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 for 16 years. 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
NATHAN STEELE — WORSHIP LEADER Nathan, 33, 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 17 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 5 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 college student currently attending UTRGV having graduated from Edinburg North High School. He is majoring in Civil Engineering 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 is married to Ayssa Guajardo Martinez. The couple are parents of a daughter Riley Cadence Martinez born in September 2016.