies of Montana and the pine trees of Wisconsin and Washington State. Ana earned her AAS in Business Administration and her second AAS as a legal secretary.
Ana has been married to Pete Villanueva for 24 years and has four grown daughters. Pete and Ana have been attending Living Word for 18 years, in which time Ana has served in various departments and ministries such as Nursery, Woman’s, Youth, Sunday School teacher, AWANA, Warriors Club and Children’s Church Ministries.
Ana is committed to teaching our children through our Sunday School education program and loves to see the children’s faces when Bible stories of the Old and New Testament come to life through the application of the story in their own lives.
NANCY MARTINEZ — CO-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.