Scout’s HonorAll-girl Scout troop makes history in Arkansas

Scout’s Honor
All-girl Scout troop makes history in Arkansas

Tim McEuen never thought he would be leading a Scout BSA troop, let alone the first all-girl Scout troop in the state of Arkansas.
McEuen’s youngest daughter, Emily, became interested in joining the Cub Scouts after seeing the group visit her school multiple times throughout the year.

Tim and Emily decided to visit one of the Cub Scouts sign-up nights, and it’s there where they were introduced to the exciting world of Scouting.
“The first night we went, she tied a square knot. I’ve never even tied a square knot before, and I tied one too. But when we both finished our knots at the same time, we looked at each other and said ‘we love this!’ It was so much fun.”

After that first meeting with the Cub Scouts, Emily and Tim were hooked. Emily wanted to know how she could join the Scouts, and Tim was wondering as most dads do, who would be watching over his daughter and making sure she was taken care of in the group.

He was also wondering how all of this would work for Emily’s future in the Scouts, considering the Boy Scouts were just that; a boys-only group that taught survival and camping skills to young men.

It just so happened that Tim and Emily were looking to join at one of the most pivotal times in the more than 100-year-old organization’s history.
Big Changes for the Boy Scouts

In 2017, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors voted unanimously to welcome girls into both the Cub Scouts program and the older-aged Scouting program.

At the time that Emily sought to join, 2018, the Cub Scouts were the only group that allowed girls into the organization. Scouts BSA, which is now the official name, opened the Cub Scouts to girls in 2018 and then opened up the Scouts BSA to boys and girls – 11 to 17 years old – in February 2019.

Scoutmaster Tim McEuen and the initial members of Troop 19. || Photo provided by Tim McEuen

The Scouts received pushback for this decision, but according to Michael Surbaugh, the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive, the decision was undoubtedly the right one to make.

“This decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women,” said Surbaugh, in a press release regarding the 2017 decision. “We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children.”

The Scouts BSA made it clear that much of the way the group operates will not change with the inclusion of girls. Activities, uniforms, rank advancement requirements, and Youth Protection policies would remain the same. For the first time in history, however, 11 to 17-year-old boys and girl scouts would have the opportunity to earn the Scouts highest honor, the Eagle Scout Award.

Joining the Scouts BSA

For Tim, his interest in getting his two daughters involved in Scouts BSA came from two friends that were in charge of Troop 17, Monica and Alan Saffle. Alan is the scoutmaster for Troop 17, an all-boys troop chartered by the Quapaw Area Council of the Boy Scouts. His wife, Monica, is the committee chairman for Troop 17.

“I’ve known Monica for 30 years; I went to school with her. So, I asked her one night at a Cub Scouts’ meeting, ‘Who’s going to be running this new all-girls troop?’ She said that they didn’t have anyone just yet.”

The next week, at their regular Tuesday night meeting, Tim and Alan met one-on-one and discussed the possibility of Tim becoming the Scoutmaster for Troop 19, the new all-girls troop set to begin in 2019.

“I said I’m flattered, but I don’t have any Scout experience. He told me neither did he until he became a Scoutmaster,” Tim said. “So, after a few weeks of talking to my family and praying about it to make sure I was the right person to lead these young ladies, I decided to do it.”

Now the Scoutmaster for Troop 19, Tim leads and teaches a group of girls ranging from 10 to 17 years old, including his two daughters, Emily, 11, and Mackenzie, 13.

Scout’s Oath

The Scouts of Troop 19 cook food during a fundraising event. || Photo provided by Tim McEuen

The official charting of the troop happened at a February ceremony in the First United Methodist Church of Bryant.

The Rev. Susan Ledbetter, the senior pastor at First UMC Bryant, said she’s excited that this new experience for girls has taken off at her church and in Central Arkansas.

“It’s been great to be able to extend the scouts to include an all-girls troop because it gives more opportunities for young people.”

