When pastor Martin Belman picks up goodies for the Sunday morning service at Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) Assemblies of God, he doesn’t have to go too far.
Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) meets inside Belman’s Bakery, which Belman operates Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, he moves to the customer side of the counter and preaches to around 40 attendees, which is about all the facility in Wyoming, Michigan, can handle.
Belman, 46, didn’t plan on entering the ministry in midlife. He felt quite content working for over two decades in the business started by his father, Federico, in 1999.
“I wasn’t really interested in becoming a minister,” Belman says. “But God convinced me that he had chosen this corner for His name to be worshipped.”
The convincing came in the form of words from the Lord in 2013 and 2014. Belman began studying for the ministry in 2016, obtained his AG ministerial credentials in 2018, and launched Pan de Vida in August 2020 — in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Federico intended for his son to take over the family business after he retired. But Federico didn’t make it to retirement. He contracted pneumonia in November 2020 and died Jan. 5 from COVID-19 at the age of 67.
Subsequently, Martin has taken over the responsibilities of operating the bakery, assisting his mother Lila, who remains the owner. Martin puts in around 75 hours a week at the bakery — in addition to running the church, which is part of the AG’s Midwest Latin American District. For now, services are in Spanish, but Belman says eventually English will be an option.
He is grateful that he has a supportive family. Brother-in-law Daniel Segovia preaches every other week. Martin’s wife of 26 years, Martha; his sister, Dianna Segovia; and his daughter, Alexandra Vargas, alternate with him leading worship. Martha leads an hourlong Saturday morning women’s devotional meeting via Zoom.
Vargas, who works as an accountant for a global insurance broker company, not only is on the worship team, she teaches Sunday School and serves as the church’s bookkeeper. She is fully supportive of the ministry endeavors of her father and mother.
“My parents have always put many first, even when they were busy in the secular world,” says Vargas, 25. “God has molded them over the years to become ministry leaders. Even through all the busyness, COVID, and the passing away of his dad, my dad has stayed strong in Christ.”
The Belmans’ other child, Isaac, is attending North Central University in Minneapolis, where he is majoring in music.
Federico Belman immigrated to Michigan from Mexico City in 1986, when Martin was 13 years old. Both became Christians soon after their arrival, and accepting Jesus impacted both.
Belman says he didn’t know his father well as a boy because his parents had separated. But once Federico became a Christian, he changed completely.
“He cleaned up his language, he quit smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and he gave up drinking,” Belman recalls. “God took all those desires away immediately. It helped me to understand God is real.”
The family initially attended Templo Betel (Bethel Assembly of God) in Grand Rapids after immigrating. In 1999, the Belmans began worshipping at Mision De Fe (Mission of Faith) in Grandville, Michigan.
Belman is hoping to sell the bakery to devote his full attention to ministry. Most of the bakery customers, as well as most of the church attendees, are Hispanic. Belman’s Bakery employs a dozen workers, most of them related to Martin. Its product lineup includes Mexican pastries and desserts such as conchas, empanadas, churros, flan, and tres leches cake. The bakery is located in a busy neighborhood with a variety of Mexican stores and restaurants nearby.
Belman says he is especially grateful for the support and unconditional love shown by his wife throughout their lives together.
“We have faced very difficult times, but the Lord has been my Shepherd every step of the way,” Belman says. “We thank God for everything he has done and for everything he will do in the future.”