Luis Llerena Jr. has been everywhere: from the jungles of Ecuador, the mountains of Colorado and even the bustling city of Dallas, Texas.

Llerena has traveled all over the globe thanks to his work in  ministry. His travels have most recently brought him to Franklin County where he will serve as the pastor for Creekside Church. 

Llerena's father was from Ecuador, and his mother was from Nicaragua, but Llerena grew up in California. He grew up speaking both Spanish and English and often acted as a translator for his family. 

“I had a rich background of cultural experiences from both of my parents and the community I lived in,” said Llerena. 

He grew up during  Silicon Valley's transition into a technology empire. He even went to high school with Steve Jobs, even though he wasn't aware of that until after Jobs's death. 

Because Llerena was often the translator for his parents, he took advantage of the situation and began getting involved in wayward activities. If it hadn't been for a stranger with a Bible, Llerena may not be where he is today.

One night, Llerena was on his way to meet with some friends when his bike broke down, and he had to hitchhike. Car after car drove by the young Llerena until one person stopped. The stranger agreed to give him a ride if Llerena agreed to give him five minutes of his time when they got to the destination.

Although thinking the situation was a bit odd, Llerena agreed. They arrived at the high school to a packed parking lot due to a sporting event. Keeping his part of the agreement, Llerena remained in the man's car. The man pulled out a Bible and began to speak to Llerena about accepting Jesus and how if he did so, he would go to heaven. This was something Llerena had never heard before. The two continued to speak and pray for a long time. 

“When I got out of the car all of the cars in the parking lot were gone,” said Llerena. 

The next day the man invited Llerena to church, and he said his life changed overnight. Llerena became involved with a group of Christian students at his high school. By chance, one of the students had a father who was a famous missionary who helped Llerena attend Bible college in Portland. 

Llerena worked with alcoholics for a while and moved around the country becoming involved with different ministries. While Llerena was in Dallas getting his seminary degree, the city was experiencing a gang problem. Because of this, Llerena became involved with a school for children who were kicked out of school because of gang activity. From there, he was recommended to the mayor to help with the city's gang problem and became the juvenile gang coordinator for the city of Dallas. This led to a 10-year stint of being involved in government.

From there, Llerena went to Colorado where he was a consultant to the city of Littleton. He became involved with helping schools to prevent school shootings and how to respond to similar situations. Llerena said he was able to take the principles he learned in Bible college and apply it to his role in the government. 

Llerena's work has even taken him out of the country. Four years ago he was able to take a trip to his father's native land of Ecuador. Llerena grew up with his father telling him his country was a beautiful but dangerous place. In 1956, five missionaries were killed by a tribe in Ecuador. Four years ago, Llerena learned he could take a trip to visit that same tribe who are now Christians and are friends with the family members of those they killed. 

“It was amazing,” said Llerena.

Llerena got fairly sick during this visit and had a very high fever. Because they were in the middle of the jungle, they slept in hammocks with blankets wrapped entirely around their bodies because snakes and spiders crawl over them at night. One night when his fever was particularly bad, he remembered looking up to see one of the men who killed the missionaries in 1956 praying for him to get better. A few hours later his fever broke. 

“It was the most amazing trip I've ever taken,” said Llerena. 

One may ask if Llerena has been all around the world, how did he end up as a pastor for a small church in Klemme's Corner? Llerena eventually wound up in Indiana and was involved with a few churches before he was drawn to Creekside Church. Creekside recently got a new name and switched to being nondenominational. Llerena said what drew him to Creekside was this period of transition the congregation is going through. 

 “I thought that sounds exciting,” said Llerena. 

Llerena said Creekside has a rich heritage of people who have been with the church for a long time; something he hopes to build on. He said he wants to help the church grow in number, in depth and he wants to see families grow with the church. His first service was Sunday, Nov. 24. 

“I think God is writing the next chapter for this church,” said Llerena.