the shape of leadership

La Hermandad Pentecostal — The Pentecostal Sisterhood

Maricela Hernandez’s life is the story of strong, Spirit-filled women

George P Wood on June 14, 2021


Maricela Hernandez experienced a call to ministry as a teen. She was praying alone at the altar of Templo Siloe in La Joya, Texas, when the electrical power went out.

The room was dark, but Hernandez felt God’s presence light it up, and she heard the Spirit whisper a praise song from her childhood: Yo ire, a donde el va, le seguire. (“I will go, wherever He goes, I will follow Him.”)

Hernandez has followed God since, serving the Church in various roles, from pastor to district leader. Today, she serves as secretary/treasurer of the Texas Gulf Hispanic District of the Assemblies of God. She is one of only three female district executives in the entire denomination.

Her story to and from that divine encounter at Templo Siloe is one of strong Pentecostal women.

From Sister to Sister to Sister

Hernandez was born in the U.S. to Mario and Julia Hinojosa. When Hernandez was 3 years old, her father died in a work accident. Julia moved the family to Monterey, Mexico, to be near her own brothers.

The Hinojosas were Catholic, but in Monterey, they lived next door to Sister Lucy, a fervent Pentecostal. Sister Lucy loved to sing. In fact, the praise song Hernandez heard at Templo Siloe was Sister Lucy’s. The Hinojosas began attending the church that met in Sister Lucy’s home (pastored by Gonzalo and Domitila Saucedo). There, Julia Hinojosa became a believer and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Hernandez sheepishly admits being a little “rebellious” growing up. Even so, Sister Domitila saw God’s calling on the young girl and often prophesied over her, “Maricela, you are an evangelist.”

When Hernandez was 12, her family returned to the U.S. and lived in La Joya, Texas. Hernandez experienced culture shock and depression, not to mention racism. Even though Hernandez was a natural-born citizen, a middle school teacher in La Joya told her, “Go back to your place. We’re not supposed to feed you.”

Hernandez remembers telling her mother, “The first thing I will do once I turn 18 is go back home. I don’t like it here.”

But in La Joya, she met Assemblies of God ministers Rafael and Linda Hernandez. (She married their son, Rafael Jr., in 1987.) There was no AG church in La Joya, so the Hernandezes started one in the Hinojosa home. It became Templo Siloe.

Sister Linda gave Hernandez her first Bible and discipled her. At first, the teenage Hernandez taught children or served as youth president. But Hernandez studied the adult Sunday School lessons too and told Brother Rafael she could substitute if needed.

Hispanic culture is often characterized by machismo, masculine pride, but Brother Rafael opened doors of ministry for the young girl.

Given the formative role Pentecostal women played in Hernandez’s life, it’s not surprising that she went on to play a similar role in the lives of others, both women and men.

“Teach it!” he encouraged her.

Looking back, though, it is the influence of Pentecostal women Hernandez recognizes most: “From Sister Lucy to Sister Domitila to Sister Linda,” she says.

Flames of Fire

Given the formative role Pentecostal women played in Hernandez’s life, it’s not surprising that she went on to play a similar role in the lives of others, both women and men.

Hernandez moved to Sullivan City, Texas, in 1995 to pastor Templo Siloe’s daughter church, Templo Paraiso. Church planting was part of the ministry DNA she and her husband inherited from their mentors, his parents. In 2002, while Hernandez pastored Templo Paraiso, her husband planted Family Christian Assembly in Penitas, Texas — the daughter church of a daughter church!

In 2004, Hernandez was elected to serve as Women’s Ministries director of her district. She resigned the Sullivan City pastorate to focus on this new ministry. Over the next four years, Hernandez built a thriving ministry, traveling and speaking to thousands of women throughout Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas

Hernandez stepped down from her district role in 2008.

“I had to go back home and focus on my daughter because she was a little rebellious,” Hernandez says.

Not to God, Hernandez hastens to add. “She was just rebellious against me. She was feeling I was not there whenever she needed me.”

Today, that daughter is a missionary associate with Assemblies of God Intercultural Ministries.

Hernandez admits it was difficult to step away from such a thriving ministry. But in the same year, she received the vision for Women of Fire, a Bible school to prepare young women for credentialed AG ministry.

It was a consoling vision. Hernandez sensed God saying, “I had you ministering to 2,000 women at a time as Women’s Ministries director. Now I’m going to bring you 12 ladies who, all combined, will still minister to 2,000 women when they all leave. You train them, and then you release them.”

Women of Fire was so successful in its first year it added young men the following year. Today, the school is known as Flames of Fire Bible School.

During 2012, the Texas Gulf Hispanic District elected Hernandez as secretary/treasurer. In that role, she provides oversight of the ministerial records and finances for 157 churches. Hernandez also directs the district’s church-planting initiatives.

Her ministry has come full circle. Strong, Pentecostal women — and men — poured their lives into Hernandez and released her for ministry. Now she’s a strong, Pentecostal woman pouring into the lives of women — and men — and releasing them for ministry.

The Pentecostal Way

According to 2019 statistics, a majority of Assemblies of God adherents are female, but most AG credentialed ministers are male.

This mismatch is changing, however. Between 1977 and 2019, the number of credentialed women ministers increased from 15% of the Fellowship to 26.4%. That’s 76% growth! Interestingly, the Texas Gulf Hispanic District leads the way, with women representing 42.2% of its credential holders.

While it’s difficult to know whether Hernandez should receive credit for her district’s record number of credentialed women ministers, a larger lesson seems certain. The Church is stronger when la hermandad Pentecostal — “the Pentecostal sisterhood” — is called, empowered and turned loose.

This article appears in the April–June 2021 edition of Influence magazine.

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