Jeff Finley

Jeff Finley

Light + Life Executive Editor

Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor. He joined the Light+Life team in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media. He is a member of John Wesley Free Methodist Church where his wife, Jen, serves as the lead pastor.

by Jeff Finley

South Bend, Indiana, is internationally known for close proximity to the University of Notre Dame and its Fighting Irish athletic teams. Among many Spanish-speaking Free Methodists, this Midwestern city is also known as the home of El Pueblo de Dios, which Senior Pastor Eva Torres founded a quarter-century ago.

Another language, English, is now heard prominently on Sunday mornings at El Pueblo de Dios since the launch of The Kingdom Influence in August 2020 through the leadership of Librado and Bianca Aleman, a married couple in their 30s who say they were unlikely people to start a ministry even though each grew up in a pastor’s family. The Kingdom Influence is demonstrating The Free Methodist Way value of cross-cultural collaboration as it reaches a diverse group of young adults — a few of whom knew Librado when he previously battled drug addiction.

“We’re not doing this because our parents are pastors and because we grew up in church. It’s because we believe God did call us,” said Librado during an interview in which he added that leading a ministry seemed like “something I would never do in my life. First, of all, I’m really shy. I don’t talk in front of people. I don’t like it. I get nervous because I had anxiety issues growing up.”

“But he’s doing it every Sunday,” noted Bianca, who also is not a person who seeks the spotlight. “I’m someone that is very shy, but I’m trying to work at it.”

How are two admittedly shy people leading a new ministry? Librado explained, “It’s Christ in us, and we’re sticking to that.”

The Alemans’ efforts have caught the attention of Superintendent John Lane, who invited the couple on the platform with him during the Wabash Annual Conference in June.

“I’m just so fascinated by how God has worked within our El Pueblo church and for Librado and Bianca to be able to raise up this ministry,” said Lane, who added that “the new work is in essence a ministry to second generation Hispanic Latinos as well as a broad picture of multiculturalism as this generation is trying to figure out not only who they are here but who Jesus is.”

The Kingdom Influence begins at 11 a.m. and lasts until approximately 12:15 p.m. each Sunday. The Spanish language service at El Pueblo de Dios begins at 1 p.m. The Kingdom Influence primarily attracts young adults and their families, but everyone is welcome.

“It’s whoever comes really,” said Librado when asked about the target audience for the gathering. “We do have a mix. It’s interracial.”

The service begins with worship through music. The Alemans serve on the worship team, but they are not the primary worship leaders. After the music, Librado provides Bible teaching that isn’t a typical sermon.

“It’s kind of like a class,” he said. “We have newcomers and people who don’t really understand what Christianity is, so what we’re doing right now is just really basic.”

The teaching time is interactive. Comments and questions are welcome.

“They raise their hand. We hand them a mic, and they’re allowed to ask,” Librado said. “The reason why we’re doing it is because we want to know that they’re understanding.”

That approach may become difficult if the group becomes larger, but the Alemans want to ensure that no one misses the God-given revelation found in the Bible.

“Right now I’m talking about the imagination and how God uses our imaginations to co-labor with Him, and that’s the foundation that we’re starting off so people can have an idea of what we’re about,” Librado said.

Librado said his teaching emphasizes “that God can use anybody. No one’s excluded.”

Future plans will include a focus on how individuals can live out their God-given gifts and callings. Librado said those gifts may include “music, poetry, art — things that really the church has lost over the years. We lost our creative side, and so we want to bring that back into the church. That’s the direction I feel like God is calling us to.”

Finding Love and Freedom

Librado and Bianca met through mutual friends in 2009, and the couple began dating in 2010. They married in 2013, and they are now the parents of Zelda, 6, and Zayne, 3.

They both grew up with a pastor as a parent. Bianca is the daughter of Pastor Eva Torres, and Librado’s father is a pastor outside of Free Methodism.

As a pastor’s daughter, Bianca said, church attendance and participation were not optional. In her teen and early adult years, she went through a rebellious period where she didn’t appreciate the opportunity to be part of the church.

“Now this time it’s coming from the heart, and there’s a desire to get involved, and there is a desire to live like Jesus and to love like Jesus,” she said.

Despite growing up as a pastor’s son and other people prophesying that he would be used in ministry, Librado said he “had an idea that there’s a God somewhere, but there was no close relationship with Him.”

In his late teen years, Librado began using drugs.

