Two students are expected to graduate this year from a Bachelor of Theology program designed for pastors whose primary language is Spanish, said the Rev. David Martinez.
The program, cosponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica and offered in collaboration with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, began six years ago.
“This program helps students fulfill their dreams and move forward in their ministry journey,” said Martinez, GBHEM’s director of Specialized Theological Education. “When the classes meet again in May, we will have two students graduate, and others are getting close to graduation, so we will be looking for new students.”
There are 28 students registered in the program, and a total of 16 semester hours is offered each year. Two students are expected to graduate this year, one has started seminary at Iliff School of Theology, and 10 have another year until completion, Martinez said.
The program provides a way for GBHEM to respond to the growing need for Hispanic/Latino leadership in The United Methodist Church, as well as providing educated clergy who can help the church understand ministry in the context of Spanish-speaking communities, Martinez said.
Rosita Mayorga, who is originally from El Salvador, will graduate from the program in May. She has been a local pastor for 16 years. She expects to be accepted as a provisional member at the next meeting of the Wisconsin Annual Conference and plans to apply for seminary to study for a Master of Divinity degree.
“This program was my dream,” said Mayorga, who is serving a two-point charge in North Prairie and Palmyra, Wisc. “It took me 20 years, and now I will be applying for seminary.”
In addition to the courses offered in Nashville, there are required residence courses at the Latin American Biblical University and classes offered through distance education.
Elsie Quintanilla, who plans to start the candidacy process next year, said it has been helpful to take classes in Spanish, her first language. She believes the classes have improved her preaching in both Spanish and English.
Jose Chacon Mayorga, who is four years into the program, said it has been good for him and his ministry at La Trinidad UMC in St. Louis, Mo. “It has been a wonderful experience,” he said.
Martinez said the fall semester included a new collaboration with Vanderbilt University, which allowed the students to use the library for a research project.
Martinez said one of the students told him that as the oldest in his family, he had put his own dreams of education on hold in order to help his brothers and sisters. “He said through this program he has been able to accomplish his dream to get his education,” Martinez said.