JEFFERSON CITY — Twenty-two men and women lined up on either side of the beaming director of Centro de Desarrollo de L’deres to be recognized as the program's first graduates at a ceremony on June 16.
"God is still calling…. He still has something for you to do," Luis Mendoza challenged graduates in his commissioning message in the Gold Room at the Baptist Building in Jefferson City.
For a couple of years, Concord Baptist Association has partnered with Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to offer college-level courses. But many Spanish-speaking pastors and lay leaders are unable to juggle work schedules to attend those classes. Some have limited English skills. Many church leaders, though, were looking for training to help them be more effective.
Mauricio Vargas, the CBA's multicultural ministry director, led the association to begin Contextualized Leadership Development. Though started for Concord association, which is based in Jefferson City, the program attracted students from across Missouri, with the largest group coming from O'Fallon.
"They came in part to develop the local congregation," Vargas explained. "They had been asked to do things in the congregation and felt they needed training."
The first group began with 27 students on July 2 last year, and met in Jefferson City the first Saturday of each month. Gladys Garcia serves as director. NoÅ½ Angel, pastor of Familia Cristiana Internacional in Jefferson City; Orel Garcia, pastor of Iglesia Latina del Lago in Osage Beach; Gladys Garcia; Daniel Puerto, pastor of Vida Nueva en Christo in California; Ken McCune, multicultural church planting strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention; and Vargas are instructors.
While the primary goal for the Centro de Desarrollo de L’deres is to provide leadership training, the hope also is to instill a desire in its students to pursue additional education. "The hope is that they will have the desire to continue," Vargas said.
Mendoza sets an example church leaders can follow. He attended some leadership training, and then seminary extension classes in English to see if he was able to handle them. "Then he desired to go to college. He finished and then desired to do a master's degree," Vargas said. "Now he has finished that and he desires a doctorate."
He added, "The goal is for them to help in the local congregation and for them to develop the desire for continuing their education. The beauty is that they are using their training in their local congregations."
At the June 16 ceremony, 15 students were awarded graduation certificates, and seven others were recognized for completing the program.
Graduates included Rodrigo Santin Garcia, Eva Santin G., Henry Abelardo Leon, Alicia Lucio, Rosa Ester Rubilar, Ilbida Ortiz, Grace Marin, Erica Marin Alvarez, Elena Ordonez, Irma Ordonez, Rafael Lopez, Emerita Lopez, Minerva Luna, Marcos Hernandez and Jose Israel Madrigal Ramirez.
Students, their families, teachers and other leaders continued the celebration for a couple of hours over lunch at a Jefferson City restaurant.
Pastors, church leaders and other interested in finding out more about the program may contact Vargas at firstname.lastname@example.org.