Since 2002, FLAMA (Fraternidad Latinoamericana de Adiestramiento Ministerial Alternativo) has offered Hispanic ministerial students a pathway toward licensed and ordained ministry in The Wesleyan Church (TWC). Since its inception, FLAMA has included intensive ministerial classes held in Spanish at various locations around the country, aimed primarily at bivocational ministers and ministerial students.

In 2013, Education and Clergy Development (ECD) expanded the structure of FLAMA, enhancing the program’s ability to foster growth among Hispanic leaders in Wesleyan churches and faith communities. FLAMA leadership now includes the involvement of district leaders, ministerial students, professors, administrative staff and district coordinators. District coordinators have direct contact with district offices and ministerial students. They meet monthly with denominational leadership of FLAMA to be informed and equipped to best serve ministerial students.

Before COVID-19 affected travel and group meetings, 10 men and women joined together at Southern Wesleyan University (SWU) under the leadership of Rev. Johanna Rugh, director of Spanish ministry for Education & Clergy Care with TWC, for the first-ever coordinators’ retreat to help FLAMA be even more accessible for those seeking to answer their callings to licensed and ordained ministry.

Attendees engaged in intentional training, which gave vision for new ways to serve their ministerial students. Dr. Luigi Penaranda, associate professor of global leadership and Latino/Latina Christian studies at Wesley Seminary, brought a fresh word of direction and encouragement. Dr. Robert Black, historian for TWC and retired college professor, gave attendees an introduction to the denomination’s history of personal and social holiness by offering a tour of Freedom Hill Wesleyan Church – a building with deep roots in TWC’s history of work for justice and wholeness.

The retreat was made possible thanks to the generosity of SWU’s School of Theology, numerous districts and ECD scholarships.

“I believe our coordinators were inspired by the camaraderie and support that they received from each other,” said Rev. Johanna Rugh. “Building this bond has helped to work as a team.”

A few FLAMA district coordinators are encouraged through their involvement to assist ministerial students in their calling to become pastors.

“I believe FLAMA is the opportunity for Wesleyan believers to find their calling, grow ministerially and be effective ministers in the midst of multicultural communities. We, as coordinators, have the privilege of being facilitators of these processes.” (Pastor Ingrid Martinez, Greater Ohio District)

“I love being part of a group that follows the Great Commission where we are helping pastors reach their greatest potential by providing education and helping them develop their calling from God.” (Pastor Louis Garcia, Tri State District)

“It is a blessing that The Wesleyan Church, through FLAMA, gives the opportunity for the development of ministerial education. What a great blessing that in difficult times like COVID. The pandemic did not stop FLAMA.” (Pastor Haydee Tolentino, Northeast District)

“The Wesleyan Church is committed to providing accessible, quality ministry education and formation in Spanish for all Hispanic persons called into pastoral ministry,” said Dr. Russ Gunsalus, executive director of ECD. “Johanna and her team have done an amazing job expanding and improving that commitment.”  Since the retreat, the COVID-19 outbreak has changed much of FLAMA’s practices, an accelerated shift toward video classrooms through Zoom. And yet even as the method of connection changes, district coordinators and students are finding new ways of resourcing, empowering and connecting with one another in ways that cultivate growth toward Christlikeness.

FLAMA is still offering the same training and assignments to anyone interested in attending, and, because of the new format, each student can join any class without having to travel.

In these days where many of our routines are disrupted, it can be easy to forget the power of encouragement and empowerment. Even as FLAMA supports ministerial students toward ordination, you, too, can offer support and encouragement to pastors and ministerial students in your area.

“Each of us has the capacity to build up those that are in ministry or those that are thinking about it. God has given each of us his love. I hope that each of us use it to encourage others,” said Rugh.

For more information about FLAMA (including class schedules, coordinators’ contact info and resources) or The Wesleyan Church’s process of ministerial formation for pastors, click here.