“I started drinking, smoking and doing crack. I did crack for about three years, and then I stopped, and I went back again,” Librado said. “I drank every day. Basically, every time I got off work, I would drink a six-pack.”

As he was coming off his second season of crack use, he met Bianca.

“It was the end part where I was still using for a bit, but she didn’t know,” he said. “She wasn’t used to that scene, so she didn’t know what it looked like or how people acted around it.”

While his crack use declined, Librado introduced his wife to a different scene.

“I don’t want to say he dragged me down with him, because he didn’t, but he showed me a new world,” said Bianca, who added that she encountered “the world of alcohol and bars, and I was told that was a big no-no my whole life.”

Librado sought God’s help in escaping drug addiction.

“I wanted to quit, so I would pray every night to God to take those desires away from me.”

When the high of the drugs would wear off, Librado felt guilty and sometimes experienced suicidal thoughts.

“I was in a dark place, so I would just continue to drink to numb the pain and play music as well,” he said.

Then the conversion of a well-known rock musician caught his attention.

“I heard about Brian ‘Head’ Welch with Korn,” he said. “I heard he became a Christian, so that kind of turned on the light bulb for me: ‘Wait; this guy is a Christian now, huh, from Korn?’ So I looked up the video on YouTube, and he gave his testimony. I was like, ‘OK, that’s pretty cool.’”

Librado, however, remained skeptical. He thought, “Knowing how Christians are, he’s probably going to quit the church and go back to his old ways,” and Librado continued using alcohol and illegal drugs. Two years later, another video of Welch’s testimony appeared as a YouTube suggestion.

“I saw it as a sign. I pressed into it. I saw the interview, and it touched me, and I wanted to know more about him,” Librado said. “He published a book, and I read it, which was awesome.”

He went online to investigate Welch’s account further and found a video of the musician praying over the people who attended one of his concerts.

“That kind of touched me too, so I started looking into it more and just started getting into the Word,” Librado said.

As he did more research, he discovered a version of the Christian faith that differed from his past experiences.

“I didn’t know we could be like Jesus,” he said. “Growing up in church, I didn’t see Christianity that way. I saw Christianity just set rules — ‘You have to go to church and this and that’ — but I never actually saw somebody live out Jesus.”

He became inspired by this revelation of a different type of Christian.

“Everything just fell after that. All my desires for drinking, drugs and smoking just came off me, and I just started diving deep into the Word,” he said. “That’s how my relationship with God really started. I just wanted to know Him more and more and more. I was free.”

Bianca noticed a shift in Librado’s motivation.

“The first big change that I noticed was he was no longer tired,” said Bianca, who added that earlier in the marriage, “if I wanted to do something as a family, he was just too sleepy and too tired.” But, after stopping drug use, “he had energy and desire to go do things as a family. 

She added that Librado still can be tired after a day’s work, but “it’s not the same. It’s a different type of tired. You can almost feel that energy oozing off of him.”

Bianca said that when it came to her use of alcohol, “I had no intention of stopping until he stopped, and then I just was inspired to stop drinking as well, and now we don’t need that stuff. We don’t have that stuff in our lives, and God is in our lives now more than ever.”

Alcohol is no longer a coping mechanism for life’s challenges.

“I’m still working on things like getting stressed and my anxiety, but I definitely don’t numb that with alcohol like I did,” Bianca said. “I was never addicted, but I was just someone who liked the feeling, and as soon as Librado stopped, I stopped too. He was my drinking buddy, so as soon as he was done, I was done, and that was for the best.”

Reaching and Praying

Money isn’t a motivation for the Alemans’ ministry involvement. They both have other jobs. Librado works in the recreational vehicle industry, which has such a major presence in northern Indiana that the area is known as “the RV capital of the world.” Bianca handles scheduling for the cardiology department of a medical clinic.

Launching a ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy. Technical difficulties have created challenges with live videos, and they hope that conditions will improve so they can have more in-person events and outreach efforts.

“My mom’s church is very involved in feeding homeless people and just praying for them, not judging them or questioning their drug use or their alcohol use — just praying for them and letting them know they are loved,” Bianca said. “That is something that we want to do as well.”


Jeff Finley

Jeff Finley

Light + Life Executive Editor

Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor. He joined the Light+Life team in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media. He is a member of John Wesley Free Methodist Church where his wife, Jen, serves as the lead pastor.