Family, friends, colleagues and church members recently gathered to celebrate the life of Pastor Daniel Suarez, who passed away on Oct. 15 after a courageous, year-long battle with cancer.

Warm memories were shared by several of those close to Daniel, and a message was shared by Elden Ramirez, a former pastor and youth director for the Iowa-Missouri Conference.

“When Marilyn asked if I had some words of encouragement,” said Ramirez, “my heart said yes, my mind said yes, but my soul was broken. How can you give encouragement when you, yourself, are discouraged?”

Ramirez then shared the stories of the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and Lazarus being raised from the dead (John 11), pointing out that both stories involve people who were discouraged—devastated, in fact, that God didn’t bring about a desired outcome to their situation. But then, in both stories, Jesus shows up and brings comfort. “The God that Daniel loved is real,” said Ramirez. “He is a compassionate God, and He will fulfill His promises.”

As a close friend of Suarez, Ramirez also shared his own fond memories. “He was like a brother to me,” he said. “But I also saw him as my pastor. I can’t think of a more godly man than Daniel Suarez.”

Ramirez reflected on how, years ago when he had accepted an invitation to be youth director for the conference, he was relieved to learn that Suarez would be taking his place in St. Louis. Later, when Ramirez took a call to the Central California Conference, he shared how he had persuaded his conference leadership to extend a call to Suarez so they could still work together.

Speaking of a time he came to visit Suarez this past year, Ramirez said, “He ministered to me. I was broken. I tried to smile, but he knew me well.” He said Suarez told him that he knew in whom he had believed and wasn’t afraid of death, but was only concerned about leaving his family behind. Even so, he said Suarez was confident that God would fulfill his promises and that he could rest in peace knowing that God would honor his commitments, even after he was gone. “He gave me the strength that I needed to move forward,” Ramirez said.

Robert Wagley, executive secretary for the Iowa-Missouri Conference, echoed Ramirez’ sentiments. “During the time Daniel battled this dreaded disease, we witnessed a powerful testimony for Christ and for the gospel,” he said. “Never once did I see him discouraged. He would pray for me as often as I prayed for him. I can tell you of times he expressed concerns—about his family, their needs, his love for them, and his desire to see his children grow up in the Lord. But he was always cheerful, positive, and courageous.”

During his visits with Suarez in the hospital, Wagley was especially touched by Suarez’ care and concern for the medical staff. “On one occasion, Daniel told me about a conversation he had with a nurse and how he’d shared with her about the Lord,” Wagley said. “That was Daniel. He always demonstrated to me and to others that his faith and courage were strong. He was resolute in the conviction that even if God would allow this trial to happen, he would praise Him still. I was able to witness that steady faith that was true to his calling as a pastor, a father, a husband and a friend. I believe everybody needs a friend like Daniel Suarez. Heaven will be a better place because of this man, and someday soon Jesus will call our friend—His friend—Daniel to wake up from his sleep, and we will see a glorious reunion.”

Suarez was born on Nov. 15, 1967 in Havana, Cuba. He graduated from Forest Lake Academy in Orlando, Florida in 1985 and went on to earn a Respiratory Therapist degree from Kettering College in Kettering, Ohio; followed by a Bachelor’s in Theology from UNADECA in Costa Rica; and a Master’s of Divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

During and after high school, Suarez worked for Florida Hospital, serving in various capacities including as a courier and in food and other support services. Upon graduating from Kettering, he continued to serve Florida Hospital as a Respiratory Therapist.

In 2002, Suarez joined the Iowa-Missouri Conference as a pastor, where he served the Mid-River and St. Louis Hispanic churches. In 2007, he accepted a call to the Central California Conference, where he was ordained, and he served there as a pastor until 2012 before serving in the Stewardship and Gift-Planning departments at the conference office.

Longing to be in fulltime pastoral ministry again, Suarez returned to the Iowa-Missouri Conference in 2016, where he served the Lee’s Summit and Kingsville churches in Missouri until his passing.

Suarez is survived by his wife of nearly 20 years, Marilyn; five children, Daniel, Adrian, Yonathan, Daslyn and Kevin; parents, Gervasio and Ada; brother, Joel and his wife, Grace; as well as many other relatives and friends.