Today I had the privilege of sharing my story with the leaders and ministers that attended the EFCA Conference for Latino/Hispanic Pastors. The conference was held in Spanish, but I have decided to translate my speech and share it with you. You will notice that I incorporated some thoughts from older blog posts, including my favorite quote from Saint Augustine. Here is my story… in a nutshell.
“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
Since I can remember, my heart has been restless, troubled and anxious. Very often we don’t see clearly where the path is taking us. But it comes to a point where although we haven’t arrived to the finish line, we can look back and see how beautifully everything comes together. I am the only child of my parents and I was the only Christian in my household until my twentieth birthday. The experience of having an alcoholic father and the life scenarios that so often are tied to that reality, such as domestic violence, shaped my childhood and adolescence. God found me in the midst of my brokenness (and it is there where he continues to encounter me every day). The gospel was (and is) a message of hope in the midst of my despair; not because Christ was going to solve all my problems, but because He promised to walk with me through the troubled roads of life, and even there He would give me rest.
I was admitted to the University of Puerto Rico. My aim was to complete a bachelor’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, so I could study Medicine. On my sophomore year I was exposed to expository preaching for the first time. God surrounded me with mentors that helped me grow and flourish in my walk with Christ. God’s calling to study theology became more compelling. The process of deciding whether I was going to obey God and study Theology or disobey God and study Medicine was far more complex than what I can express in this moment; but I can say that my inner battle was a result of my need for others’ approval and my own pride.
But his grace has brought me here. God fills our lives with it, showing us that his plans are better than ours. I am convinced that I have been called to teach his Word, not only in the context of the local church, but at an academic level. My goal is to serve Christ’s Church, particularly in Puerto Rico and Latin America. Usually neither pastors nor leaders in Puerto Rico are required to have any formal theological or pastoral training at all, and as a consequence the church in Puerto Rico has not been able to articulate in a clear and coherent way its position before the social and cultural challenges it is facing. I am convinced that the Hispanic church, both in the US and Latin America, has a lot to contribute to the theological discussion from our respective contexts. In fact, all of us are tied to the dual nature of the Church: local and yet universal, catholic in this latter sense. There is a great need for the publication of serious theological material in Spanish. But here I am not referring to translations of the works of our Anglo brothers and sisters. I am talking about works written by Latino and Latina theologians.
We are here as the company of the gospel, the fellowship of those that have been united to Christ and that in the light of this union have received the ministry of reconciliation. We want to be witnesses of that experience that characterizes us as immigrants. I want to finish this speech reminding us that each one of us here, regardless of our nationality, has been called to be a pilgrim and a sojourner in this world, because our citizenship is in heaven.