The year 2016 has seen more growth in theological education in the region around Cobán. Last Thursday a graduation ceremony was held for the 4th consecutive year, with 42 students receiving diplomas from the Presbyterian Evangelical Seminary (see photo). Most were Q’eqchi’, with some Poqomchí, Ixil and Ladino graduates. As we praise God for this blessing, we continue to pray for the future of this crucial program.
Every year, financing poses a high hurdle to surmount, as you might expect. Most students face impoverished economic conditions, and they rely on scholarships, which include room and board in Cobán. While Walton funds from the PC(USA) provide considerable help, it’s been difficult at times to harmonize this endowment’s 25-year-old stipulations with current needs. Guatemala’s Presbyterian Seminary underwrites some expenses, though it suffers financial hardships of its own that threaten the program’s future viability. Plans are underway to invite supporters from abroad to help cover some unmet expenses so we can avoid charging students.
Another ongoing barrier is the limited formal education among Q’eqchi’ pastors. Since many have only an elementary education, their ineligible for the next seminary degree program. They’re stuck until they complete middle school, an expense beyond their means. Next year we hope to be able to offer some new scholarships to help pastors and church leaders advance in secular education. We also plan to start offering workshops in Cobán next year for Q’eqchi’ ruling elders that have little access to leadership training.
Being able to house the program at our own facilities is a huge breakthrough. In September, all aspects of theological training in Cobán moved to the Presbyterian Complex—classes, housing and meals. However, the facilities are small, with students sleeping on mattresses on the floors of Sunday school rooms. Some classes are taught outdoors until a more spacious training center and guest house can be built (see photo).
In addition to coordinating theological education in Cobán, this year the seminary asked me to be an adjunct professor. In Cobán I taught about church history and pastoral administration (see photo), while in the Q’anjob’al Presbytery I taught Bible courses on Acts, Paul’s epistles, and Revelation (see photo). It’s most gratifying to participate in God’s work of equipping the saints for ministry, and I’m deeply thankful for all who support these efforts in so many ways.