Payson resident Hector Torres is a man on a mission -- quite literally.
Torres, the president and founder of Hispanic International Ministries, spends more than 200 days on the road each year presenting seminars, conferences and workshops; holding prayer assemblies; and speaking at churches and other locales around the world. Already on his 2004 calendar are trips to Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain and Argentina -- plus visits to all corners of the United States.
For that reason alone, Torres loves the time he gets to spend in Payson.
"When I'm home, I want to relax, recharge batteries, study and have time for the grandchildren on Saturdays and Sundays," Torres said.
Payson became home just two-and-a-half years ago.
"We pastored and lived in the Valley for almost 17 years," Torres said. "I pastored at a Hispanic church -- Word of Grace in Mesa -- and we used to bring our youth up here to camp all the time.
"Every time I told my wife, ‘Someday I'll retire in Payson,'" he said. "We're here, but we're not retired."
Both Torres and his wife of 33 years, Myriam, were born in Colombia. His parents moved to Miami when he was 12; hers moved to New York when she was 10.
"My parents and her parents were acquainted from before we were born," Torres said. "Her parents were in my parents' wedding.
"By some kind of accident, divine providence I should say, I happened to be in New York working at the World's Fair while in college. They invited me to their home and that's when we got acquainted.
Torres' success as an author helped provide the impetus that allowed him to establish an international ministry.
"I have written seven books in Spanish and all are best sellers," Torres said. "I've written books on prayer, spiritual warfare, leadership, community transformation. Two have been published in English, and I'm in the process of doing a couple more.
"The books began to open doors everywhere in Latin America. I got phone calls from Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica to come and minister, and that's how we were led into this ministry."
According to the organization's brochure, Hispanic International Ministries "unifies existing national and international prayer networks."
"There's an amazing spiritual awakening taking place in some nations we would have never imagined," Torres said. "I see it as a fulfillment of Habakkuk 1-5. There's a scripture there that says, ‘Look ye among the nations and be amazed for I will do something in your days that even if it were told you, you would not believe it.'
"It's happening throughout all of Latin America. It is happening in Africa. It is happening in Southeast Asia. It really is happening throughout the world."
A large part of Torres' message is the importance of community.
"One of the things that I teach is God gives us authority over the things that we love," he said. "If you love your community, God will give you spiritual authority over it. But you have to love your community and you have to be fully committed to changing your community as an instrument of transformation for the good of the community."
Torres holds an occasional seminar in Payson, most recently last Saturday at Mountain Bible Church.
"This particular seminar is on the person of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which deals with the empowerment of God to change nations, and it deals with the change that God does in our lives as we surrender to him," he said. "More than anything else it has to do with integrity and ethics and character and so on, as well as the empowerment we have to be able to see and change our communities for the benefit of the kingdom of God."
This man who travels the world offered his thought on Payson's state of spirituality.
"There is a search for spirituality in Payson," he said. "That's why you have so many churches and so many pastors.
"Unfortunately, the church here -- as in the majority of places -- everybody is really bound by their own dogmas and doctrines. Everybody has their own vision and purpose, and there is a lack of what we call effective unity.
"There is unity for events, and unity as a face for the community, but true unity where they work together for a purpose and a goal and an objective is very lacking."
What the Rim country and many communities in the U.S. need is a sense of passion, according to Torres.
"Christianity in the Third World is a person's life," he said, "and everything revolves around their commitment to Christ -- their family, their livelihood.
"Christianity in America is different," he said. "It is a part of a person's life. But it is never what it is in many nations where there is a full consecration, commitment, dedication, passion for what you do.
"The greatest spiritual revivals are taking place in nations like China, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia where the church is being persecuted, because that persecution brings the church into a oneness."
Torres has a message for the residents of the Rim country.
"The Lord loves Payson, and God wants Payson to be a community where there is justice, peace of mind, and joy. That's God's desire for this community, and it will only be accomplished if we, as a community, begin to love Payson and find out the reason God placed us over here.
"He pre-determined that I live here, the season that I live here that I may seek the Lord."
Name: Hector P. Torres
Occupation: Writer and conference speaker
Employer: Hispanic International Ministries
Birthplace: Bogota, Colombia
Family: Wife, two daughters, four grandchildren.
Personal motto: The Golden Rule.
Inspiration: Jesus Christ
Greatest feat: My doctorate
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Hiking, swimming and skiing.
Three words that describe me best: Extrovert, daring, consecrated
I don't want to brag but ... five of my books are best sellers in the Spanish world.
Person in history most like to meet: The Apostle John
Luxury defined: Something you desire but you don't need.
Dream vacation spot: The Mediterranean
Why Payson? The weather, the beauty of the forest and it's close enough to our children and grandchildren.