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The first Hispanic Initiatives graduates received certificates in faith, work and business on April 28 at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.
Fernando C. Tamara, a multi-talented and personable AG ordained pastor and educator living in California, developed the 2020 curriculum from the ground up as director of Hispanic initiatives at seminary.
Tamara holds multiple trades, but these days his primary role is as the regional development officer for Made to Flourish, an Overland Park, Kansas-based organization dedicated to providing pastors and parishioners with an opportunity to integrate faith, work, and economic know-how for the good of theirs communities.
“My focus is to train leaders for personal wholeness, spiritual vitality, and an awakened economic mindset that God has given to every human being,” says Tamara, 50. “We want to help pastors and churchgoers experience economic development and prosperity on their own Places.”
Tamara adapted his Made to Flourish acumen to the AGTS classes. A key concern is teaching pastors how to ensure that their Sunday morning sermons bring meaning to the workweek of members of their flock.
“We want to teach how to commission church members to go to their church and minister to their neighbors,” says Tamara. “We want to convey that the Christian worker does a productive job so that God’s name can be glorified in everything he does.” There is no “worldly” job for Christians, he says. All work is sacred to the Christian, be it a maid, machinist, or cook.
Tamara offers all Spanish classes twice a month via Zoom in a virtual environment. In addition to fieldwork, the students read a large amount of material on the subject, practically all translated from English into Spanish by Tamara (who is also the translation network coordinator for the national office of the WG).
Courses include ‘Entrepreneurs in the Kingdom’, ‘Theology of Work and Rest’ and ‘Career Responsibility’. Stewardship is not just a matter for ministers, something that is occasionally talked about on Sundays, Tamara claims. Rather, he believes that God has filled every human being with creativity and innovation to bring to their careers, whatever that might be.
“God has provided various callings to help us grow as a collective community,” says Tamara, who immigrated to the United States from Peru at the age of 21. He wants to change the stereotype of Hispanic congregations constantly begging for money to an image of church offerings of financial blessings and opportunities — not just for parishioners, but entire communities.
The 14 graduates who completed the 48 hours of instruction are originally 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 each brought a different perspective to the discussions, says Tamara.
Alexander E. Ascencio says what he learned in the coursework will benefit Iglesia Pentecostal in San Mateo, California, where he was senior pastor for three years.
Almost all of the 90 regular participants are immigrants.
“Pastor Fernando showed me how we can serve and invest in the church in different areas,” says Ascencio, who moved to the church in 2000 at the age of 18 from El Salvador, where his parents pastored an AG church immigrated to the United States. “The class will help me answer many of the financial questions people in the Church have about spending.”
Ascencio, a graduate of the Latin American Bible Institute who has been in the ministry for 20 years, is also a full-time handyman involved in construction.
Armando and Luz Vera are a pastor-husband team in Pharr, Texas. Luz was a doctor and Armando was a political scientist when their church in Mexico City sent them as missionaries to Hispanics on the US side of the Mexico border in 1994. The couple, married for 33 years, started church meetings at their home and now lead separate Spanish-speaking churches under the same roof. Armando is pastor of the Iglesia Poder de Dios with 140 followers, while Luz leads the Iglesia Aliento de Vida. The congregations meet at different times because many Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley work Sunday mornings.
Armando commends Tamara for challenging him with an energetic and practical curriculum.
“We will teach what we have learned about faith and economics and work to change the minds of parishioners,” says Armando, 64. “Hispanics are often known as people who say, ‘Give me, give me,’ but it is important that we change this thinking. We want to show how to remain debt-free and how to manage money well.”
According to Luz, Tamara understands the needs of Hispanic Christians.
“Fernando did a good job of showing the connection between faith and work,” says Luz, 61. “He showed how God appreciates the cafeteria worker, the house cleaner, the mechanic, and the landscaper.”
The Veras say they will encourage other pastors in their area to take the AGTS course.
Tamara also played a role in the creation of the bilingual Spanish Master of Leadership and Ministry degree, which was introduced 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 doesn’t rest on her laurels. He and his wife, Christina, recently attended a training event to launch the Church’s multiplication network. On September 11, the couple will reopen Asamblea Church, a bilingual AG congregation in Orange, California.
Leading photo: Fernando Tamara (left) presented the AGTS graduates with their certificates in a ceremony on April 28th. Bottom photo: Graduates grateful for the course include (from left) Alexander Ascencio, Armando Vera and Luz Vera.
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