Dr. Elmer Fernandez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1953 to Miguel Angel and Dulce Maria Fernandez. He grew up in a Christian home, and when he was two years old his family emigrated from Cuba to Joliet, Illinois. At the age of six however, Dr. Fernandez suffered the unexpected loss of his mother. After his mother’s passing, his father and he returned to Cuba. His father then made a trip to the United States to finish the process of their move back to Cuba and left Dr. Fernandez in the care of his Uncle Heriberto and Aunt Nena Sanchez. Miguel Angel Fernandez was to return to Cuba with his son in just a few short weeks. In January of 1961 however, Fidel Castro established a dictatorship over Cuba and broke relations with the United States. The young Dr. Elmer Fernandez was separated from his father, who he would not see again until he was 12 years old. God’s hand was at work in this situation however, for it was Uncle Sanchez and Aunt Nena’s lives dedicated to the Lord amidst powerful hardships in communist Cuba that had an impact on Dr. Fernandez which would continue to impress upon his heart for years to come.
In 1965, the United States established what were known as “Freedom Flights.” These were flights allowing Cuban families who had been separated during the breaking of U.S. - Cuban relations to be reunited with their family members in the United States. So in April of that same year, Dr. Fernandez boarded his “Freedom Flight” and was once again reunited with his father.
As the years passed, Dr. Fernandez slowly drifted from his Christian upbringing. In 1970 he was involved in a terrible automobile accident in which the car rolled over numerous times and landed right side up in a nearby ditch. It was an event that would alter the course of his life forever. Dr. Fernandez left the scene of the accident that day without any major injuries, but with the persistent thought that his life could have ended. He began to contemplate verses he had learned from his mother as a very young child such as, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He also thought about the six years he spent with his aunt and uncle in Cuba and the Christian example he had seen in their lives. As he thought of the reality of heaven and hell, Dr. Fernandez soon realized that he needed Christ to save him and that night, at the age of 17, he accepted Christ as his personal Savior and surrendered his life to serve the Lord.
In December of 1972, Dr. Fernandez was married to Miss Martha Rodriguez whom he had met in Miami, Florida, while visiting some friends from Cuba. In 1973, newlyweds Dr. and Mrs. Fernandez traveled to Indiana and enrolled in Hyles-Anderson College where Dr. Fernandez began his training to serve the Lord. Around the time of his graduation in May of 1977, Dr. Jack Hyles asked Dr. Fernandez to become the first Spanish pastor of the Spanish ministry at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. God blessed the ministry greatly and in March of 1987, under the leadership of Dr. Elmer Fernandez the Spanish department became the largest Spanish-speaking church in the United States with a big day of 3,029 in attendance and a regular attendance of more than 1,400 people every Sunday.
Dr. and Mrs. Fernandez have been serving the Lord for a total of 37 years. Currently, Dr. Fernandez is the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Betel in Bartlett, Illinois. The church has an average attendance of about 900 people each Sunday. He is also the director of the Fires of Evangelism Conferences and the Fires of Evangelism Bible College.