by Beth Gómez, Colombia
“Although it hasn’t been easy,” admits Iris Palencia, “the fact that I can understand how God speaks to me through His Word animates and gives me the strength to continue.” Iris is a wife, mother, lay pastor and online student. One of the founders of the Camino de Vida in Medellín, a recent Free Methodist affiliate church, Iris leads the church’s outreach to a very dangerous neighborhood of the city. Iris has been enriched through this online offering despite the time constraints as she fills her many roles. “It also brings me much joy when I intelligently share God’s Word with others!”
In an effort to provide flexible, contextual and relevant training to Spanish-speaking pastors and leaders, the FM Church (under the leadership of Drs. Paul Olver and Ricardo Gómez and with the approval of Bishop David Roller) is partnering with the Fundación Universitaria Seminario Bíblico de Colombia, located in Medellín, Colombia, to provide the courses required for ordination. The pilot course, taught in the fall of 2015, included 44 students, primarily from three cities in Colombia. Enrollment increased to 88 students for the subsequent course and reached students not only throughout Colombia, but also in Chile, Mexico and the USA.
In addition to drawing on the seminary’s 73-year experience of preparing pastors for ministry, the advantages of studying online in this program include its accessibility to the students within their own contexts of home and ministry and its flexibility, allowing them to complete the six hours of required study per week on their own schedule. An added benefit is the 6-week courses are not only taught by a qualified professor, but also students receive pastoral/academic support from a well-trained FM mentor. As the program continues to grow, mentors will be trained and assigned in each country to motivate, assist, advise and accompany the students through the learning process.
La Iglesia de las Americas, a church in Seattle, WA, has several members taking classes in this program – just one example of how far-reaching this technology is. That church also supports several students from a church in Chigorodó, a village on Colombia’s coast. One of the pastoras there told her mentor how meaningful the class was. As a bi-vocational pastor and mother, she didn’t have time to take traditional classes. She is so excited about what she is learning and how it is benefiting her and her church. She is grateful to the FMC and the Seminario Bíbilico de Colombia for making this education possible.
The online partnership offers all of the 16 required courses for the theological preparation for ordination. Currently five courses are offered throughout the year.
For more information, contact Ricardo Gómez at firstname.lastname@example.org.