Ledbetter said she has also incorporated some of the Scout’s Oath into preaching series at her church because the Scouts teach essential values to kids.

“[The Scouts] is still such an important citizenship and leadership building organization. The Scouts that are in our church are some of the kids that I can count on the most. They’re the most respectful, helpful and responsible kids.”

Tim said that seeing the growth that the girls in his troop have made since officially starting on Feb. 1 has been amazing to see. After starting with eight girls, the troop has grown to 17 members in less than three months.

“All I can say is wow, it’s been an awesome experience!

“These girls learn unity – because we’re a sisterhood – confidence, and preparedness of any situation. These girls can learn everything that the boys have been learning for the past 100 years in the Boy Scouts.”

Hope for the Future

Although the troop has faced some backlash locally from people who don’t agree with the Scouts BSA’s decision to allow girls into the organization, Tim said that he and the young ladies of Troop 19 don’t let that kind of negativity affect them.

Troop 19 participate in many different outings and community events. These events build confidence, leadership skills, and camaraderie. || Photo provided by Tim McEuen

“When we hear those kinds of things from people, my girls just say ‘well, thank you, ma’am, or thank you, sir. Have a good day.’ We know what we’re doing is right.”

Tim has also made it a point to make sure the girls in Troop 19 know about influential female leaders throughout history as a way to empower the girls and introduce them to powerful role models. Most of the women Tim shows the girls come from eras where women’s rights were still a struggle and men were viewed as superior leaders.

“These were women who weren’t accepted as anything other than a woman, but they still were great leaders, and they still made their mark in history. And that’s what I tell my girls we’re doing here; we’re making history. You’ll face ridicule, and you’ll face belittling, but the number one thing to remember is that you do belong here.”

Ledbetter also stressed the importance of strong female representation in leadership. She hopes that the girls of Troop 19 see their worth in everything they do.

“I hope the girls in this troop will be able to realize their potential and their ability for leadership. That they can do anything that is set before them. And that they know that this church is a place that welcomes them to explore and grow in the direction that they would like to,” Ledbetter said.

Q&A w/ Clay McCastlain
New Arkansas United Methodist Men President

Tell me about yourself: Where you’re from, where you live now, where you went to school, and your current job.

I grew up in Clarendon, Arkansas. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Hendrix College and then moved to Memphis, Tennessee. I earned a Master of Science degree in cell biology from the University of Memphis. I spent many years working in research labs. I moved to Central Arkansas in 1998. In 2003, I applied for a biology faculty position on the Heber Springs campus of Arkansas State University—Beebe. I got that job and have been there ever since.

How did you get the position as the president of the Arkansas United Methodist Men?

Several years ago, I read the purpose statement for United Methodist Men, “To declare the centrality of Christ in every man’s life. This is expressed as all men engage in daily Bible study, witness to Christ in daily work and relationships, and intentional Christian service to others. We want men to know Christ so others may know Christ.” I didn’t recall ever hearing that. It made me realize there was more to United Methodist Men than a monthly breakfast. I contacted someone in the District office and asked how I could help my local unit pursue that purpose. A few years later, I received an email about how to revive the United Methodist Men in Arkansas. The email had me listed as Central District president. I responded that I had never been elected to that position, but I wanted to help. I struggled with that for about three years. In December of last year, I was contacted by Jim Polk and he asked if I could serve as Arkansas Conference president of the United Methodist Men. I thought about it for a few days and decided to accept the challenge.

Why is it important for churches to have UMM groups?

Our Book of Discipline states men’s ministry leads to the spiritual growth of men and effective discipleship. One of the other purposes is to forge pastoral partnerships by men committed to the effective support and service of clergy and local congregations.

What will people be able to learn if they come to the UMM luncheon at Annual Conference this year?

