Guatemalan Pentecostals are drawn to Anabaptism

Leaders of churches in impoverished communities embrace a theology with power to transform lives

Sep 3, 2018 by and

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Pastor Hugo Padilla calls himself a Menno-Pente — Mennonite and Pentecostal. A graduate of the college-level program of SEMILLA Latin American Anabaptist Seminary in Guatemala, he says Anabaptist theology has helped to break down the rigid legalism of his Pentecostal tradition and inspire churches to become a living presence for the transformation of their communities.

Padilla’s church is one of five Pentecostal congregations in Guatemala that use SEMILLA’s resources. Another is Iglesia Evangelio Completo (Full Gospel Church) Jireh Majanaim in Gua­temala City.

Mauricio Rolando Díaz and Marta García de Díaz, left, pastors of Iglesia Evangelio Completo (Full Gospel Church) Jireh Majanaim in Guatemala City, with SEMILLA instructor Yanett Palacios. — SEMILLA

Mauricio Rolando Díaz and Marta García de Díaz, left, pastors of Iglesia Evangelio Completo (Full Gospel Church) Jireh Majanaim in Guatemala City, with SEMILLA instructor Yanett Palacios. — SEMILLA

The church building is located on the steep side of a barranco, a precarious ravine where squatters have claimed land, despite the danger posed by earthquakes and mudslides. They have nowhere else to live.

Neighbors, even those who do not attend the church, came together to help build the structure on three levels, starting at the top with the sanctuary and building down the slope to add classrooms and a fellowship hall on the lower levels.

They are grateful for the presence of the church in their neighborhood, as it helps to deter gang violence. Everyone here has stories of loved ones or acquaintances killed in crossfire or because of some relationship to a gang.

Several members of Iglesia Jireh Majanaim are taking a SEMILLA course on Principles and Techniques of Preaching. The course, taught by SEMILLA graduate and instructor Yanett Palacios, is the eighth in SEMILLA’s 10-course Biblical Institute program, which teaches church leaders Bible study and leadership skills from an Anabaptist perspective.

The pastoral couple at Iglesia Jireh Majanaim, Mauricio Rolando Diaz and Marta Garcia de Diaz, got connected with the Anabaptist seminary through Mauricio’s sister, Noemi Diaz, a member of Roca del Salvación, a nearby Mennonite congregation pastored by Yanett Palacios.

Noemi Diaz is part of the Biblical Institute at her church, one of 11 SEMILLA study centers in the city. Mauricio and Marta Diaz saw the books Noemi used in her classes and became interested in learning to study the Bible in a way that empowered them, using Jesus as their example, to be a presence for peace, justice and the reign of God in their community.

SEMILLA Latin American Anabaptist Seminary serves more than 800 students, from Mexico to Chile and the Caribbean, in its seminary programs. Most students, like those at Iglesia Jireh Majanaim, participate in classes hosted in study centers in their community. Courses in the Biblical Institute program are also available online.


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