Man leaves drug-dealing past to lead as pastor in local Waco church

Laguna Beach, Calif., senior Jacob Herbert (right) began spending time with Gabe Dominguez (left) at Mission Waco, working with the city’s youth. Now he attends Dominguez’s church and they continue to work together in the city and in the church.

By Emma King, Staff Writer

It’s been 18 years since Gabriel Dominquez was released from federal prison on charges of machine gun possession in Waco. He had been part of a large gun-ring and was one of the most feared drug dealers around. Today, he is the pastor of Life Church Waco and the high risk youth director at Mission Waco.

“I was a high risk kid, except I didn’t get any help,” Dominguez said. “It set the context I lived out of.”

Baylor senior Jacob Herbert met Dominguez at Mission Waco, where they work together to give the city’s at-risk youth the right kind of help.

Dominguez said that these kids are looking for someone to lead them and that a lot of them are ready to be crash dummies and do what adults on the street have told them to.

“Especially in that neighborhood, because that’s all they’ve been taught,” Herbert said.

Herbert admitted that it’s hard ministry and it’s not always successful. Dominguez explained that they have to embrace these kids where they are, but encourage them to keep moving forward.

He claims that everyone needs help, but not everyone wants it. Wanting it is what makes the difference. Dominguez said those kids are the ones who are most successful.

“God changes them, not us changing them, but it’s putting together a system where that can be done,” he said.

Herbert said the program at Mission Waco has an accountability system, which means that they all check on each other, take care of each other push one another to be better.

“Discipleship is doing life with people, it’s intentional and it’s very draining, but it’s very fruitful,” Dominguez said. “The most dangerous place to be in as a Christian is to have no accountability.”

Dominguez and his church are starting a nonprofit organization called Hope Through Everything to encourage discipleship and to get jobs for adults facing severe poverty and the negative lifestyle that so often comes with it.

These adults will be trained through the church and will be going through programs to prepare them for jobs that the nonprofit is creating.

Hope Through Everything is preparing to launch a clothing line called Hope Through Threads, a landscaping service called Hope Through Lawn Care and a music label called Hope Through Music.

To kick off the nonprofit, a friend of Dominguez’s will be producing a music video. The producer’s name is David Urabe, and he works in Hollywood.

Also coming to work on the video are actor Cisco Reyes and Christian evangelist Nicky Cruz.

Crews will be filming around Waco from today until Sunday.

At 5 p.m. on Friday, spectators are invited to come watch the action at Mission Waco’s World Cup Café.

Baylor students and faculty who would like to learn more or volunteer with Hope Through Everything can email or A video summary of the nonprofit and information about fundraising can be found at

Dominguez was born and raised in Waco and is very passionate about ministering to south Waco.

Dominguez began selling drugs on the streets at age 11. Even though he was ultimately arrested for possession of a machine gun, he had done much more and much worse over the years.

“I was on Waco’s most wanted, there was money out for me,” Dominguez confessed.

Before being sent to prison, he remembers one particular time where he went to church because his cousin kept asking him to come. He went with two handguns on him, in case someone recognized him or began shooting at him first.

Dominguez said he thought people hid behind religion, and he didn’t want to be a part of that. The pastor spoke about his experiences in poverty that day, though. Dominguez sat in the audience, a big tough gangster, with tears rolling down his cheeks.

“It was a beacon of hope that came out of that man when I could identify with him,” Dominguez said. “That kind of pricked my heart in a good way.”

Then Dominguez went to federal prison for two years.

Sometime in those two years, he wrote to his daughter and promised he would take her to church when he got out. She was six years old when he was released, and she showed him the letter, that he didn’t even remember writing.

“God works to people through people,” he stated confidently. “God worked through my daughter, that was my motivator.”

So, Dominguez took his little girl to church.

“When I got out [of prison], the streets were waiting for me, I had a reputation,” Dominguez said. “[But] I didn’t want to do it.”

Dominguez and his daughter continued to go to church.

“When I became a Christian, I couldn’t do, I shouldn’t do, illegal things,” Dominguez said.

That meant he couldn’t sell drugs, so he and his family continued to live in poverty.

He beamed as he said people at his church made them feel welcome anyway, even though he wasn’t wearing a suit or driving a fancy car.

Eventually, the church invited him into the ministry.

“I’ve always been a leader, just leading in the wrong direction,” Dominguez mentioned.

He received encouragement from people from all over the world when he was flown out to evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s church in California, Saddleback Church, to speak and give his testimony.

“That kind of affirmation was crazy,” Dominguez smiled. “Ever since then I’ve been flown all over the nation with my story, with God’s story.”

Back in Waco, First United Methodist Church had invited him into the process to become a Methodist pastor. He is now a licensed local pastor, without any formal education.

“I like to say it’s official like a referee whistle,” Dominguez laughed.

Together, Dominguez and First United Methodist started the church he leads now, Life Church Waco, in south Waco. There, Dominguez goes by Pastor G.

Through it all though, Herbert said Dominguez stays humble.

“At the end of the day, it’s just me constantly saying ‘yes’ to God,” Dominguez said.