At the United Methodist Men’s luncheon, our guest speaker will be Steve Nailor and he will share about the actual structure of the United Methodist Men, not what people think it is or does. The UMM mission is to “Help men grow in Christ so that others may know Christ.” This is pretty much what the Discipline says. The Discipline states in paragraph 2303, “UMM exists to declare the centrality of Christ in every man’s life. Men’s ministry leads to the spiritual growth of men and effective discipleship. This purpose is served as men are called to model the servant leadership of Jesus Christ.”
Our speaker will also talk about the importance of having men in the church. David Murrow wrote, “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” He talks about men bringing their families to church. Murrow used the oft-quoted statistic in Men’s Ministry circles: When a mother comes to faith in Christ, the rest of her family follows 17% of the time. But when a father comes to faith in Christ, the rest of the family follows 93% of the time.

What are your plans for UMM in the future?

The immediate plan is to build a leadership team consisting of a president from each district in the state. I am asking men who are willing to serve in this ministry position to respond to the call for leaders. Each district president needs a leadership team. With these teams in place, we can reach out to all the local congregations and help them build their men’s ministries. I would like to see the men of Arkansas growing in their relationships with Christ, their families, and their communities. Out of those relationships come understandings and service to each other.

Who is someone that inspires you in your life and why?

Former president Jimmy Carter. His post-presidency has been a wonderful model of Christian service. His Carter Center works for peace and world health.

Pray for our Church, Pray for our Delegates

Pray for our Church, Pray for our Delegates

The Arkansas Annual Conference is this month; and I’m pleased to say that this year, I’ll actually know what’s going on!

As many of you know, my first week as the Digital Content Editor for the Conference was the same week as the Conference’s annual gathering in Hot Springs, Arkansas; the Super Bowl for Arkansas Methodists.

I was “baptized by fire” that week, as many people have pointed out to me (and so was my colleague, Day Davis, who started at the Conference office a day after I did!)

But this year, I’m excited for Annual Conference. I’m prepared for the job I need to do. I know where I need to be, and I also know what’s at stake for our Conference and our Church.

Like every Annual Conference, we will be discussing the business of the Conference, like petitions and resolutions. We’ll also be worshiping together in song, learning together from some fantastic speakers, and witnessing together the ordination of many future clergy leaders at the Ordination Service on Friday night – one of my favorite experiences from last year’s Conference.

This year is a little bit different, though. In addition to our regular work, we’ll also be electing clergy and lay delegates to both the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the 2020 South Central Jurisdictional Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

As many of you know — because it’s almost impossible not to know it — General Conference 2019 was a significant event in our Church whose outcome received national and international attention across the world.

The lay and clergy delegates – more than 800 of them from the U.S., Africa, Eurasia, and The Philippines – were tasked with making a massive decision that shaped our Church’s future. The delegates elected at this year’s Annual Conference will also serve as critical decision makers for the future of the United Methodist Church.

We are blessed to have a large pool of faithful Arkansas United Methodists to choose from at this year’s Conference – nearly 80 people have entered their name for consideration. Four lay delegates and four clergy delegates, along with alternates, will be chosen by the voting body of the Conference to attend the 2020 General Conference, and the same number of lay and clergy delegates will also be selected for the 2020 South Central Jurisdictional Conference.

My advice for all of us as we enter into the vital work of the Annual Conference this year is simple: pray.

Pray for our delegates, pray for the ones who will be voting for our delegates, pray for our Conference leaders, and pray for our bishop.

These are essential, life-changing decisions that we make at Annual Conference. Pray that God’s will be done and that we can continue making disciples of Jesus Christ that will transform the world.

Alcanzando a cada personaDos residentes de Arkansas ingresan a la escuela de pastor local para ministrar a la comunidad hispana

Alcanzando a cada persona
Dos residentes de Arkansas ingresan a la escuela de pastor local para ministrar a la comunidad hispana

Traducido al español por Lupita Chavarria.

