Dominican Republic native found Gospel focus at SEBTS
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- It started with a prayer.
"I think we should pray and see God respond in this prayer," Gomez recounted his pastor telling him in 2014.
Two weeks later the phone rang, and Edgar Aponte was on the other end. Aponte was Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's director of Hispanic leadership development at the time (now the International Mission Board's vice president of mobilization).
Aponte offered Gomez an opportunity for theological education under the seminary's Kingdom Diversity Scholarship. After a campus visit, growing financial support and other doors the Lord opened, Gomez and his family moved to Wake Forest, N.C., and he began his master of divinity studies in Christian ministry during the 2016 spring semester.
During his two years at Southeastern, Gomez said he has gained a richer theological base, a Great Commission focus and what he regards as a "well-balanced" M.Div.
SEBTS embodies a "special flavor," as Gomez puts it, one in which he has experienced deep relationships with his professors and has been challenged through their teaching and lifestyle.
"One of the reasons I love to be here is I have found that my knowledge in theology has been increased, and my heart has been encouraged through the way professors have been teaching and leading," Gomez said.
As a husband and father of two, time can be one of the biggest challenges in balancing school, family and work. However, Gomez and his wife chose to make family a priority during this time they consider an "oasis" from the challenge of ministry in the Dominican Republic.
Gomez tailored his schedule accordingly. During the day he attended class, went to work and studied at the library. But once he arrived at the apartment, the books were put away to focus on family.
"I have found that another person could be a better pastor or a better student than me, but in my house there's no other person who would do something in a way that I could do it," said Gomez, who said he and his wife also planned movie nights as well as other nights out together.
While time management can be challenging, the community at Southeastern lends itself to being family-oriented, said Gomez's wife, Betsy, who is also a student at SEBTS pursuing a master of arts in ministry to women.
"The challenge is more to choose well in what we are investing our time in," she said, "being faithful to the Lord and not trading our family for our studies."
Gomez has been impacted by the Great Commission focus in the classroom, specifically the expectation to share the Gospel during the semester. While evangelism reports are expected in missions and evangelism classes, he remembers being held accountable for this even in courses like Bible exposition, church history and Old Testament survey.
"I can testify as an international student, coming from a different background, who is pursuing to be equipped, that the seminary intentionally fulfills and achieves what we have in our mission," said Gomez, who saw this firsthand as a recruiter for Southeastern's Hispanic leadership development office.
Gomez and his wife do not just talk about serving the church while in school, they have passionately pursued it. Gomez has the opportunity to preach in various cities across the country, including New York City, Miami, Raleigh-Durham and Orlando. At his home church, Imago Dei, he has led the Hispanic Initiative for a year and a half, which encompasses about 40 congregants and 20 kids coming together once a month for a time of teaching and fellowship in their own language.
Betsy serves with Revive Our Hearts, a ministry led by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, to equip women to thrive in their identity in Christ by providing resources through radio shows, events and blogs. In her work with the ministry, Betsy teaches throughout Latin America and manages the media team and the blog for Hispanic women.
Her classes and professors also have played a vital role in her ministerial work.
"I remember having a speaking engagement in Mexico and sitting with a professor asking him if he thought that what I was going to teach was proper for that time," she recounted. "I felt like the companion of the professors, and I've seen the investment and how that has been fruitful."
While the couple has spent countless hours studying, ministering to others and raising their kids, the next step in the journey is as exciting as the previous one.
As Gomez looks back on his time at Southeastern with fondness, what began as a prayer four years ago is becoming a reality. At the beginning of December, Gomez received his M.Div in Christian ministry. At the end of December, he and his family will be moving to Texas to pursue full-time ministry. In his new role as one of the pastors on staff at the Dallas-area First Irving Baptist Church, Gomez will specifically be working to better engage the Hispanic community around the church.
Gomez and his family are not just leaving a school but a family, one that has shaped their minds, hearts and lives.
"People here become family, and we are pursuing the same thing: to be equipped in order to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission," Gomez said.