PUERTO RICO— Send Puerto Rico has launched a pilot Spanish-language chaplaincy program on the island nation, with plans to take it to other cities in North America as part of Send Network Español.
“The chaplaincy ministry has opened the doors for us to bring the gospel to prisons and prepare an army of church members to serve in the aftermath of disasters,” said Félix Cabrera, Send Network Español’s senior director. “The impact has exceeded our expectations, and we now serve hospitals, police stations and schools.”
Status as a chaplain allows pastors and other ministers go places they might not otherwise be welcomed, and prepares them to encounter people under unexpectedly difficult or extraordinary circumstances.
“We’ve received good feedback on this pilot program from the pastors who have completed it. We’re excited to take it to other cities that need this ministry,” said Jesús Villa, public safety and community chaplaincy lead with Send Puerto Rico.
The decision to create a Spanish-language chaplaincy certificate program resulted from the devastation left by Hurricane Maria and the current need to bring the hope of the gospel to Puerto Rican prisons.
The chaplaincy training began over a year ago and currently has 140 students enrolled in basic chaplaincy, 90 in disaster relief chaplaincy and 80 in prison chaplaincy. As it stands, 78 penitentiaries on the island have accredited the program.
“Chaplains serve as missionaries and come face to face with unique situations. They meet people with stories they would not have heard or known under any other circumstances,” said Villa.
Initially created in English and taught in Spanish, the Spanish language chaplaincy program became more viable when they created it from scratch and taught in Spanish. Contextualizing the material has made the program a success.
“The curriculum adapts to the place and culture. A person from El Salvador is culturally different from a Colombian, Cuban or Puerto Rican. The principles taught do not change, but the context does,” Villa said.
Villa hopes that all Spanish-speaking pastors will be accredited as chaplains and then raise a force of volunteer chaplains within their local churches to take the gospel to hard-to-reach places.
“I encourage all pastors to take advantage of the chaplaincy program because it will take us into places that need the gospel and force us outside our comfort zones. In prisons, we not only minister to the confined but also their families. We want to get them plugged into a local church to receive discipleship, encouragement and the help they need,” Villa said.
Published agosto 22, 2022