En la Iglesia Metodista Unida, hay tres caminos distintos de candidatura que aquellos que buscan enseñar y servir en la denominación pueden tomar: un anciano ordenado, un diácono ordenado o un pastor local.

Los ancianos son sacerdotes ordenados y pueden servir en el ministerio parroquial como pastor de una iglesia o algún tipo de ministerio de extensión, como una capellanía.

Los diáconos también son ordenados por el clero en la Iglesia Metodista Unida, pero desempeñan un papel diferente al de los ancianos. De acuerdo con la página “Explorando su llamada” de la Junta General de Educación Superior y el sitio web del Ministerio, los diáconos pueden trabajar principalmente en congregaciones o pueden trabajar principalmente en entornos como hospitales, agencias de servicios sociales, agencias misioneras, escuelas, centros de asesoría, centros denominacionales,  agencias, y más “.

Los pastores locales no están ordenados en la Iglesia Metodista Unida, pero el papel que desempeñan es tan vital como los ancianos y diáconos. Los pastores locales tienen licencia para predicar y dirigir la adoración divina en la Iglesia Metodista Unida y realizar los deberes de un pastor.

Los deberes y los requisitos de un pastor local se describen en el Libro de Disciplina, “Sección IV: Licencia para el Ministerio Pastoral”, pero la función principal de un pastor local es guiar a otros a Cristo a través de la predicación y la enseñanza en una congregación local.

La necesidad de llevar a otros a Cristo es lo que llevó a Kelsey Méndez a aceptar su llamado como candidata certificada para la escuela de licencia de pastor local.

Mendez, de 29 años, vive actualmente en Dardanelle, Arkansas. Ella se desempeña como líder de adoración y ayuda con los jóvenes en Dardanelle First UMC.

“El deseo en mi corazón era servir a Dios en cualquier área a la que él quisiera que sirviera. Cuando Dios te llama a servir, no es algo a lo que puedas resistir. Pero al principio me resistí a esa llamada”.

No pudo evitar el sentimiento que Dios estaba poniendo en su corazón, por lo que buscó el consejo del Reverendo Jim Benfer, pastor principal de la Primera Iglesia Metodista de Dardanelle. Benfer le sugirió que orara y discerniera dónde Dios quería que estuviera.

“Debido a que no crecí en los Estados Unidos, fue más difícil para mí obtener una educación después de la escuela secundaria. No pensé que tenía muchas oportunidades después de la escuela porque no podía obtener un título. Pero luego Me di cuenta de que si Dios quiere que estudie algo más, esa oportunidad me dará “.

Méndez tiene un deseo natural de servir y enseñar a otras personas; así que no es de extrañar que el pastoreo se convirtiera en el camino que ella siguió.

Otra pasión de Méndez es llegar a los jóvenes de la comunidad hispana en Arkansas, particularmente en formas que los ayuden a sentirse más cómodos en un ambiente incómodo.

Méndez conoce muy bien esa sensación de estar fuera de su zona de confort; aunque ella nació en California, sus padres, misioneros guatemaltecos en México, trasladaron todo lo que poseían a México cuando Méndez tenía cinco años.

Se mudó de nuevo a los EE. UU. A los 20 años, pero como era muy joven cuando se fueron, tuvo que “aprender todo de nuevo, incluido el inglés”.

Lupita Chavarria asistirá a la escuela del Curso de Estudio de la Escuela de Teología Perkins este verano para obtener su licencia de pastor local.

Lupita Chavarria, actualmente laica que ayuda con el ministerio en la Iglesia Metodista Unida de Amboy, también buscará una licencia pastoral esta primavera. Chavarria siente la misma llamada que Méndez y quiere servir a la comunidad hispana y latina de Arkansas después de completar la escuela de licencia de pastor local.

Mientras estaba en Amboy, Chavarria comenzó un servicio de transmisión de Facebook Live, donde predicó sermones en español para llegar a una audiencia que no necesariamente asistía a la iglesia los domingos.

