Ruthie Irene Cordova has served in Guatemala since August 2010 as professor of theology, Bible and pastoral courses at Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS-Guatemala). She also assists with Work & Witness teams, missions and Compassionate Ministries. In addition, she translates materials and interprets for guest speakers and leaders.
Prior to this assignment in Guatemala, Ruthie was a professor at the Nazarene Seminary of the Americas (SENDAS) in San Jose, Costa Rica, from 2000 until 2010.
Engage: How did you first recognize God’s call to be involved in missions?
Ruthie: God’s call to missions came naturally because I grew up in a church where there was a lot of missionary influence. I saw our missionaries serving in several ministries in my local church and serving in different parts of my native country (Peru), including the jungle. I saw men and women missionary role models all the time. Some of those missionaries became my heroes, my mentors and spiritual guides. As a young leader who worked with teens, I felt a burden to reach them for Christ, and this prepared my heart for God’s calling to ministry.
Engage: What is your favorite aspect of what you do in your present assignment?
Ruthie: I like to teach people to serve effectively as spiritual leaders in ministry. I see myself as a tool in God’s hands to serve others. For me, teaching is having the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, like it did for me. When I was studying at seminary, several of my professors at NTS or SENDAS made a difference in my life because they encouraged me in my call and believed in me, and I learned a lot from them. For that, I will always be thankful to them.
As a teacher, I have the privilege of being part of an international Nazarene faculty who helps in the training of those called by God to ministry.
Our Nazarene seminaries in Latin America have decentralized study centers in every district in different countries. Most of our students in the course of study program are taking their first theological courses, so they come to these centers with excitement and enthusiasm.
It gives me great joy when I see students getting excited after learning more of their church’s theology and history so they want to teach it to everyone; or when a student learns to preach holiness and wants to do it every single Sunday; or when a student gets motivated to evangelize and goes to reach his/her community; and when students take seriously living and modeling a holy life to influence others no matter the cost. Their success is my reward.
Engage: What are some of the challenges that you face in carrying out your work?
Ruthie: In Latin America, there are several challenges: diversity, culture, education, resources, distance, age, etc. Students come from long distances (by foot or by bus-- from four to eight hours) to a study center in the district area to take a course from the seminary. Many of these students are pastors or lay preachers from the rural areas, so they receive small salaries. In a class of 15 people I can have students from different cultures and countries, different levels of education, different ages and genders, different ministerial roles (lay or pastor), etc. But what is common to all of them is their call to ministry.
Another big challenge of this age for our students, teachers and schools is implementing online theological education. This is already bringing big changes and opportunities.
Engage: How do you maintain a close relationship with God and your family in the midst of the demands of missionary service?
Ruthie: Sometimes it is difficult to keep a close relationship with God or family because of all the “doing” of each day. We feel so passionate with what we do in our ministry that we are busy all the time. Also, we are given more responsibilities than we can carry because of the needs. On other ocassions, we want to continue our growth and education to keep us fresh, motivated and updated, so we engage in important study programs.
I pray and read God’s Word even if it is for a short time each day, just to keep me depending on the Lord. I certainly need more of His grace and strength every day.
In regard to my family, it is harder to keep in contact because they are away. Vacation time is usually used for church activities (i.e., General Assembly) or for local getaways, and very little time for family visits because plane tickets are more expensive during holidays. So, in order not to feel guilty, I send emails and text messages and make phone calls to my family from time to time to see how they are doing.
Engage: What are the rewards of what you do?
Ruthie: I gave my whole life to the Lord and promised to serve Him as an obedient response to His call. This is my great reward.
A personal reward is the satisfaction of using my gifts and abilities to help to build God’s church. But also, receiving the love and care of many churches, leaders and friends in different countries is a reward.
Other rewards come as a result of what I do as a teacher. I am honored when students express their gratitude for what they have learned from me; when they trust me to share something about their lives and ask me for advice; and when they become the leaders that the Lord and the church expect them to be.
Engage: What are some aspects of the culture where you live that you have come to love or embrace?
Ruthie: First, relationships. These last longer than anything. Second, beautiful scenery in each country, such as beaches, mountains, villages and towns. It makes me thankful for God’s creation.
Engage: What do you like to do for fun?
Ruthie: I like to go to the beach and travel. But I also like art, photography, reading, and making handmade cards and photo albums. I also collect two favorite things: Mickey Mouse and Star Trek: The Next Generation, because I like fantasy and adventure.
Engage: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Ruthie: That I still have not found my “"Prince Charming," so I keep looking.
Engage: What advice would you have for others exploring a possible call to missions, or embarking on their first missionary assignment?
Ruthie: Be obedient to God’s call, be faithful, have a willing heart and keep your faith strong. This will help you to get through a number of situations in life and become victorious.
Engage: Other comments?
Ruthie: When I became a missionary I did not think that my life will be so exciting and rewarding, or that, above all, my Lord, in His great love and mercy, would choose me to serve Him in this role.