Iglesia Evangélica Luterana de Panamá (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama – IELPA) ordained and installed a pastor who graduated from Lutheran Reformation Theological Seminary, Nicaragua in March 2009. Demetrio Pérez was one of two pastoral ministry students from Panama and comes from the Kuna tribe, a native community in Panama. Rev. Jorge Villamil, who serves a Kuna congregation conducted the January 31 Service of Ordination and Installation.
The new pastor will serve Bethel Mission at the Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) community in Panama. Although Pastor Pérez and fellow Panamanian Jose Angel Fernandez graduated from the theological education program last year, the IELPA delayed ordination and placement until congregations became available. Snr. Fernandez is still awaiting his ordination and first call. A deaconess, Yazmina Perez also graduated with the two pastors and is serving a congregation in the community of Balboa.
“Having these students from Panama in the seminary class demonstrated to the Nicaraguan students the unity we share in Christ and in our Lutheran confession,” noted Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan, volunteer missionary in Nicaragua. “It was especially touching to welcome Demetrio Pérez’ parents to the graduation in their Kuna native dress.”
The Panamanian students are the first from another Lutheran church body to receive their theological training in the Nicaragua seminary program. The church in Panama became aware of the program when The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod seconded Rev. Pedro Quintero, a graduate from the first Nicaragua seminary class, to serve in the Panama mission. The three-year course operates under the guidance of Rev. Dr. Roger Humann and Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ont.