Chavarria, sin embargo, llegó al metodismo más tarde en la vida.

Anteriormente católica practicante, Chavarría, de 50 años, respondió a su llamado a convertirse en pastora después de que aquellos en la Iglesia Católica le dijeron que no podía ser sacerdote porque era mujer. La vida como monja no era parte del plan, por lo que Chavarria continuó por el momento su trabajo en el mundo corporativo.

“Pero había un agujero en mi corazón. Un día, hace unos años, conocí a la pastora Betsy Singleton Snyder de Pulaski Heights UMC en una reunión de la junta escolar”.

Chavarria estaba en la Junta de Consejo Comunitario para el Distrito Escolar de Little Rock, y Singleton Snyder estaba allí con otros líderes de la iglesia para una reunión comunitaria.

“Después de hablar con ella, me di cuenta de que ser mujer y pastor en la Iglesia Metodista no era extraño”.

Chavarria comenzó a asistir a Pulaski Heights regularmente y luego se unió a la iglesia poco tiempo después.

Decidió buscar una escuela de licencia de pastor local por un firme deseo de enseñar y guiar a otras personas, especialmente a la comunidad Latina.

“El pastoreo me permitirá hacer las mismas cosas que he estado haciendo toda mi vida, pero la única diferencia es que ahora estoy haciendo estas cosas en el nombre de Jesucristo”, dijo Chavarria.

Chavarria asistirá al Curso de Escuela de Estudios que ofrece la Escuela de Teología Perkins este verano. Ella se inscribirá en el curso de español, su primer idioma, para capacitarse mejor para el ministerio.

Méndez ya asistió a una sesión de la escuela de licencias el mes pasado, 26 y 27 de abril, en Clinton, Arkansas. Su próxima sesión será del 12 al 18 de mayo.

“Aprenderé sobre la organización y el liderazgo de la iglesia local. También aprenderé sobre consejería pastoral, la historia de la Iglesia Metodista Unida, la doctrina y los sacramentos”, dijo Méndez.

Mendez dice que se está tomando su tiempo en la escuela porque también es madre a tiempo completo con un niño pequeño, pero tiene planes de posiblemente buscar un ministerio en Danville, Arkansas, después de recibir su licencia pastoral.

Los asistentes a la escuela de licencias de pastores locales del Distrito Noroeste toman una foto grupal juntos durante un receso. De izquierda a derecha: Phil Costner, Kelsey Méndez, Devon Arredondo, Patrick Brown, Ron Hayes y Paul Jung. || Foto proporcionada por Stephen Coburn.

Benfer dijo que está emocionado de ver lo que Mendez traerá a Arkansas una vez que termine la escuela.

“He podido verla desarrollarse desde un miembro joven de la iglesia hasta un líder muy activo y motivado por el espíritu en nuestra iglesia local”, dijo Benfer. “Veo en ella la pasión por traer nuevos jóvenes hispanos en nuestra área a la Iglesia Metodista Unida. Me inspira que la próxima generación joven, orientada a la misión, siga el ejemplo del espíritu misionero que John Wesley nos ha transmitido”

Chavarría tiene sus planes inmediatos ya establecidos, gracias a una nueva cita para Southwest Little Rock como PTLP para una nueva asociación de ministerio en St. Andrew’s y Geyer Springs UMC.

El movimiento Southwest Little Rock se anunció el mes pasado como una nueva forma de reunir a la mayoría de la población minoritaria de esa sección de la ciudad más grande de Arkansas.

“Lupita aporta un gran amor por Jesús y un espíritu emprendedor dinámico al ministerio, y me uno al Comité de Distrito sobre Ministerio Ordenado para apoyar y alentar a Lupita mientras comienza su camino en el ministerio vocacional”, dijo el reverendo Dr. Blake Bradford, distrito. Superintendente para la Conferencia del Distrito Central de Arkansas.

