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Making a digital dream come true

Puerto Rican seminary begins work on ‘Smart Room’ thanks to DREAM Grant from Presbyterian Mission Agency

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Doris Garcia Rivera, president of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, remembers how grateful she was, standing on the stage, at a recent Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting in Puerto Rico.

When interim PMA Executive Director Tony De La Rosa presented a $10,000 DREAM Grant check to the Synod of Puerto Rico for use by the seminary, she was ecstatic.

“For us to receive that check,” she said, “it means possibility — for us to make our dream a reality.”

When Garcia Rivera arrived as the first female president at the seminary in 2014, she wanted to expand its reach, across the island and beyond. Under her guidance the seminary began dreaming about how they might better serve their broad-based ecumenical community in Puerto Rico.

The seminary had already been talking about how they might enhance their capability to provide tools for leadership development to strengthen Hispanic ministries on the west side of the island, where most Presbyterians live.

“We knew they were having trouble coming to San Juan to study,” she said. “Mainly because of traffic — students drive 90 minutes each way for evening classes. But also because they are bi-vocational leaders. They are already serving in Presbyterian churches, as pastors and elders, so their time is very limited.”

With more courses and programs available and accessible through the “smart room” for Hispanic ministry leaders, the seminary will expand its reach — not only across the island, but also in Latin America and to Hispanic congregational leaders in the U.S.

“You know the millennials are here,” Garcia Rivera said. “We’re starting to think about them as leaders in our churches. They’re very technological; this tool will also help us reach out to them.”

Garcia Rivera grew up in Puerto Rico and spent 23 years as a missionary in Latin America where she founded theological centers broadening the reach of religious training, particularly in Costa Rico and Mexico.

Now she wants to help the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto to come “more closely to the dream God has” for the institution she leads.

What is her dream?

“To deepen the call that we have,” she said. “It started almost 100 years ago with the missionaries’ dream to provide training of the leaders of our nation — religious leadership for our nation.

“For me to able to do this, because of your gift, I have a deep sense of gratitude but also a sense of accomplishment in my call as a missionary.”

The Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico serves the needs of ordained and lay leaders of Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, Congregational and various evangelical groups, with a current enrollment of 225 students across its degree and certificate program.

The total cost of the “smart room” is $22,850 — funds from the Synod of Puerto Rico and seminary will help complete the initiative.


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