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The Iglesias family: Nancy, Brennan and Rick. Rick resigned as lead pastor at the Pleasant Valley Church earlier this fall after 20 years.

A global and local mission


(1/14/2015)

by AMELIA WEDEMEYER

Although he seems too humble to admit it, Rick Iglesias is the kind of man who cannot walk into a room without a few people rushing over to greet him with a strong handshake or an enthusiastic hug. Iglesias’ magnetism can be attributed to many things, from his friendly demeanor to his ever-present grin, but for many, it is his service as lead pastor of Pleasant Valley Church (PVC) for 20 years that stands out above all. “Our focus is to have a real, strong community presence,” Iglesias said. “[We try to have a] positive impact on the community in many ways.”

After resigning from his position this past fall, Iglesias is still very much active in the Winona community, evidenced from his time spent at Winona Senior High School (WSHS) talking to Spanish classes, as well as the abundance of people who make an effort to stop and thank him for his service over the years. His continued community involvement is not surprising; Iglesias and his wife Nancy have called Winona and PVC home since moving to Southeast Minnesota from suburban Chicago in October of 1994. For the past 20 years they have built a life together that includes their son, Brennan, a senior at WSHS, so it will be a bittersweet moment when Iglesias and his family move sometime after Brennan's graduation in the spring. “When my wife and I came to Winona, we wanted to get involved in the community,” Iglesias explained. “We want to give back to Winona as much as we can.”

Over his tenure as lead pastor Iglesias has helped to shape the lives of people across many demographics, but he admitted to holding a special affinity toward young adults in the community, including college students and those with young families. “We have really strong ministries with youth,” he explained. “We try to make Christianity practical and accessible.” Prior to arriving in Winona, Iglesias worked at a college ministry, and was surprised at the lack of involvement between the church and Winona State University, Saint Mary’s University and Minnesota State College–Southeast Technical. “Here’s a town with three colleges and frankly, there was not a lot going on,” Iglesias remembered thinking. “We need to focus on the next generation.” In the coming years Iglesias, along with fellow PVC administrators and members, focused on how to involve the younger population of Winona, and started initiatives such as ministries aimed at middle school, high school and college students, Monday night contemporary service, and classes to help with money management and other life skills. “I’ve had college students come up to me and tell me ‘PVC has made all the difference [in] my college experience,’” Iglesias said. “There is no success without successors.”

Since its founding in 1894, PVC has continued to spread its reach throughout the entire community. “It began as an outreach from local churches, so it’s part of our DNA,” Iglesias explained. One of the most popular outreach programs founded under Iglesias is Celebrate Recovery, which covers a wide range of “hurts, habits or hang ups.” It is a 12-step program based in Christianity that involves practical advice and mentorship. “You name it — [we work with people struggling with] drug [addiction], food addiction, abuse,” Iglesias explained. “The focus is to see people get healthy.” Celebrate Recovery has been at PVC for about six years and caters to a wide variety of people — “Men, women, younger, older,” Iglesias said. “A good half is not from PVC. People matter to God, and people matter to us.”

The people who have been affected by the tireless work of Iglesias and the PVC congregation include not only local Winonans, but many individuals across the country and the world. Iglesias is a big proponent of mission trips, and has sent PVC members, young and old, to Appalachia, Indian reservations and urban cities. Five years ago, a group of young adults from PVC set out to climb Mount Rainier in Washington and were struck with the poverty they witnessed in areas of Seattle. “They felt a strong call of God,” Iglesias remembered of their desire to move there and start a church. “So we supported their work financially.” The church, which is now called Epic Life Church, is up and running with new members and leadership from the original PVC members. “We feel strongly that God has placed us here on earth for not only local, but global missions,” Iglesias said. “We feel strong about it.”

On a global scale, Iglesias feels a great pull to Eastern Europe, specifically Romania, where he and Nancy adopted Brennan, and where Iglesias has traveled 58 times for mission work and teaching seminary. “We are happy to give back, [especially with] what they have given us, Brennan,” Iglesias explained. “Each trip is different.” In Romania PVC members have been involved with work in Romanian orphanages, medical missions in towns with minimal medical care, and summer vacation Bible school. In many ways, his continuous work abroad is also a “thank you” to his parents. Born in Cuba, Iglesias moved to New Jersey at age four and established an all-American life with his parents and sisters. In high school he won a scholarship to attend school in Wisconsin, where he promptly moved to study Spanish and health education at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse. “I’m very thankful for the sacrifices my parents made to come to the United States for freedom,” he said. “I appreciate that and do not take it for granted.”

When asked why he devotes his time and resources not only to the Winona community, but to the greater national and international communities, Iglesias cites a Bible verse, Acts 1:8, which reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In context of the verse, Jerusalem was local, Judea was farther, and Samaria was remote. “The scriptures give examples that are more than local, concentric circles,” Iglesias explained.

The plan now is to wait until Brennan graduates and then pack up the family and move, most likely, to northern Illinois, where Brennan is looking at a few colleges. “It has been a great opportunity and blessing to be in Winona,” Iglesias said. “What we do in life echoes throughout eternity, and I hope [my actions] will continue to echo throughout Winona.”