To say Juan Manuel Arias Perea is taking an unusual path to his MDiv degree at LSTC is an understatement. Perea, who is Cuban, was a pastor for five years in his home county—a small, rural congregation he misses.
But he now lives in Russia with a sister. He’s taking four classes at LSTC, but his “days” begin at 10 p.m. and end at 1 a.m. due to the nine-hour time difference. He can’t say enough about his professors and classmates—several of whom sent him emails when he wasn’t in class because he was sick.
One day, he hopes to study in person at LSTC, and serve in the ELCA. It may take obtaining a visa in a third country since the American embassy in Russia is closed.
“I am trying to find answers in my inner life,” he said. “I understand God loves me and walks alongside me and he will open any door to me.”
A door began to open for Perea when he heard a bishop in Cuba describe the inclusivity and welcome of the Lutheran church in America. The message resonated with Perea.
He says LSTC and the Metropolitan Chicago Synod have told him, “you have a place here, you are affirmed, we need people like you, the church needs you.”
“Even at distance I feel connected… I have found family, I have found home in the ELCA, they have been so eager to help, it’s so good when you come from a place so toxic, when speech and action are completely divorced, and don’t show love… I realized this was the place that I should be to train me theologically to become a minister within the ELCA. I feel and see at LSTC a very strong spirit of community and I am happy to be a part of this big family.”
From Russia, Perea is even able to be a Public Church Fellow, providing Spanish translation for worship services to a congregation in Pennsylvania. “We are God’s hands in the world and I speak both languages and I told them I will help your ministry. Technology can connect people wherever you are.”
(Published in the Fall 2021 issue of the Epistle magazine; written by Julie Sevig)View all stories