While one-year internships are common in the OPC and one-year vicariates are standard practice in the RCNZ, such arrangements are rare in the URCNA. But Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Pella, IA, is planning a one-year internship with Pablo Landázuri.
Pablo, who is from Quito, Ecuador, anticipates graduating from Mid-America Reformed Seminary on May 16 and longs to plant Reformed churches in his home country. Pending visa approval, he hopes to travel with his wife and three sons to visit relatives in Ecuador, returning to the US to work in Pella from June of 2013 until June of 2014.
“We are looking forward to it,” says Pablo. “Being a large church, I figure that Covenant experiences different circumstances proper to its pilgrimage here on earth in terms of number and depth. It is a place to learn from others who have more experience and knowledge. This experience will allow me to have a better feel of real ministry. It is also a good time to build relationships and see how we as a family will react to actual ministry.”
Covenant’s pastor, Rev. Doug Barnes, explains that the internship benefits the intern, the church Council, the congregation, and Christ’s church.
It allows Mr. Landázuri to prepare for his candidacy exam in order to enter the mission field as a minister in the URC. At the same time, it will enable Covenant’s council to work closely with him in developing a joint venture committee to support and oversee his work.
“That’s going to be a real challenge, but we want to ensure that our supervision of the work is meaningful and faithful,” says Rev. Barnes. “We also want to ensure that Pablo is involved in that preparation, so that he and our Consistory are on the same page at every step.”
While Covenant’s leaders assist Pablo in preparing a solid plan prior to beginning his church planting effort, Covenant’s members will have time to forge strong bonds with the Landázuri family that will help sustain a long-term relationship.
Since the official language in Ecuador is Spanish, it has been a natural fit for Pablo during his seminary years to work with Rev. Valentin Alpuche in his Chicago Heights ministry to Hispanics. But Pella is known more for its ethnic Dutch community.
“Obviously, Pablo won’t be doing much Spanish exhorting in the Pella region,” admits Rev. Barnes, “so we will be encouraging the occasional pulpit supply in Chicago Heights.
“But—while preaching certainly lies at the heart of it—there’s far more to church planting than preaching,” he adds. “And, of course, people are people. The preaching, teaching, and pastoral work Pablo performs during his internship here will translate for the work he faces in Ecuador, even if the language and external culture differ. People everywhere have the same essential needs, struggles, sins, sorrows, fears, and pain. And the prescription for what ails them is invariable. They need Christ! That’s as true for Latin Americans who live in the mountains along the equator as for Dutch-Americans who live in the shadow of Pella’s windmills and Dutch fronts.”
Pablo received a good education in Ecuador, although he now realizes the failures of his early education.
“I went to a Franciscan Roman Catholic School until sixth grade,” he says. “Never heard the gospel preached there and never read the Bible.”
During his years at a military academy, he became immersed in soccer and parties. He had the opportunity to attend the best university in the country, where he played on the soccer team. While in college, he married Verenisse and their son, Martin, was born. Pablo experienced great success as an industrial engineer, but he moved his family to Spain so he could further his career by obtaining his Master’s degree in Business Administration.
That degree netted him a management position with Citibank in Quito, and a few years later he accepted an even better position. He focused on working hard and playing soccer. While he was enjoying success on both fronts, his personal life was a mess.
“I became the best paid professional of my university class at the time,” he says. “yet my marriage was in very bad shape.” Marital problems led the couple to attend a Bible study at a Presbyterian church.
“That’s where I heard the gospel for the first time,” says Pablo. “I was totally surprised by it. Grace was a concept totally foreign to my idea of religion.”
But the family wasn’t willing to give up time together on Sunday in order to attend worship. And Pablo was still driven by his desire for success. He read a book by an atheist that equipped him to argue against Christianity, until one day a Christian co-worker challenged him to think about his eternal future.
“I kept thinking about that conversation for days,” he says. Unable to sleep and suffering from anxiety, Pablo still could not get the conversation out of his head. One morning he came to an important conclusion.
“I realized I was a sinner. God had given me the strongest conviction of sin I had ever felt in my life.” He recognized that his success in business and sports meant nothing. “Suddenly I remembered the gospel. I knew that my only option was Christ. I put all my trust in Him as my only Lord and Savior that morning.”
Pablo bought a Bible and started reading it. He and his wife began attending church. “Our marriage changed drastically and we have been growing in the Lord ever since.”
Pablo’s search for a Reformed Seminary led him to Mid-America, where he will soon complete his studies prior to beginning the internship at Covenant in Pella.
Rev. Barnes sees the internship as an “excellent opportunity” to have a “front-row seat in watching what God will do with this door He has been opening for us in Ecuador.”
“Every time the church steps out in faith to spread the gospel of Christ, the Lord blesses us,” he adds. “Oftentimes those blessings come in the midst of challenges, of course. But even the challenges draw us closer to the Lord and enable us to more fully appreciate the blessings God provides.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-13 of the May 1, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal. The Landázuris have subsequently arrived in Pella where Pablo is serving his internship and preparing for his candidacy exam.