Chavarría comenzará esa nueva cita el 1 de julio.

Tanto para Chavarría como para Méndez, seguir su llamado al ministerio pastoral es un gran logro en sus vidas, y algo que esperan les permita alcanzar mejor a la gente de Arkansas para la misión de hacer discípulos que hagan discípulos.

“Mi primera pasión es presentar a Cristo a los demás para que puedan saber quién nos da la salvación … y poder alcanzar a la generación más joven para el Señor”, dijo Méndez.

Chavarría dijo que quiere atraer a más personas latinas a la Iglesia Metodista Unida.

“No hay muchos metodistas latinos”, dijo Chavarría. “Entonces, aquí en el centro de Arkansas, mi objetivo es inspirar a las personas a seguir a Jesús y a la fe Metodista. La forma de hacerlo es que la gente sepa lo que creemos y que tengan la libertad de elegir si quieren seguir a Jesucristo”. De este modo.”

Reaching Every PersonTwo Arkansans enter local pastoring school to minister to Hispanic community

Reaching Every Person
Two Arkansans enter local pastoring school to minister to Hispanic community

This is the English version of the story. For a Spanish-translated version, click here. (Esta es la versión en inglés de la historia. Para una versión traducida al español, haga clic aquí.)

In the United Methodist Church, there are three distinct candidacy paths that those who seek to teach and serve in the denomination can take: an ordained elder, an ordained deacon, or a local pastor.

Elders are ordained clergy and can serve in parish ministry as a pastor of a church or some form of extension ministry, like a chaplaincy.

Deacons are also ordained clergy in the United Methodist Church but serve in a different role than elders. According to the “Exploring Your Call” page of General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s website, deacons “may work primarily in congregations or they may work primarily in settings like hospitals, social-service agencies, mission agencies, schools, counseling centers, denominational agencies, and more.”

Local pastors are not ordained in the United Methodist Church, but the role they serve is just as vital as elders and deacons. Local pastors are licensed to preach and conduct divine worship in the United Methodist Church and perform the duties of a pastor.

The duties and requirements of a local pastor are outlined in the Book of Discipline, “Section IV: License for Pastoral Ministry,” but the primary role of a local pastor is to lead others to Christ through preaching and teaching at a local congregation.

The urge to bring others to Christ is what lead Kelsey Mendez to accept her calling as a certified candidate for local pastor licensing school.

Mendez, 29, currently lives in Dardanelle, Arkansas. She serves as the worship leader and helps with the youth at Dardanelle First UMC.

“The desire in my heart was to serve God in any area he wanted me to serve. When God calls you to serve, it’s not something that you can resist. But I was resistant at first to that call.”

She couldn’t shake the feeling that God was placing in her heart, so she sought counsel from the Rev. Jim Benfer, senior pastor at Dardanelle First United Methodist Church. Benfer suggested that she pray and discern where God wanted her to be.

“Because I didn’t grow up in the United States, it was harder for me to get an education after high school. I didn’t think I had a lot of opportunities after school because I couldn’t get a degree. But then I realized that if God wants me to study something more, then that opportunity will happen for me.”

Mendez has a natural desire to serve and teach other people; so it’s no surprise that pastoring became the path that she pursued.

Another passion of Mendez is reaching the youth in the Hispanic community in Arkansas, particularly in ways that help them to feel more comfortable in an uncomfortable environment.

Mendez knows that feeling of being out of your comfort zone all too well; although she was born in California, her parents – Guatemalan missionaries to Mexico – moved everything they owned down to Mexico when Mendez was five years old. She moved back to the U.S. at 20 but, because she was very young when they left, had to “learn everything over again, including English.”

Lupita Chavarria is attending the Perkins School of Theology’s Course of Study school this summer in order to obtain her local pastoring license.

