Witness Moment

Dominican Seminary Celebrates Inaugural Graduation

Isaac Machado of Venezuela was one of eight men to graduate on May 24.

On May 24, the first class graduated from Concordia the Reformer Seminary in Palmar Arriba, Dominican Republic. Among the eight new graduates was Isaac Machado of Venezuela.

Machado wasn’t always planning to become a pastor. Beginning at age 5, he developed a passion for music that led him to play in the national youth orchestra and to study at a prestigious music conservatory. He later landed his first job at a local television station and advanced quickly in the field of audio engineering. He had just received an amazing job offer with Venezuela’s national soccer team when word came that he had also received a scholarship to study at Concordia Seminary in Argentina.

Machado’s parents, first-generation Lutherans in Venezuela, had instilled in him that the preaching of the Gospel was the most important thing. As the bedrock of the Lutheran mission in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Caracas, these college professors made certain that he and his two sisters were taught the faith and attended Lutheran schools.

There was no question about what he would do. Machado attended the Argentine seminary for two years. Then he moved to the Dominican Republic to spend two more years at Concordia the Reformer Seminary.

“I am so glad that God put in my mind and my heart to come here to Concordia el Reformador to study,” Machado said.

“I thought that I knew a lot about theology, but when I arrived in the Dominican Republic and began my classes I realized I knew nothing!” he continued. “The professors were excellent, not only in the classroom but in the car, in their homes. They taught me by example, not only how to be a pastor but also how to be a good husband and father. I did not expect to learn all of this. Not only were the classes and the theory good, but also the practice. And the practice is in the church, in their lives and their families and how they relate to other people.”

On graduation day, the eight eager graduates — who hail from Bolivia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela — lined up in their caps and gowns under the bulky tent that had been set up by the professors, students and missionaries earlier in the day. Smiles, hugs and congratulations abounded between the students and the professors, family members and special guests in attendance. Even thousands of miles away, the seminarians’ jubilant family members, who were watching the event via livestream, were caught up in the unspeakable joy of the day.

Due to the shortage of Lutheran pastors in Latin America, the new graduates will likely serve two, three or more congregations. However, because of the current civil unrest in Venezuela, Machado will serve in Spain — although he will return to Venezuela regularly to teach and encourage the pastors and church workers there.

With the launch of the seminary’s new deaconess program this past spring, the Lord of the harvest is also preparing nearly 140 deaconesses through intensive courses taught around the region. These deaconesses will serve alongside pastors throughout Latin America.

“It has been a joy to teach these young men inside and outside of the classroom in their formation for ministry,” the Rev. Joel Fritsche, LCMS missionary and director of Concordia the Reformer Seminary, said about graduation day. “It was an even greater joy to see them graduate and receive recognition for all of their diligent and faithful work. We rejoice with them, their families and their church bodies as they go forth with the Gospel to plant new churches.”

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Jana Inglehart 

LCMS missionary and communication specialist for the Latin America and Caribbean region.

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