By Becky St. Clair
Josue Hernandez is in the middle of his third year of ministry as associate pastor at the Modesto Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. He graduated from Pacific Union College in 2015 with a degree in theology and will begin MDiv classes in January. “I wanted to be a pastor to ensure the voices of young people are heard in the life of the church,” Josue says.
Beginning Oct. 8, Pastor Josue will be sharing some spiritual insights and food for thought during Fall Revival at PUC. Join us every evening Oct. 8-12 at 8:00 in Dauphinee Chapel in Winning Hall, and at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, in the PUC sanctuary for Colloquy, to hear him speak on PUC’s Student Association’s theme of “Beyond.” Pastor Josue adds, “This theme really resonates with what I believe to be part of life’s most rewarding elements: Our ability to grow, step out of our comfort zone, and embrace the stress and tension that growth thrives on.”
We chatted a bit with Josue to get an idea of the kind of guy he is, and the verdict is he’s pretty great. We look forward to hearing what he has to say for Fall Revival.
You’re still experiencing the “new” of your career; what has surprised you about being a pastor?
In my experience, churches can be very open to new ideas when they line up with a fresh, well-communicated vision of what the church could be. For example, instead of having an extended evangelistic series we offered a one-weekend presentation on the power of hope to our community, wrapped up by a Sunday morning project where we partnered with Rise Against Hunger to package thousands of meals for families who needed them in the Philippines. Seeing the full spectrum of ages, including a few non-Adventist community members, working together toward the same goal was inspiring.
I’ve also led out in a 2-month sermon series called “Messy Church” while preaching in jeans and a t-shirt, purchased a drum set for our church, redesigned our youth room, and launched a teen leadership program. All new projects our church has fully embraced as part of our new identity. This has been a refreshing revelation because it shows churches are willing to step out of their comfort zone to share the Good News.
Tell us about your college years. What was your experience as a PUC student?
I thoroughly enjoyed the three years I spent at PUC. I was involved with SOL Club, joined the soccer team my senior year, and loved being a part of intramurals. My favorite class was beginning Greek (shoutout to Dr. Winkle for making that class such a positive learning experience) because I’ve always been drawn to different languages. I changed my major once from mechanical engineering to theology when I transferred to PUC, but If I had spent a little more time at PUC I would’ve picked up a second major in communications or business.
I had several roommates at PUC. Each one of them very different. I never really had any issue getting used to having a roommate but for some reason, they never stayed the whole year, not sure if it was them or me, except for Timmy Baze who I roomed with my first year—what a brave soul. PUC embraced me as family, so being away from home was probably tougher on my parents than on me. I missed the homemade food the most. My favorite meal in the cafeteria is still Friday morning bliss—biscuits and gravy! To get away from campus, I’d take trips down the hill to In-N-Out, Giugni’s, Sherpa … my mouth waters just thinking about those places! And of course, the back 40! Great place for a hike or a run to Inspiration Point with friends to burn off the calories from the cafeteria food.
What job did you have in college?
My first and only job at PUC (aside from Religious VP for the Student Association) was working for the alumni and advancement office as a student caller to our alumni, keeping them in touch with the latest on life at PUC and assisting with any other projects the office had, including the Maxwell Golf Tournament and Homecoming events.
Life didn’t start in college, though. Where did you grow up, and what were you like as a kid?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I played a lot of sports; soccer and basketball were my favorites. I also took a couple of years of piano lessons and began playing guitar.
How many siblings do you have?
Many people are surprised when I mention I have a sister, Dalia, who was at PUC during my last two years there. She graduated from PUC with a degree in biology this summer and I’m super proud of her!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I honestly don’t really remember! But I enjoyed playing with fire trucks and legos, so maybe a firefighter or architect.
What was your experience with church and worship as a kid?
I rarely missed a weekend at church growing up. My parents were intentional about ensuring we had a positive experience getting involved with a variety of church activities such as camping trips, family events, social gatherings, etc. Church is actually where I began to develop a joy for service and fellowship. Worship has been a source of great inspiration for me through all these years and has helped me tap into a clearer picture of God’s vision for my life.