Lupita Chavarria, currently a layperson helping with the ministry at Amboy United Methodist Church, will also be pursuing a pastoral license this spring. Chavarria feels the same call as Mendez and wants to serve the Hispanic and Latinx community of Arkansas after completing local pastor licensing school.

While at Amboy, Chavarria started a Facebook Live stream service, where she preached sermons in Spanish to reach an audience that didn’t necessarily attend church on Sundays.

Chavarria, however, came to Methodism later in life.

Formerly a practicing Catholic, Chavarria, 50, answered her calling to become a pastor after those in the Catholic Church told her that she could not become a priest because she was a woman. Life as a nun wasn’t part of the plan, so Chavarria continued her day job in the corporate world for the time being.

“But there was a hole in my heart. One day, a few years ago, I met pastor Betsy Singleton Snyder of Pulaski Heights UMC at a school board meeting.”

Chavarria was on the community advisory board for the Little Rock School District, and Singleton Snyder was there with other church leaders for a community meeting.

“I realized after talking to her that being a woman and a pastor in the Methodist Church was not strange.”

Chavarria started attending Pulaski Heights regularly and then joined the church a short time after.

She decided to pursue local pastor licensing school out of a firmly held desire to teach and mentor other people, especially the Latinx community.

“Pastoring will let me do the same things that I’ve been doing all my life, but the only difference is now I am doing these things in the name of Jesus Christ,” Chavarria said.

Chavarria is attending the Course of Study School offered by the Perkins School of Theology this summer. She will be enrolled in the Spanish language course, her first language, to better equip her for ministry.

Mendez has already attended one session of licensing school this past month, April 26 and 27, in Clinton, Arkansas. Her next session will be May 12 – 18.

“I’ll be learning about organization and leadership of the local church. I’ll also be learning about pastoral counseling, the United Methodist Church history, doctrine, and the sacraments,” Mendez said.

Mendez says she is taking her time with school because she’s also a full-time mother with a small child but has plans to possibly pursue a ministry in Danville, Arkansas after receiving her pastoral license.

Northwest District local pastor licensing school attendees take a group photo together during a break. From left to right: Phil Costner, Kelsey Mendez, Devon Arredondo, Patrick Brown, Ron Hayes, and Paul Jung. || Photo provided by Stephen Coburn

Benfer said that he’s excited to see what Mendez will bring to Arkansas once she’s finished with school.

“I have been able to see her develop from a young church member to a very active and spirit-driven leader in our local church,” Benfer said. “I see the passion in her to bring new young Hispanic people in our area into the United Methodist Church. It inspires me that the next young, mission-oriented generation still takes their cues from the missionary spirit that John Wesley has passed on to us.”

Chavarria has her immediate plans already laid out, thanks to a new appointment to Southwest Little Rock as a PTLP for a new ministry partnership at St. Andrew’s and Geyer Springs UMC.

The Southwest Little Rock move was announced last month as a new way to bring together the mostly minority population of that section of Arkansas’ largest city.

“Lupita brings a great love of Jesus and a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit to ministry, and I join our District Committee on Ordained Ministry in supporting and encouraging Lupita as she begins her path in vocational ministry,” said the Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford, district superintendent for the Central District of the Arkansas Conference.

Chavarria will begin that new appointment on July 1.

For both Chavarria and Mendez, pursuing their calling in pastoral ministry is a huge achievement in their lives, and something that they hope will allow them to better reach the people of Arkansas for the mission of making disciples who make disciples.

“My first passion is to present Christ to others so they may know who gives us salvation … and being able to reach the younger generation for the Lord,” Mendez said.

Chavarria said she wants to bring more Latinx people into the United Methodist Church.

“There are not a lot of Latino and Latina Methodists,” Chavarria said. “So, here in Central Arkansas, my goal is to inspire people to follow Jesus and the Methodist faith. The way to do that is to let people know what we believe and let them have the freedom to choose if they want to follow Jesus Christ in this way.”