This past February, Southeastern California Conference (SECC) ordained two pastors: Glenn Valenzuela, TK-12 campus chaplain at La Sierra Academy (LSA), and Starla Stephan Leno, discipleship and care pastor at the Azure Hills church.
Born in Texas, Valenzuela was raised a sports-loving Catholic who ultimately converted to Adventism at 15 years old. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Adventist University (SAU) and a master’s degree from Andrews University.
During his junior year at SAU, Valenzuela realized his passion was studying the Bible and sharing what he learned with others.
“I had a moment of clarity,” said Valenzuela. “At that moment, I decided to pursue a degree in religious education, and from that point on, God continuously blessed my journey into education and school chaplaincy.”
As TK-12 campus chaplain, Valenzuela creates opportunities for LSA students to be servant leaders. At all grade levels, students participate in planning in-reach and outreach programs to help one another become actively involved in the spiritual life of the LSA campus and community.
“I’m very intentional about being available to all students for conversation, prayer, ministry, or just to hang out and laugh,” said Valenzuela. “It’s a joy to help students realize their potential and help them experience the genuine love and transforming grace of God.”
Leno serves her Azure Hills congregation in similar fashion. As discipleship and care pastor at Azure Hills church, she coordinates church ministry efforts to ensure that people at any stage of their spiritual journey continue, find, or enter a salvation experience with Jesus Christ.
“I've come to understand my pastoral role as coming alongside my church members and empowering them to minister to others,” explained Leno. “I am not separate from but rather right next to our congregation, helping them to use their gifts to spread the gospel.”
Before ordination, Leno served as a registered nurse for more than 30 years and then felt the Lord calling her to full-time ministry. When her three children went off to college, she returned as well and completed degrees in human development and human services; then she went on to complete a master’s degree in theological studies at La Sierra University School of Divinity.
“God has pulled together all the broken pieces of my life and put them back together to form a unique ministry,” said Leno. “I minister and connect with others about the things I’ve struggled with most strongly.”
SECC is blessed to have these pastors serving, both of whom are dedicated to creating opportunities to bring people to Jesus Christ so that they can serve others as well.
By Danni Thaw