Isaac Olivarez (’02): Inner-city Denver church planter
September 21, 2012
Sometimes we find ourselves preparing for one thing only to learn that God has been preparing us for something else the whole time. Isaac Olivarez, a 2002 Evangel graduate from Fort Collins, Colorado, is a prime example. Little did he know when he graduated with a major in Journalism and minors in Biblical Studies and Spanish that in just a few short years he would be preaching in the middle of inner-city Denver.
Isaac’s journey began midway through high school, where he strongly sensed that God was directing him to Evangel. “To be honest, I felt like God wanted me to go to Evangel University since my junior year of high school,” he says. “I never applied to go anywhere else, never visited the campus, nothing. I knew that was where I needed to be.”
During his college years, Isaac became involved as a sports writer for The Lance, Evangel’s student newspaper. Isaac eventually became The Lance’s sports editor, and some of his favorite memories come from the late nights he spent scrambling to meet deadlines. The Lance did even more for Isaac than create memories, though. It helped him learn valuable skills he would need in the future.
“Writing for The Lance was an incredible help to me,” says Isaac, “It taught me so much about the importance of communicating effectively and articulately. So much of what I do today revolves around communicating a plan and a vision, and it was writing that taught me all about communicating.”
Along with working hard to crank out sports articles, Isaac pushed himself academically. He set the goal of making the dean’s list, one which he met several times.
Isaac’s dedication to his studies and hours of work with The Lance quickly paid off. He completed his degree requirements during the fall semester of 2001 and was already writing full-time for the Pentecostal Evangel, the official magazine of the Assemblies of God, before his graduation in May of 2002.
Though the magazine is based in Springfield, Isaac found himself traveling to report from many different locations. While Isaac had found a successful job in his field of study, he soon found that his job had put him in a position for an entirely different purpose — a confirmation of a new calling.
In 2003, the Evangel sent Isaac to Denver to write a story on the inner city. While he was there, he witnessed the stabbing of a young homeless man. This dramatic event brought Isaac to the realization that he needed to shift gears in his career. “Already sensing God’s leading me into full-time ministry, this was the last straw,” he says. “God showed me the need first-hand, and I knew I wanted to minister in Denver; but not in the suburbs, in the inner city.”
Isaac decided to leave his writing job at the magazine, and since 2004 he has been working full-time in the ministry. Isaac is now an ordained Assemblies of God U.S. missionary and was assigned to the Denver inner-city area in 2011. He is currently the founder and director of Urban Outreach Denver, an organization focused on touching the areas of inner-city Denver which have the most gangs, drugs and prostitution, known as “Five Points.” Urban Outreach Denver reaches out to the people in practical ways, such as distributing coats in the winter and giving away food, clothes and backpacks in local parks. Isaac is also the lead pastor of City Life Church, which is set to launch in the spring of 2013.
Looking back on his Evangel days, Isaac sees a period of formation, a time when he learned valuable fundamentals that he has continued to build upon. It is also the place where he met his wife Jaime, whom he married in 2002. “More than anything,” he says, “I would say EU is where I became who I am today. It is where I learned how to persevere, where I learned how to learn and where I learned how to interact with people who are not like me.”
When asked what is unique about an Evangel education, Isaac points to the Christian worldview. He says, “I learned that as a Christian, there never comes a point in your life where you separate that. Everywhere you are, you are a Christian there, if you truly claim to be a disciple of Jesus.”
For college-age students who want to be the best disciples of Jesus wherever they go, Isaac offers the following advice: “Learn how to learn. Invest in relationships now. The people you’re going to school with now will be the ones you do business and life with later, all around the country and world. You have no idea what God has in store for you, and if you work hard now, you’ll be prepared for God’s best for your life in the future.”