On Monday night a dedication service marked the start of a new theological training program for indigenous pastors and elders in the city of Cobán. Participants in the simple service described the program as a “historic” and “thrilling” response to the clamor for high-quality educational opportunities for indigenous leaders. Enrollment capacity was supposed to be 40, but 46 students were allowed to sign-up. There’s already a waiting list for others who hope to join the next time. Another 16 students of the Q’anjob’al Presbytery have enrolled in the same program and are receiving classes concurrently in the town of San Juan Ixcoy in Huehuetenango.
Students come from Q’eqchi’, Poqomchí and Ixil congregations, from eight presbyteries in Guatemala’s northern region. During this first of five week-long sessions, courses are on biblical theology and Reformed doctrine. Future sessions will be about Presbyterian history, polity and liturgy, as well as pastoral functions and responsibilities. Graduates from the program will receive a diploma in pastoral proficiency.
This program is a collaboration of the Evangelical Presbyterian Seminary, the La Patria School in Quetzaltenango, the Bi-national Walton Committee, of which I’m a part, and the eight indigenous presbyteries. All have worked closely together in the process of planning and implementation. Registration and materials, as well as housing and meals, are being provided at no cost to students, who are mostly bi-vocational pastors that make a living in the corn, coffee and sugarcane fields. The commitment of the students is to pay for their own transportation to Cobán, to take time off from their jobs and, of course, to complete course requirements.
(Photos: Inaugural service in Cobán, students in San Juan Ixcoy, and students in Cobán)