Faith, Work, and Economics
The first Hispanic Initiatives graduates received certificates in faith, work, and economics April 28 at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.
Fernando C. Tamara, a multitalented and personable AG ordained pastor and educator who lives in California, developed the curriculum from scratch in 2020 as director of Hispanic Initiatives at the seminary.
Tamara wears several vocational hats, but these days his primary role is as regional development representative for Made to Flourish, an Overland Park, Kansas-based organization designed to empower pastors and congregants to integrate faith, work, and economic know-how for the benefit of their communities.
“My focus is to train leaders for personal wholeness, spiritual vitality, and an awakened economic mindset that God has given to every human being,” says Tamara, 50. “We want to assist pastors and churchgoers to experience economic development and economic flourishing in their own localities.”
Tamara adapted his Made to Flourish acumen to the AGTS classes. A chief concern is teaching pastors how to ensure that their Sunday morning sermons carry meaning into the workweek of members of their flocks.
“We want to teach how to commission congregants to go into their community and serve their neighbors,” Tamara says. “We want to instill that the Christian worker is doing a productive job so God’s name can be glorified in whatever they do.” There is no “mundane” job for Christians, he says. All labor is sacred for the Christian, whether that is being a maid, machinist, or cook.
Tamara provides all the instruction in Spanish in a virtual setting, twice a month via Zoom. In addition to field work, students read a robust amount of materials on the subject, virtually all of it translated into Spanish from English by Tamara (who also is translational network coordinator for the AG national office).
Courses include “Entrepreneurs in the Kingdom,” “Theology of Work and Rest,” and “Vocational Stewardship.” Stewardship isn’t simply a matter for ministers to talk about on the occasional Sunday, Tamara maintains. Rather, he believes God has infused every person with creativity and innovation to bring to their careers, whatever that may be.
“God has provided different vocations to grow us as a collective community,” says Tamara, who immigrated to the U.S. from Peru at the age of 21. He wants to change the stereotype of Hispanic congregations perpetually begging for funds to an image of churches offering financial blessings and opportunities — not only for congregants, but entire communities.
The 14 graduates who completed the 48 hours of instruction originally are from El Salvador, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. The students — six pastors and eight laypersons — are spread across the country. Such a geographic and cultural mix sparked dynamic conversations, as each brought a different perspective to discussions, Tamara says.
Alexander E. Ascencio says what he learned in the course work will help at Iglesia Pentecostal in San Mateo, California, where he has been senior pastor for three years.
Virtually all of the 90 regular attendees are immigrants.
“Pastor Fernando opened my mind about how we can we serve and invest in the community in different areas,” says Ascencio, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 at the age of 18 from El Salvador, where his parents pastored an AG church. “The classes will help me to answer a lot of financial questions people in the church have about spending money.”
Ascencio, a Latin American Bible Institute graduate who has been involved in ministry for 20 years, also is a full-time handyman engaged in construction.
Armando and Luz Vera are a husband-wife pastor team in Pharr, Texas. Luz had been a medical doctor and Armando a political scientist when their Mexico City church in 1994 sent them as missionaries to Hispanic people on the U.S. side of the Mexican border. The couple, married 33 years, started church meetings in their home and now lead separate Spanish-speaking congregations under the same roof. Armando is pastor of Iglesia Poder de Dios, with 140 adherents, while Luz heads Iglesia Aliento de Vida. The congregations meet at different times because many Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley work on Sunday mornings.
Armando commends Tamara on challenging him with a vigorous and practical curriculum.
“We will teach what we learned about faith, economy, and work to change the minds of the congregants,” says Armando, 64. “Hispanics often are known as people who say ‘Give me, give me,’ but it’s important that we change that thinking. We want to show how to stay out of debt and how to manage money well.”
Tamara understands the needs of Hispanic Christians, according to Luz,
“Fernando showed the connection between faith and work well,” says Luz, 61. “He showed how God appreciates the cafeteria worker, home cleaner, mechanic, and landscaper.”
The Veras say they will encourage other pastors in their region to take the AGTS course.
Tamara also played a role in the creation of the bilingual Spanish Master of Leadership and Ministry degree launched at AGTS in 2019. He previously worked for the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership at Vanguard University. The late Jesse Miranda mentored the tireless Tamara for 19 years.
The ever-busy Tamara isn’t resting on his laurels. He and his wife, Christina, recently attended a Church Multiplication Network Launch Training event. On Sept. 11, the couple will relaunch Asamblea Church, a bilingual AG congregation in Orange, California.
Lead Photo: Fernando Tamara (left) presented certificates to the AGTS graduates in an April 28 ceremony. Bottom photo: Graduates who are grateful for the course include (from left) Alexander Ascencio, Armando Vera, and Luz Vera.