We all have defining moments in our lives—moments we can’t forget and have shaped in a significant way the person we are today. What are two of your defining moments?
The first was definitely transferring to PUC from UC Davis. A lot was happening during my freshman year at UC Davis I had to deal with personally. I was beginning to grapple with who I really wanted to be in life, questioning whether or not I belonged at UC Davis, and dealing with high school relationship baggage. There were times where I felt I didn’t have what it would take to be a successful person on such a competitive campus. If you’ve heard of Impostor Syndrome you understand there are times when we second-guess our accomplishments. We feel if we accomplished something it was because the bar was set lower for us or for any other reason other than our own effort, especially as a Latino.
Transferring to PUC was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me I did belong. My achievements were meaningful and the community on this campus helped cement my identity. I ran for and served as RVP from 2014-15 which turned out to be one of the most positive learning experiences I’ve had in life. I am the first in my family to graduate with a college degree here in the United States and PUC will always have a special place in my heart for helping me get there.
And the second: Accepting the call to be a pastor in Modesto. Taking the next step after college is never an easy thing to do. After spending three years at PUC I fell in love with Northern California. I really wanted to stay close to campus because of all the friends that still remained there. It was a Friday evening before Vespers that I accepted the offer to serve as the associate pastor at Modesto Central. I thought I’d be at peace but I wasn’t. A couple weeks later the leadership team of the Southeastern California Conference reached out to me for a second round of interviews to meet the rest of the team. I began to wonder if I had made the right decision. Fast-forward three years, and looking back I am glad I made the choice to come to Modesto.
The fall after I graduated from PUC was the toughest because I missed the PUC community, friends, Vespers, classes—everything but the homework, ha!—and everyone seemed to be posting about moving back in for the start of the new year while I was in a new place with only a couple of people I knew well, I was thankful to be doing meaningful work with lots of potential. I spent one year out of the three I’ve worked here serving as the interim lead pastor when our senior pastor at the time took a call to a different church. I’ve been challenged to grow in so many areas and the people in this community have been so supportive and generous with me. I’ve made many meaningful relationships with the young people here including several who are now PUC students. I’ve discovered God works out all things for good. Learning to trust the process has given me a new awareness about my own boundaries God wants me to go beyond.
Being a pastor is a 24/7 job, essentially, but when you do find a few moments of free time, what do you enjoy doing?
I put a team together to play in a community co-ed soccer league that plays all year ‘round, and it’s been a blast! I also enjoy a good workout in the gym while listening to podcasts ranging from Revisionist History to the Bible Project, and reading anything by Malcolm Gladwell. And let’s be honest: Netflix after a long day is just icing on the cake.
Where is your favorite place in the world and why?
Anywhere with friends. This year I’ve spent some time in Spain, France, Bolivia, Israel, and Mexico. On all these trips, I’ve gone with different groups of friends and family. Each of these trips has had their challenges but the time spent being present and savoring the moment in front of us while sharing it with people we care about has been priceless. No matter where you go, you are surrounded by extraordinary people. Sometimes it just takes a readjusting of our attitude toward the world to see the opportunities to make meaningful memories around us. Then we pause to realize we are only just scratching the surface and dive deeper into the present.
If you could dream up the best possible outcome of this year’s Fall Revival at PUC, what would it be?
My goal is to remind the students of truths they know deep inside, truths they may have lost sight of along the way, and to challenge us all to go beyond surface level living into the depths of life that await us. The best possible outcome, from my perspective, would be for students to walk away with a better understanding of what it means to be human.
Why do you think events like this are important for college campuses?
I think they really help to recalibrate our purpose and vision in life. They inspire us to be the best version of ourselves and remind us of truths about ourselves and our relationship with the Divine we often forget with all the things vying for our attention.
If you’re interested in chatting with Pastor Josue about his talks or just about life in general, feel free to catch him after the Revival meetings or even stop him along the sidewalk. He’s on-campus all week and happy to chat with anyone who’s interested.