Alumni Feature | Juan Rodriguez

Students who come to Highlands College need more than the skills and knowledge to excel in their chosen fields, because we know that life is more than just professional success. They encounter an authentic community and invaluable opportunities to build healthy, lifelong relationships. This unique characteristic of our students’ experience is a powerful resource because their calling is often rewarding and challenging. As part of the HC Family, students, graduates, and staff nurture and contribute to support systems that equip and encourage our alumni at every stage of their lives and ministry journeys.


Juan Rodriguez

2018 Highlands College Graduate

Juan Rodriguez, an esteemed alumnus, has remained dedicated to making an eternal impact through full-time vocational ministry. Following graduation, Juan and his wife Marisol felt the calling to plant a life-giving church in Puerto Rico in the Summer of 2018. With a fantastic team, they launched the first ARC (Association of Related Churches) church in Puerto Rico on January 26, 2020.

Juan and Marisol have a deep passion for seeing people get closer to Jesus, one step at a time. Together, with their two daughters, they have dedicated their lives to seeing people experience a deep and refreshing relationship with God. Read more about their ministry journey so far and how God is moving in their city!

Share what you’re loving about your current position.

As the Senior Pastor of Arise Church, I love getting to serve people.

What do you love about your city?

Dorado is a beautiful city with even more beautiful people. The city is rich in history and filled with island charm. Everyone isfriendly, happy to help, and within minutes, become friends.

Favorite hobby or way to spend a off day?

We love spending time together as a family, and living in Puerto Rico means great hiking, beautiful mountains, historic cities, and, of course, the beach.

What has been the most impactful aspect of your time at Highlands College?

The pillars taught at Highlands College are strong foundational pieces for building ministry. For example, Character Formation is crucial because ministry will test your character. You will be tempted to take the easy way, when no one will see or know, but bad character will corrupt you and everything you lead, ultimately hurting the very people God called you to serve. So, you must continue to invest and protect your character even after you have the position.

How is God using you and your church?

We could have planted a church anywhere or accepted a ministry job, but we trusted God’s calling to Puerto Rico. This decision has proven to be the most challenging and rewarding experience of our lives. We are witnessing the blessings of our obedience in the lives of marriages, youth, and children. We see healthy relationships taking root in small groups, children excitedly leading their parents to church, and our youth discovering and embracing their calling.

Can you share a particular moment or lesson that has stayed with you since your time at HC?

I recall the class discussion on “People Over Policy,” emphasizing the profound impact of prioritizing serving people. When establishing a church, there are numerous systems to consider implementing, yet it is essential to recognize when your team requires additional time to “get it.” Placing a focus on loving, guiding, and instructing individuals takes precedence over getting things done a certain way.

What advice would you give to current or aspiring students looking to make an impact?

If you want to follow your calling it will be difficult at times, and at times you must be willing to pay for it, not the other way around. If you are looking for a job, you can get that anywhere, if you are looking to build the Kingdom of God that will cost you. Ministry is all about giving and serving. That was the example that Jesus set.

Any stories or testimonies that you want to share?

This January we had baptism, and we only had one person. That could be a downer to some people, just one person, but we were so excited! You see, the young woman we got to baptize had just spent the first Christmas with her family in years, because due to her previous trauma always ended up in a psychiatric hospital every  Christmas. Not only had she spent Christmas with her family, but she was getting baptized to start the year. She now serves on our production team and God is doing amazing things in her life.

What were some challenges that you overcame planting Arise Church?

During our prelaunch, we had a political uprising that ousted the governor, then the month before we launched, Puerto Rico had a natural phenomenon called an earthquake swarm, and in a month, there were around 2,000 earthquakes, we would be setting up the building and all of a sudden it would begin to shake.  Three days before launch, there was a shoot-out in the front of our church and a bullet went through the window while we were inside. Through all those challenges, on launch day we had over 260 people. Then six weeks later… the COVID pandemic.

From that moment, we have faced so many other challenges, but what we have come to learn, is that in the challenges we grow stronger, we focus on the most important things, and we are never forsaken.

What do you love about Arise Church?

What I love about Arise is the future is bright, our saying is “Arise & Shine.” We are love the fact that we get to see people “arising” from their past failures, hurts, and starting to “shine,” discovering they have a purpose and walking in it. We love that we can walk with people on that journey.

One of the amazing things we are seeing, thanks to stepping into God’s call, is how God is now allowing us to serve other pastors all over the Caribbean and South America. We serve and coach pastors from the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Columbia, here in Puerto Rico and even Spanish speaking, bilingual pastors in the states.

We look forward to seeing how Juan continues to make an eternal impact beyond Highlands College.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know one of our amazing Highlands College alumni. Learn more about Highlands College and how you can get connected to our incredible network of graduates around the world.