Thank you: Spanish ministry training

Jun 29, 2015 by

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Mission, leadership development and service are essential parts of church life. Anabaptist Biblical Institute (Instituto Bíblico Anabautista) has been a great partner, a companion and a vessel in my own and others’ pastoral and church ministry — especially in theological and biblical formation. As Mennonite Church USA’s convention begins in Kansas City, and an offering for the Racial/Ethnic Leadership Education fund (which partly includes this important ministry for Spanish-speaking leaders in MC USA), I am reminded of my own personal and faith journey.

Soon after I took my first pastoral assignment in 1996, I invited the church leadership team to consider using IBA’s curriculum as the official program for both leadership development and Christian formation. IBA’s theological training curriculum was approved and implemented. We also discerned that the entire church leadership team should enroll and start this theological training.

We were almost concluding the certificate level when more students decided to joins us. Among the new students were people from other local churches, which at the time were showing interest in Anabaptist theology from a Mennonite perspective. In addition, we had several brothers and sisters from Garifuna Mennonite Church in Bronx, N.Y., joining the program as well. Later on, a report came to me that the Garifuna Church has also discerned and decided that their leadership team should go through this theological training.

The IBA student community grew in numbers, posing the challenge to open two additional classes. We continued experiencing growth in new registrations, so that meant we had to train more tutors. Three new tutors were trained, and in time, they assisted with three additional classes. I am pleased to share and report that both groups, now in South Florida, continue functioning and training a new generation of leaders for their respective congregations.

In the summer of 2009, I took another pastoral assignment in Harrisonburg, Va., where we joined and assisted an IBA center that was already operating at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s premises. Eastern Mennonite University allowed us complimentary use of their classrooms as a way of showing their support and contributing to this local Hispanic leadership development training program.

After my arrival in Virginia, I requested IBA’s administration to provide training for 10 new tutors. Two of them were already teaching, three more had already responded to the invitation to join; six more were exploring the possibility to join the program and teach. The local IBA center grew in numbers, students and tutors.

The rapid growth called us to discern and talk about ways of better responding to the challenge at hand. We concluded that we were in need of restructuring our local IBA center in Virginia.

After this discernment process, we implemented the opening of three additional classes, appointing a local director, a team of four tutors, and a local coordinator. We also developed three pairs of teams and assigned them to the three new classes. As in south Florida, the student community grew in new registrations. Upon my departure from Harrisonburg in 2013, we had a good number of active students.

Soon after my arrival into the Wichita, Kan., vicinity in the fall of 2013, in conjunction with the IBA administration, we coordinated the opening of IBA centers in two Hispanic Mennonite churches, one in Newton and one in Liberal. In addition, a tutor and student training took place.

My take on IBA as pastor and facilitator is this: It is through the IBA program that I have been able witness the development of leaders that are serving the church in many capacities. Students are serving as Sunday school teachers, church administrators, worship leaders and worship team members. I have also witnessed students serving the church in other roles, such as
co-pastors, IBA tutors, lead pastors and evangelists.

This program has provided, is providing and will continue to provide the tools needed to be missional, to serve and for discipleship purposes.

I have served MCUSA within three area conferences: Southeast, Virginia and now Western District — either as a church planter, lead pastor, or as an IBA facilitator. I can assure you, this theological training program has proven to be very effective in Hispanic leadership development; and without a doubt, it is a blessing to us all.

As a pastor, church planter and as one who wants to be a faithful servant follower of Christ; I can honestly say to you this: Yes, it has been and still is a true blessing in numerous ways to the church, area conferences, denomination and to the community abroad. Moreover, it will continue playing an important role in the future of MC USA.

I am indebted to beloved friends like you who believe and make possible for Anabaptist Biblical Institute to continue its path towards leadership development, theological and biblical training. I am glad that there will be another opportunity for such generosity during the closing worship of this convention on July 5.

Allow me a word of thanksgiving taken from Scripture: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

On behalf of IBA, the student body, tutors and staff: From the bottoms of our hearts we want to say “Gracias, thank you,” for believing and supporting this program in many ways.

Byron Pellecer is the pastor of Aposento Alto Iglesia Menonita, in Wichita, Kan.

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