Ismael Ruiz-Millan of Duke Divinity School accompanied Bishop Ward and the Cabinet on a week of Hispanic/Latino cultural immersion in Guatemala in August.
BISHOP WARD: Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
We’re all on a journey, step by step, day by day. We learn, we grow, we discover new ways to reach out in mission to all the world. We are like the Magi. These three beautiful magi were carved and painted by Guatemalan artists. They now adorn the United Methodist Building in Garner. Look forward to seeing them when you come for a gathering. They remind us of the journey that continues. The light shines, beckoning us forward into the world where God has created a diverse and marvelous population of people. Listen now to a recent development that will gladden your heart.
ISMAEL RUIZ-MILLAN: One of the core programs of the Hispanic House of Studies is a Caminantes program. For several years, we have worked only with students at the Divinity School, and in 2012 we started a Caminantes program for pastors. One of the main purposes or principals of the program is to bring together all Latino pastors to worship together, to study the scriptures together, and more importantly, to reflect about ways to be more effective in being in ministry with the Hispanic/Latino community. But more than that, to reflect together, what it means to be the kind of church that reflects unity. In this program, what is very significant is to be vulnerable and to promote awareness because I think the beginning of transformation, the beginning of changing our perspective, is to be vulnerable and to be aware. Last year, Tim [Russell] was one of the participants of the program when we came down to Antigua, Guatemala to the language and cultural immersion. One of the days, he came to me to share this vision about how great it would be to have the Bishop and the Cabinet have this experience.
TIM RUSSELL: During my prayer time one morning, the thought came to me from the Spirit, “What if the Bishop and Cabinet experienced this? And then what if we expanded it to the Assistants to the District Superintendents and then what if we offered it to some of our pastors?” So I came to Ismael that week and said, “This is a crazy idea, but what do you think of this?” To his credit, he didn’t say it was a crazy idea. He immediately got excited about it and we spent most of our breaks, lunches, while we were walking, talking about that the rest of the week and I think both of us just got more and more enthusiastic about the idea.
So we talked about applying for a Duke Endowment grant and the first thing we needed to do was talk to Bishop Ward and the Cabinet to be sure there was interest. As soon as we talked to them they were very enthusiastic and very interested. They could have said “No, we don’t want to do that. It makes us uncomfortable; we’re not interested”, but immediately they got very enthusiastic and interested and so that gave us the green light. With Ismael’s help, with Rob and Kristin’s’ help from the Endowment, with Brad Thies’ help from the Endowment and the Divinity School, we worked on a grant. Ismael was an incredible help because he’d done it before with the Language Immersion experience. He had the contacts here in Antigua at the Language School, and so we made an application to the Duke Endowment. They were very gracious and generous and granted that application. We felt like it would be a unique experience. We felt like other Cabinets hadn’t done this. We felt like nobody really had done such a thing before and that’s a part of what got us excited about it; it was unique and different.