You may have been there before: your alarm clock wakes you to a question echoing around in your brain. Throughout your morning, you try to take care of the tasks you need to accomplish, but you can’t fully focus on these things. Try as you might, you have no idea what time that upcoming PazNaz event starts! During lunch, you decide to head over to PazNaz to find out the answer and free yourself from this burden. After parking your car, you move toward the PazNaz offices with your question burning in the back of your mind. If only there was someone who could help you! As you near office doors, you’re straining to see who might be inside, and are struck by the irony: the very glass that is supposed to provide transparency produces a reflection, and when you need help from someone else, you only can see yourself. As you step inside the doors, glance at the front desk and search for help, your gaze is met with a smile and his commonly-used, yet fully genuine, phrase: “Welcome to PazNaz! My name is Daniel. How can I help you?”
While the man behind this smile, Daniel Ramos, is one of the newest employees at PazNaz, he is by no means unfamiliar to the community. Before starting in November as the new Receptionist and Statistician, Daniel has had two years of experience with PazNaz Student Ministries as a youth leader, where he will continue to intern. Daniel’s involvement with Student Ministries spans working as a small group leader with the Junior class, leading and organizing the Student Worship Initiative, leading a guys’ Bible Study, and developing the many personal relationships he has with students in the youth group. Each of these responsibilities is something he enjoys in the moment, but all are leading toward something in the future. Daniel is in his final year of studies at Azusa Pacific University, as he moves closer toward completing his degree in Youth Ministry with a minor in Graphic Design. He is working in ministry as he practices for the next chapter: whatever may come after graduation. For Daniel, while he is spending time learning for his future ministry, he is fully invested in the ministry that happens in the present. He is a passionate leader who is excited about what is happening today in the ministries at PazNaz.
This all flows from his heart for ministry. If you get the chance to sit down with him and ask about why he wants to be so invested in this church community, you hear in his response theological ideas dancing with emotional connections. He has great hopes of what the church community could look like, and sees a continuous need for churches in our present and future society. When I spoke with him about his passion for youth ministry, he shared some of the basis for this passion for students. “I never had a youth pastor growing up,” he shared. “I went to a fairly small church. We did have a small Sunday School, but I didn’t really get anything out of that. Honestly, I hated it; it felt very institutionalized, like a school setting. I wish it could have felt different: when we come together, we listen to a sermon, worship God, and get to talk about it in a small group.” He loves Sunday School and his opportunities to teach, but isn’t afraid to get creative when things need a little shake-up. Daniel has been influential in some of the imaginative thinking in the youth ministry. Discipleship doesn’t happen only within a classroom; it happens within every avenue of our lives. As Daniel says, “We don’t learn to follow Jesus best in the same way we learn in a school. Church shouldn’t be a school; church should be church.”
Daniel’s passion for ministry and his love for people is the foundation of his hope for ministry. And now, as he takes the opportunity to work as both a Student Ministries intern and also the Receptionist and Statistician, the chance to meet people from PazNaz and hear their stories is greatly increased. And Daniel is enjoying every second of it.
While Daniel is passionate about pedagogical practices, he has many other skills and abilities. One of the areas Daniel has continuously invested in the youth group is in musical worship. Having experience in the much loved “man-choir,” as it is affectionately known at his school, he has been passionate about getting students involved in musical leadership capacities. This has translated to Student Ministries with the formation of the Student Worship Initiative, or SWI, who weekly leads the Wednesday Night worship periods for Student Ministries. This team of students brings together their musical abilities, whether guitar, drums, bass, ukulele, or mandolin. These instruments are woven together in a way that invites students and leaders alike to adoration before the throne of God. This team and their regular involvement has been one of the highlights of the year for Student Ministries. It is amid this group that Daniel can be found, encouraging students to recognize and use their musical gifts in the way they lead others.
While Daniel has poured himself into this community of Student Ministries, the relationship has been anything but one way. When asked about his favorite part about being at PazNaz, he replied “Honestly, it’s the kids. It’s being able to be there for the youth in ways I would have never expected. They have been like my family; even though I’m a college student, they’ve still been that family. And the youth staff, too. I love the way we can all get together, no matter what’s going on, come and worship God, and also be there for each other. I’ve seen that a lot with the kids with each other, and the youth leaders with the kids, and the kids with the youth leaders.” As he has invested time and energy into the church community, he has found that he has a home at PazNaz. This community is his people, and students and leaders alike have become part of his family. It is within this family that Daniel’s first role at PazNaz has blossomed. It is within this family that Daniel has come to know the community of PazNaz.
As one of the newest PazNaz employees, Daniel’s community at PazNaz is expanding. He’s familiar with the youth group, but now is finding himself inundated with new relationships and connections as the Receptionist and Statistician at PazNaz. In this role, he is seeing a new side of PazNaz and has nothing but positive things to say about the position. When we spoke, I asked him about his favorite part of the new role, and his reply was, as one might expect, all about people: “I just love getting to know people and getting to know their stories. That’s huge. So, being able to learn the history of the church from different people who have been here varying lengths of time, and seeing the changes the church has experienced through their eyes is something I really enjoy; whether it is a member of the congregation or one of the staff members. I’ve been learning from the staff, and I am grateful for how they are able to pour into me, tell me some of the stuff they’ve experienced, share their stories, and explain how they got to where they are now.” Daniel’s passion for ministry and his love for people is the foundation of his hope for ministry. And now, as he takes the opportunity to work as both a Student Ministries intern and also the Receptionist and Statistician, the chance to meet people from PazNaz and hear their stories is greatly increased. And Daniel is enjoying every second of it.
When you are around PazNaz and get the chance, stop by the front desk and get to know Daniel! He loves others’ stories, and he has his own story as well. Don’t be intimidated by the reflection of the door; once you make your way through, you will be greeted by Daniel’s smiling face.
– Pastor Mackenzie Smith
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