Transforming the Church from Cuba to the Texas
By Lindsay Peyton
Rev. Dayimi Pimentel’s clearly remembers when she first stepped into a Methodist Church in her native Cuba. “That day my life changed when I met Christ,” she recalled. It would eventually become the beginning of her journey into the ministry. Now, as she assumes the new position of Racial and Ethnic Ministries Coordinator for the Texas Annual Conference, she will play a role in a changing church, helping it better reflect the Kingdom of God.
Pimentel was born in Camagüey, Cuba in a home where she explained she never even had heard of God. Instead, she watched as her father practiced Santeria. At about the age of 9, Pimentel found a small Bible in the house, but her father snatched it from her hands and forbade her from reading it.
“He kept it locked in his closet, and I never saw it again,” she recalled. “Although he hid it to keep it away from me, he could not lock the grace of God in that closet.”
Discerning her call
Ten years passed and her sister-in-law, Yoelquis Hernandez extended the invitation to join her at a church service. “That day in church, while listening to the worship and the Word, I started crying, asking Jesus for forgiveness for my sins,” Pimentel said.
Before long, she was flooded with God’s grace. Yoelquis read John 1:12 aloud. “She said to me, ‘You are now a daughter of God,’” Pimentel recalled. “From that moment on, the Lord filled me with joy, and I came to my house to tell them about Christ.”
Not too long afterwards, she received her calling to ministry. At a youth summer camp, a pastor preached Isaiah 6:1-8: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me.”
It was if the words were speaking directly to Pimentel. “From that moment I began to serve God as a missionary, leader of the youth in my home church and leader of small groups,” she said.
That commitment only grew stronger over time. With her husband Daniel Hernandez, they became assistant pastors in their local church. Then, she served as National Director of Christian Education of the Methodist Church in Cuba and went on to earn a B.A. of theology at the Methodist Evangelical Seminary in Havana. She eventually became a professor at the seminary, then later graduated with a M.Div. at Perkins School of Theology.
When the Rev. Arturo Cadar invited Pimentel and her husband to Texas and shared his vision for Hispanic Ministries in the Texas Annual Conference, the couple saw an opportunity to further serve God and packed their bags. In 2015, they began attending Crossroads UMC in Houston and, a year later, were appointed as Pastors of El Mesias UMC.
In 2019, the couple were appointed pastors in Galena Park to plant a Hispanic ministry, La Vid Comunidad Cristiana Houston. She established a ministry for Hispanic-Latino women. During the pandemic, she even created an online group for women worried about their children.
A New Role
Her wide range of experience and dedication caught the attention of the Rev. Morris Matthis, the director of the TAC’s Center for Clergy Excellence. He explained that the Conference’s Strategic Mapping Team (SMT) had identified a need to create a new position — Racial and Ethnic Ministries Coordinator.
“It was clear that Dayimi could bring so much to the table,” Matthis said. “She has experience in ministry and as a professor. She’s already known and respected by other pastors.”
Pimentel remembers Matthis calling her interview to interview for the job. She immediately agreed. “It would certainly be a challenge, but I was very grateful that they thought of me as a candidate for this position,” she said.
Matthis explained that Pimentel started March 1 – and will be working alongside both the Hispanic Church Initiative and the African American Church Initiative (AACI).
“She will be involved in strengthening ministries with all ethnicities,” he added. “She’ll also be asking how our conference can do a better job when it comes to ministry. She will be blazing new trails and looking for new ways to support and grow ministry.”
Pimentel will be charged helping minister to all ethnicities. She will also work to identify, recruit and nurture clergy and lay leaders for existing and new faith communities to ensure that all are represented and served.
“Dayimi’s role is to be sure that we’re all connected and to help see projects through,” Rev. Dr. Elijah Stansell, who serves as the Conference’s AACI leader, said.
He explained that the TAC serves a diverse population, and already there are various initiatives and leadership development opportunities in place that provide support for clergy. He sees Pimentel’s role as a connector, someone who can assist in orchestrating programs.
“My hope is that in this role, Dayimi will us help us evolve,” he said. “The fact is our concern for ministry and the challenges we face are the same. Together, we can build fruitful ministries for all different ethnic groups for the future.”
Dr. Stansell added that the church is obliged to be in ministry with all people and improve the challenges faced by various ethnic groups. “They need to know that the church is there to help,” he said. “Collectively, we can do this. We are better together.”
Pimentel’s work is just beginning. “I began this journey of faith, trusting that God will guide me so that I can make a difference in our racial and ethnic communities,” she said.
Pimentel recalled, that when leaving Cuba, an individual warned her she would never have the leadership opportunities in the U.S., being Hispanic and a foreigner. She thanks the Texas Annual Conference for embracing her with the opportunity.
“It reminded me of God’s purpose for my life and I am grateful to be at this Annual Conference that gives space and opportunities to different races and ethnic groups to exercise their leadership,” she added.
Matthis is excited to have her on the team. “I’m so impressed with her heart for ministry,” he said.
This is only one of the transitions resulting from the SMT’s recommendations, he added. “I’m thankful for the foresight of the Conference to think strategically about its future,” he said. “We’re positioning ourselves to move our ministry forward in new and innovative ways – and we believe there are great things in store.”