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The first Hispanic Initiatives graduates received certificates in faith, labor and economics April 28 at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.
Fernando C. Tamara, a multi-talented and personable pastor and AG educator who lives in California, developed the program from the ground up in 2020 as director of Hispanic initiatives at the seminary.
Tamara wears many professional hats, but these days her primary role is as Regional Development Representative for Made to Flourish, an Overland Park, Kansas-based organization designed to empower pastors and congregants to integrate faith, work and economic know-how for profit. of their communities.
“My goal is to develop leaders for personal integrity, spiritual vitality and an enlightened economic mindset that God has given to every human being,” says Tamara, 50. “We want to help pastors and congregants experience economic development and economic prosperity in their own localities.
Tamara has adapted her Made to Flourish insight to AGTS classes. A major concern is teaching pastors how to ensure that their Sunday morning sermons have meaning in the workweek of the members of their flocks.
“We want to teach how to instruct the faithful to go out into their community and serve their neighbors,” says Tamara. “We want to instill that the Christian worker is doing productive work so that the name of God can be glorified in all that he does.” There is no “ordinary” work for Christians, he says. All work is sacred for the Christian, whether it be a servant, a machinist or a cook.
Tamara provides all instructions in Spanish in a virtual setting, twice a month via Zoom. In addition to the fieldwork, the students read a significant amount of material on the subject, virtually all translated into Spanish from English by Tamara (who is also the translation network coordinator for the GA national office) .
Courses include ‘Entrepreneurs in the Kingdom’, ‘Theology of Work and Rest’ and ‘Professional Stewardship’. Stewardship isn’t just something ministers can talk about on the occasional Sunday, Tamara argues. On the contrary, he believes that God has instilled in each person the creativity and innovation to bring to their career, whatever that may be.
“God provided different vocations to make us grow as a collective community,” says Tamara, who immigrated to the United States from Peru when she was 21. He wants to change the stereotype of Hispanic congregations perpetually begging for funds to an image of churches providing financial blessings and opportunity — not just for congregants, but for entire communities.
The 14 graduates who have completed the 48 hours of teaching are from El Salvador, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. The students – six pastors and eight lay people – are spread across the country. Such a geographic and cultural mix sparked dynamic conversations, as everyone brought a different perspective to the discussions, says Tamara.
Alexander E. Ascencio says what he learned in the course will help at Iglesia Pentecostal in San Mateo, Calif., where he served as senior pastor for three years.
Virtually all of the 90 regular attendees are immigrants.
“Pastor Fernando opened my mind to how we can serve and invest in the community in different areas,” says Ascencio, who immigrated to the United States in 2000 at the age of 18 from ‘El Salvador, where his parents pastored an AG church. “The courses will help me answer many of the financial questions church members have about spending money.”
Ascencio, a graduate of the Latin American Biblical Institute who has been involved in ministry for 20 years, is also a full-time handyman engaged in construction.
Armando and Luz Vera form a team of husband-wife pastors in Pharr, Texas. Luz was a doctor and Armando a political scientist when their church in Mexico City in 1994 sent them as missionaries to Hispanics on the American side of the Mexican border. The couple, who have been married for 33 years, started church meetings in their home and now lead separate Spanish-speaking congregations under the same roof. Armando is pastor of Iglesia Poder de Dios, with 140 adherents, while Luz directs Iglesia Aliento de Vida. Congregations meet at different times because many Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley work Sunday mornings.
Armando praises Tamara for challenging him with a vigorous and practical program.
“We will teach what we have learned about faith, economy and work to change the minds of the faithful,” says Armando, 64. “Hispanics are often known as ‘give me, give me’ people, but it’s important to change that way of thinking. We want to show how to avoid debt and how to manage money well.
Tamara understands the needs of Hispanic Christians, according to Luz,
“Fernando showed the connection between faith and working well,” says Luz, 61. “He showed how God appreciates the cafeteria worker, the home cleaner, the mechanic and the landscaper.”
The Veras say they will encourage other pastors in their area to take the AGTS course.
Tamara was also instrumental in creating the Spanish Bilingual Master in Leadership and Ministry launched at AGTS in 2019. He previously worked for the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership at Vanguard University. The late Jesse Miranda mentored the tireless Tamara for 19 years.
Always busy, Tamara does not rest on her laurels. He and his wife, Christina, recently attended a Church Multiplication Network launch training event. On September 11, the couple will relaunch Asamblea Church, a bilingual AG congregation in Orange, California.
Main photo: Fernando Tamara (left) presented certificates to AGTS graduates at a ceremony April 28. Bottom photo: Graduates who are grateful for the course include (left to right) Alexander Ascencio, Armando Vera and Luz Vera.