The Rev. Ezequiel Herrera, a student in the certificate program for Adaptive and Innovative Ministry, is not shy about his enthusiasm for his studies at PTS.
“I want to shout from the rooftops how extraordinary this program is,” he says.
Why such high praise for AIM? He explains, “Everything I have learned so far—everything—I have been able to immediately translate to the ministry field.”
For Ezequiel, that field is the U.S.-Mexico border. In his area alone (Hidalgo County, Texas), there are more than 800 colonias, housing developments that lack basic services like drinking water, sewage, and paved roads. They formed decades ago when the soil was exhausted and agricultural jobs disappeared. Developers parceled out and sold the land, without providing needed infrastructure, for cheap prices. For many first-generation migrant workers, these were the only properties they could afford. While their children are born in the U.S., most of the adults are undocumented.
“These people are forgotten,” Ezequiel laments. “I feel called to build bridges between the people of the colonias and the resources of the PC(USA).”
The certificate program is helping him do just that. For instance, he learned from Dr. Scott Hagley (and his book Eat What is Set Before You) that innovative ministers must engage communities with strong relationships and clear vision, discerning their own role in light of the assets that are already present there.
Ezequiel has sought to do this in the colonias. He has partnered with local leaders, like “Pinky,” a young woman who had lost her sister to gang violence. Pinky started a non-profit to create opportunities for children to play soccer, a safe alternative to violent activities. Ezequiel has been searching out funds and supplies for Pinky’s ministry, which has already brought about a sudden and visible decrease in vandalism and violence in the neighborhood.
This is just one bridge Ezequiel has been building. He is also helping to establish a partnership between the colonias and the Texas A&M School of Agriculture. This will hopefully lead to community gardens and opportunities for the residents to learn planting techniques and health benefits of fruits and vegetables. The goal is to launch this effort in the fall, and in the meantime Ezequiel is working to secure plots of land while he builds excitement in the community.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Ezequiel’s mother and aunts were able to gain nursing degrees from a Presbyterian mission school and, ultimately, to break cycles of poverty. We are so grateful for Ezequiel’s passion and ministry.