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A couples young love leads to a life of strong faith
The Revs. Manuel and Wanda Maldonado, husband and wife, are both pastors at Iglesia Pentecostal Shekinah de Jehovah in Oakwood. The Pentecostal church is temporarily holding services in part of McEver Road United Methodist Church.


The Rev. Manuel Maldonado gives his testimony at the Community Tent Revival held Aug. 3-7.

Iglesia Pentecostal Shekinah de Jehovah

When: 5 p.m. worship and 6:30 p.m. Sunday school Sundays; 7 p.m. worship and Bible study Thursdays; 7 p.m. Bible study Monday
Where: McEver Road United Methodist Church, 3606 McEver Road, Oakwood
More info: 678-570-4271

The Revs. Manuel Maldonado and wife Wanda met when they were 15 in Puerto Rico and became high school sweethearts.

Though their younger years brought struggles and hardships - which included trouble with the law and drugs for Manuel - they both heard God's calling more than 10 years ago and set out to spread the Gospel together.

The couple, who have been married 24 years, and their three children moved to Gainesville almost four years ago from Harrisburg, Pa. Now they have their own church where they share duties as lead pastors.

The Maldonados' church is Iglesia Pentecostal Shekinah de Jehovah and meets weekly at McEver Road United Methodist Church in Oakwood.

Manuel and Wanda said they bring something a little different to the pulpit, and hopefully others can learn from it.

"If you want to take (into) account everything since we were kids and we were in love, we can teach a lot to people," Manuel said. "Don't make the same mistakes that we made - we were so young and left our house."

Some mistakes even included a stay in jail for Manuel, which is where he was baptized.

"Everything changed; our letters, they were better," Wanda said. "Because when a person meets the Lord for real and you start knowing God, you start acting better and you act the way God wants you to act."

In 1998, both Manuel and Wanda were called into the ministry and they began praying.

"That is when we found out there was a purpose and a plan," Manuel said. "In 2005, we went to Puerto Rico on vacation. And we got back in April, and in June I told my wife I wanted to move to Puerto Rico. I planned everything for January of 2006, and then in March ... I had a job already set up. Time went on and the doors started closing in Puerto Rico."

They were hopeful to find guidance on what direction their life should take, and it just happened that Manuel was transferred to Pendergrass from his job in Pennsylvania.

Not long after the move, Manuel and Wanda began a church with just eight people in their Hispanic Pentecostal congregation. Now the church has close to 50 members.

The couple, who are Pentecostal, said their church is a little different than the traditional Pentecostal churches.

"I think God allows us to get out of that doctrine and teaching so we can really see what it is," Manuel said. "I would call it realistic. What is it that God wants? God wants the person's soul ... so we started seeing everything through God's perspective."

Most recently, Manuel and Wanda began to lead their church members into another ministry.

Each Saturday morning they feed those in need on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville. The couple said they feel they can help people and bring new faces to their church.

Wanda said everyone is going through hard times right now, even her family.

"It has been nice, and God always has been taking care of us. And this time right now is the roughest time," she said. "Not with the church or the ministry, but with our family we've been tested by God, but we are in his hands and we will be OK."