ARC Women Spotlight | Danielle Pena
Name: Danielle Pena
Church and City: Relentless Church, Las Vegas NV
Launch Date: January 18, 2015
Current Role (if any): Lead Pastor alongside husband, Joe Pena
Family: Husband, Joe Pena, Children Fiovay (11) and Addi (10)
How and when did God place the call to plant a church on yours and Joe’s hearts?
We were youth pastors in Montana and in a time of fasting and prayer when God spoke to Joe. No, it was not audible, but it was clear in his mind and it was not a thought he would ever come up with on his own. He heard three things: 1.) You are going to plant a Church, 2.) You will plant in Las Vegas, NV and 3.) you will plant in 2 years. When Joe told me this, I tried to be excited but I was scared. I didn’t want to be a lead pastor and I didn’t want to move to Vegas. I didn’t want raise two daughters there. God really had to work on me. I was comfortable where we were. I enjoyed our church, I lived close to family, and my girls where in a good school. In a worship service, God reminded me that I had told Him I would go anywhere and do anything He asked me to do. I gave Him my whole life. He gave me a peace that this was His plan for our family. For my girls. For me! Even though I didn’t feel like I was capable I knew I had to obey God. There were several confirmations through prayer, God’s Word and pastors in our lives that this was God’s plan for us.
Was there ever a time during the planting process (or after the church was up and going) that things got hard and you wanted to quit? What kept you going?
Yes! We wanted to quit after most of our launch team quit. We were about a year in and we had close friends that left. It broke my heart. I would repeat the conversations and how negative they were in my head over and over again. I was questioning my calling and every decision I had to make. My confidence was shattered. My husband started writing truth statements on my mirror every morning. For example “You are beautifully and wonderfully made!” “You are strong and courageous!” “You love with all you are!” “You are equipped to do all that is in your hands.” My husband really supported me. He called my pastor friends and asked them to talk, encourage, and pray for me too. It was a hard, depressing time, and the support of others that loved me pulled me through. The past relationship told me I was an awful friend, pastor and person, so I needed the positive relationships to heal that hurting part of me.
What has God done in or through your church that has left you in awe of His greatness?
I have learned to step back and believe God to do the impossible work in people’s lives. I came from a few heavy-handed ministries, that where all about correction, so I had to learn that I don’t have to be quick to correct or try to change people. God changes people. He does it! I don’t have to correct people to get them to change because God does it with His gentle grace and perfect timing.
On October 1, 2017, there was the mass shooting on the strip that injured over 500 people and killed 56 in my city. It was devastating to say the least. Our community was flooded with devastation. Our hospital, police station, churches, and support hotlines had to step up in big way and they followed through beautifully. The Las Vegas Community showed unity, love and support in a big way. The blood drives couldn’t keep up with all the people coming to donate blood. People were serving meals to those waiting in line to give. Every billboard and neon sign said, “Pray for Las Vegas.” There wasn’t a person who was not affected by this horrific tragedy and the way that the church and the community as a whole pulled together was incredibly inspiring. It was something we have been praying for as a community. We prayed that people would find Jesus, find a support community and in one devastating hour all of this happened. No, it was not the revival I imagined but God is in charge. He made this beautiful city I live in shine with unity and not just because of our lights. Las Vegas is amazing!
What measures do you take to make sure you are spending enough time taking care of yourself, your husband, your family, along with a growing church?
I need to get better at this. I take walks daily to clear my mind and talk to God. It sets my day in the right direction. I also have conversations with older pastor friends that keep me thinking straight and encourage me. I have weekly or bi-weekly dates with my husband. I bring my kids on the journey. I have realized what works for each of them- one of our kids hates surprises and needs to know why and how things are happening. The other child can pick up and leave any minute. So we as a family stick to a schedule. We communicate what is happening weekly and we continue to communicate throughout the week.
What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who was just starting out on her church-planting journey alongside her husband?
Don’t put false expectations on yourself. I thought we could be the one church plant that did not lose our whole launch team, but we did. (Ok we have 4 left after 3 years. Ha!) I never thought my friends would leave me but they did. It hurts. But learn to love everyone who walks in the doors, and then love again.
Don’t compare yourself. Our church may not be growing as fast as other churches, but people’s lives are being changed every week! That makes a difference for that individual and that family and the generation to follow. A life change changes a whole legacy. Don’t minimize the one. That one is worth it!!