A Conversation with Pastors Dulse Villanueva and Edi Jimenea
Tell us about GraceLife Church? When did it start? Where is it meeting? What is the vision for its future?
Pastor Villanueva: In March of 2020 we got the news that everything was to be closed. No one was allowed to walk into a store, no one was allowed to go back into the school buildings, and no one was allowed to meet at church in person. Roads were desolate. As the pandemic started to gain strength, one would think that opening a new church would be the last thing on the agenda. Yet, it was precisely during this time that God called us to do just that. God works in ways we don’t always understand! What started as a small group gathering was now ready to launch as a new church! GraceLife Church held its first service as a church on June 19, 2020. Our very first Worship service was done virtually. We held virtual services for the first four months.
Once we were allowed to start meeting in person again, we started meeting at the home of Leticia and Alejandro Medrano. We met at their house from October to February. After outgrowing the space, we then moved to a hotel conference room where we met for about nine months. In November 2021, God opened the way for us to lease a space in a shopping center where we can now worship and minister from every day. We are currently serving in the far northwest part of San Antonio, Texas.
Vision: As a church we long to be one that Loves, Grows and Serves. Our desire is to see lives transformed by God’s power and become life long disciples of Christ. Along with that comes the desire to outgrow the space we currently have as we reach out to the surrounding communities with God’s love.
Pastor Villanueva, we understand that Pastor Jimenea was very influential in your decision to start GraceLife. How did he encourage you to take this step of faith?
Pastor Villanueva: When Pastor Jimenea first arrived at Las Palmas Church, one of our conversations was the vision that we both shared of opening a new church. As time passed, we continued this conversation, and we were allowed the opportunity to attend a DCPI training. It was here that we confirmed God’s will and Pastor Edi encouraged me to start a period of praying and fasting, alongside him, asking for God’s guidance and wisdom as we were venturing into something new. He continues to be my mentor, friend, and fellow servant in the Lord. He and Fabi, his wife, are a true blessing in my life.
Pastor Jimenea, what qualities do you see in Pastor Villanueva that make her the right candidate for starting a new church?
Pastor Jimenea: A heart with a desire to serve God, preparation and passion to preach the word, fidelity to pastoral ministry, a life consecrated to God, a life of example to believers
If a pastor is thinking about starting a new church what is one piece of advice you would give them?
Pastor Villanueva: There is joy in serving the Lord and in being obedient to His will. I see His mighty hand and grace at work every day, but it is not an easy journey (especially being a woman and opening a new church for the first time).
Advice I would give a pastor considering opening a new church is this:
Know that it is not an easy calling; challenges will be faced. It is important that your spouse and family understand that the calling involves them as well. Build a strong team—one that sees and understands the vision God has given you and is eager to reach others for the Kingdom. Be as prepared as you can possibly be but understand that many things are learned “out in the field”. Grant yourself some grace. It is when things seem the hardest, that you most see God’s mighty hand at work!
Always remember that it is God who has placed the calling upon your life and it is He who will sustain you and grant you great joy as you answer His call!
Pastor Jimenea: First, that the vision comes from the heart of God. Then be obedient to God’s call, be persevering and patient because in due time God will bear the fruit. Having a team that shares the same vision and above all in the love of God loves people.