Story by Jana Inglehart
Above photo: Guatemalan Deaconess Graduates
Photography by Johanna Heidorn except where otherwise noted
oncordia the Reformer Seminary’s deaconess program provides training for women in five Latin American countries: the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.
The three-year course of study consists of online classes with seminary professors and in-person sessions taught by a local pastor and deaconess mentor. In addition, seminary professors regularly travel to each country to teach intensive courses on subjects such as the Augsburg Confession, the Old Testament, Luther’s Small Catechism, diaconal care, and the Divine Service and the life of the church, to list a few. In all classes, the ladies are encouraged to ask questions and engage in discussion. Outside the classroom, they complete assigned readings and projects and put their new skills into practice with the supervision of the local pastor and deaconess mentor. Once they pass their final written and practical exams, they graduate and are commissioned as deaconesses in their home country.
A deaconess student in Guatemala reads from the Bible during a class
Student deaconesses in Latin America must overcome multiple challenges to attend these classes. Intermittent electricity and poor internet service are common hindrances. Sometimes, the only internet source is a phone, so two or more students may share one cell phone while attending an online class. Since some students live quite a distance from the class location, and most ladies do not drive or own a personal vehicle, securing transportation to and from the in-person intensives is quite a challenge. Finally, a number of our students are working professionals, so they begin their studies late in the evening, exhausted after a full day of work at their job and caring for the needs of their families.
Deaconess students in Panama begin an evening session (Photographs by Jana Inglehart)
We give thanks to the Lord of the Harvest, who continues to raise up laborers as He has done in the case of these dedicated women who are a force for mercy in our missions, congregations and communities.Rev. Ted Krey, Regional Director of the Latin America & Caribbean Region
The class of 2022 was especially large due to the limitations imposed on meetings and gatherings over the past two years. When countries finally lifted restrictions and students could gather for classes, they were eager to complete their interrupted course of study. As a result, the deaconess classes were packed during the past academic year.
Above, left to right: Deaconess intensive classes in Mexico taught by Rev. Ted Krey and Deaconess Rachel Jaseph. Deaconess Danelle Putnam Schumann teaches an intensive class in Guatemala.
We rejoice with our graduates who overcame obstacles and delays to complete their coursework. Thanks be to God, nearly a hundred women are now 2022 graduates of the seminary’s deaconess program.
“We give thanks to the Lord of the Harvest, who continues to raise up laborers as He has done in the case of these dedicated women who are a force for mercy in our missions, congregations and communities,” said the Rev. Ted Krey, regional director of the Latin America and Caribbean region and head of the seminary’s deaconess program.
Top left: Rev. Joel Fritsche, Director of Concordia the Reformer Seminary, congratulates new graduates with Deaconess Danelle Putnam Schumann, and Rev. Ted Krey on the far left. Top right: New graduates in Guatemala smile during the recessional hymn. Bottom Left: Deaconess Danelle Putnam Schumann hugs a new graduate. Bottom right: Rev. Joel Fritsche and Deaconess Danelle Putnam Schumann congratulate new deaconess graduate.
These new deaconesses will work alongside local pastors and church workers. In their role, they share God’s Word as they visit members and engage in acts of mercy. They often assist those in the community who are marginalized or in need. Therefore, their training includes the areas of mercy, Christian education, and spiritual care for women and children, so their service can be shaped by the needs of various congregations or mercy houses. For example, while one deaconess may be involved in disability ministry, another may focus on the hungry, the aged, or the disadvantaged.
Deaconess graduates in Panama enjoy a few moments of levity prior to the graduation service (Photographs by Jana Inglehart)
Some of our recent graduates are finding creative ways to reach the unchurched. One congregation in Panama is blessed with a new deaconess graduate who teaches weekly painting classes for children and adults. The relaxed atmosphere offers the ideal opportunity for the pastor and deaconess to share the Gospel, build relationships with prospective members, and invite them to church or other Bible study opportunities.
“We are thankful that so many women were able to be formed as deaconesses to serve in their congregations and in their communities, sharing the love of Christ through Christian education, spiritual care and works of mercy,” said Deaconess Danelle Putnam Schumann, the associate deaconess program coordinator. “They will be a great help to their pastor as they seek to reach those in need with the saving Gospel of Jesus.”
Nearly a hundred women from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico and Guatemala, are now graduates of Concordia the Reformer Seminary’s deaconess program.