What do two lawyers, an architect, and the former leader of the Communist party in Ecuador have in common? As of Saturday, May 27, they all are graduates of Southwestern Seminary’s Maestría de Estudios Teológicos (MET) program, and they, along with seven other graduates, will now serve as faculty members of PESCA Baptist Theological Seminary in central Ecuador.

Missionary Steve Thompson, who founded PESCA with his wife Carol, says, “This has been the culmination of a great time of planning, a time of dreaming out loud, and then seeing God bring dreams into reality. And this past weekend, seeing 11 of them graduate with their master’s in theology has been a blessing not only to us but to the future of theological education in the entire country of Ecuador.”

The graduation was the result of a three-way partnership between PESCA seminary, Tabernacle Baptist Church of Ennis, Texas, and Southwestern Seminary’s Patterson Center for Global Theological Innovation (GTI). This partnership began in 2015 and saw 11 Ecuadorian pastors and church leaders from across the country enroll in Southwestern’s online MET program with the purpose of eventually becoming PESCA seminary’s faculty. Tabernacle was then recruited as a Champion Church, prayerfully and financially supporting these students and the seminary. Now, just two years later, all 11 students have completed their master’s degrees, and they will now train future ministers to further God’s Kingdom in Ecuador.

“There is lots of promise with what is being put together in their leadership, and they are quite open to what God has for them,” says William Goff, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southwestern and project leader for the GTI partnership with PESCA. “There’s a mystery, there’s a sense of joy, there’s a sense of excitement and even anxiety about what they are getting themselves into; but also a great sense of hope and looking at their future with promise and anticipation as they prepare pastors and missionaries.”

Because the graduates serve in different parts of the country, the graduation ceremony welcomed family and church members from the deep jungle of the Amazon basin, high up in the Andes Mountains, and even the Pacific coast. “We have pastors who are serving in large congregations and small congregations, from the rural communities to the larger cities,” Thompson says. “What a diverse area we have and what a great thing God has done to pull these pastors and leaders together to be our faculty.”

The ceremony also welcomed Todd Gray, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church. Regarding Tabernacle’s impact as a Champion Church, Thompson says, “It was significant to have those people in Ennis praying for us on a daily basis. As we’ve listened to the testimonies of those who have just graduated, over and over they mentioned how many times they came to a difficult time in their studies where it was so hard and so difficult for them to continue, and yet they knew that there was a church praying for them daily; not only providing for their financial needs to be able to have this education and preparation, but also to pray for them and to keep them strong in the Lord.”

PESCA seminary currently has 20 students enrolled in its undergraduate program, and the 11 graduates will now serve as their professors. “There is a receptivity to the Gospel [in Ecuador],” Goff says, “and because we have these graduates being so well prepared for training pastors and spiritual leaders, [the people of this country] have a great future here before them. We’re grateful to God to be a part of that as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”