Captains Rafael and Vanessa Polaco | Ponce, Puerto Rico, Corps

by Hugo Bravo

Captain Rafael Polaco

In 2010, I received an invite through Facebook from the daughter of a close friend to attend an evangelism meeting being hosted by The Salvation Army Loiza, Puerto Rico, corps. At the time, I wasn’t serving the Lord as I should have been in life; I had not been raised in a Christian household and shown how to do so. But when I went to Loiza, everything changed. I felt something special being there, like nothing I had ever felt before. I didn’t know anything about the Army, but the uniform that the officers wore really captured my attention. I even wondered to myself how I would look like, wearing that uniform! I didn’t tell anyone that, but God still heard me. From there, I began to give my time at the corps, and two years later, I began to hear the call for officership. At the time, I was working as a store manager, but the work I was doing wasn’t appealing to me anymore. I saw that God needed me to do work in His name from now on. 

Working directly with the people of my community is my favorite thing about being a pastor. There’s such a feeling of satisfaction when I share something with others, whether it’s a meal or the Word of God. There have been a lot of opportunities to share with others in Puerto Rico. For years, the island has been devastated by storms. 

My wife, Captain Vanessa Polaco, and I complement each other in ministry. I always let her know that I have no idea how I could do this without her. There are tasks that she takes on completely, such as ministries with women and children. I focus on men’s ministries and the administrative work at the corps. We walk towards different roles at Ponce, but we’re always walking together for God.  

Captain Vanessa Polaco

My favorite part of being a pastor is sharing the Word of God with others. We have a calendar in Ponce that tells us when it’s our turn to present a sermon on Sunday. I always start preparing my sermons in prayer. I ask God what the next message is that He wants me to share with our community. He has a way of putting signs in my heart, such as a special passage from the Bible, which lets me know what He wants me to bring with me to my next sermon.  

A good pastor should always bring the love to others. I’m an introvert, and sometimes it can be difficult for me to show that outward love, even though it’s always in my heart. But when someone truly loves the Lord, love just comes out in spontaneous moments. That’s the best way to bring someone to God: Be yourself and show them love.