Fewer than 10 years ago, the Baptist seminary in Guatemala City was on the verge of closing its doors. Its library’s bookshelves were nearly bare; its greatest technological resources were decades-old computers; and its roof had decayed to the point that classes could not be held during the rain lest students become drenched by the impertinent dripping. Beyond that, the seminary’s reach was limited, leaving would-be ministers who lived far away from the campus with no option but to fend for themselves. If the seminary could not find help, it would have to close indefinitely.
The solution, it turned out, was international collaboration. Specifically, the Guatemala seminary found new life through its partnership with Southwestern Seminary’s Global Theological Innovation (GTI).
As reported in the winter 2015 issue of Southwestern News, the GTI partnership yielded substantial results: Southwestern contributed electronic library resources; the First Baptist Church of Bowie, Texas, was recruited as a Champion Church, providing funds to purchase a new computer server and replace the seminary building’s roof; and Southwestern professors taught courses to the seminary faculty, enabling them to earn master’s degrees.
All of these factors combined empowered the Guatemala seminary to return from the brink of desolation as a thriving center for theological education. Beyond improved resources at the seminary itself, multiple extension centers have since been opened throughout the country as well as in neighboring Honduras and Belize.
During winter break this year, Southwestern Professor of Missions Daniel Sanchez traveled to Guatemala, teaching a course at the seminary and preaching at the graduation ceremony of one of its extension centers. At the campus in Guatemala City, Sanchez taught on the topic of “Worldview: Implications for Missionary Work.” The students responded enthusiastically as they reflected on designing outreach strategies to reach people with animistic, syncretistic, Islamic and postmodern worldviews.
The graduation ceremony took place in the city of Coban. Thirty-five students belonging to the Kekchi tribal group received their diplomas, and Sanchez challenged them to continue to implement the Great Commission among their cultural group as well as others.
Reflecting on the substantive work being accomplished in and through the Guatemala seminary, Sanchez says, “For a seminary that a few years ago was contemplating closing its doors, it is truly encouraging to see the effects of the new vision they have captured that is enabling them to teach more than 600 students. In both the central campus in Guatemala City and the extension at Coban, the leaders as well as the students asked me to express their gratitude to [Southwestern President] Paige Patterson, [GTI Director] Brent Ray, and the faculty for the marvelous way in which they have helped and encouraged them during these years of revitalization and growth.”
As an illustration of the Guatemala seminary’s reach, the newly elected president of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, was installed during Sanchez’s visit. Morales is an alumnus of the Guatemala seminary, and he began his inaugural address with prayer, committing himself to a life of “honor, sacrifice and hope.” Sanchez reflects, “We never know the kind of impact that one of these seminaries with which we are partnering can have on Baptist work and the nation itself.”
To learn more about GTI or to become a Champion Church for a seminary like the one in Guatemala, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.