By Laurie Oswald Robinson
Gilberto Flores, associate conference minister for Western District Conference (WDC) in Texas, has traveled many miles since he began ministry 50-plus years ago. And yet he believes it’s the steps he took as a young man that most decidedly set his course.
As Flores and his wife, Rosa, were honored at WDC’s annual assembly July 5 for their longtime ministry, he cited his early spiritual formation and shoulder-tapping by church leaders as pivotal in his decision to enter ministry. He was born on Nov. 24, 1945, in the small city of Santa Ana, El Salvador, the son of Pioquinto and Maria Cristina (Campos) Flores. As a son of a Protestant pastor, prejudiced teachers and peers taunted him, but the modeling of his family helped him absorb these hardships in faith.
“I grew up hearing my parents saying that if we will die, we are ready, but we will not stop doing what we are doing,” Flores said. “I grew up with a sense that our life is in God’s hands, and only God decides how we live it and how we lose it.”
This passion for ministry became his. At 14, he witnessed about Jesus in school. At 16, he became a youth pastor and a deacon. At 18, he was licensed as a Christian education minister for 10 churches in El Salvador. At 24, he became a pastor of his first congregation as he finished seminary.
In 1972 he married Rosa Herrera and was ordained pastor of a congregation in southern Guatemala. It was there that the first seeds of his peace and justice focus sprouted and grew. It was a focus that shaped his ministry in that country and put his life in danger with the political powers.
After being a pastor, Flores became academic dean at the Mennonite seminary SEMILLA in Guatemala City. From 1990 through 1996, he and Rosa served as church planters in Venezuela and Texas. In 1996, they moved to Kansas, where Flores served in the church that became Mennonite Church USA. His ministries included being a director of Hispanic ministries, director of Instituto Biblico Anabaustista, a denominational minister and a director of missional church advancement.
In 2009, Flores came to WDC. His overarching passion has been to “create a mission-oriented and multicultural conference and to see that we are putting WDC into the world and not outside it.”
As assembly participants gave the couple a standing ovation, Flores announced he would retire in January 2015 from WDC – an area conference he deeply loves and respects, he said.
“At WDC I learned a conference is a good place to talk about our diversity and differences and still love and respect each other,” he said. “The leaders and staff in this conference have been really good people to work with. They have inspired me and challenged me. They are topmost.”