The Theological Education Scholarship Fund for Women in the South (TESF) was established in 2001 as a means to increase the number of women in ordained ministry and to enable women from a wide network of Reformed churches in the south build their capacity for effective partnership in God’s mission.
Angélica María Munera Cervera, a recipient of a scholarship, describes her situation and the impact the scholarship had on her life below:
I am a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia and am currently living in Cartagena, Colombia, where I have worked as a pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Cartagena for five years. I was born in the town of Barranquilla, Colombia.
Why did I want to become a minister? The answer to this question started forming the very moment I was conceived in my mother’s womb, a mother who, due to her reality and a resulting sense of anguish, separated from my father, and therefore separated her three children (including myself), in pursuit of a better future in the United States.
As a result of this determination, I was given to my maternal grandmother who from that moment on (I was three years old) became my mother, my protector, my father, my everything. She taught me the importance of God in my heart and in my life, and she took me to the Presbyterian Church in Barranquilla. While growing up and running through the church halls, I got together with other children and we talked about what we wanted to be as adults. My answer was forceful and always the same since I was seven years old: I want to be a minister.
I grew up separated from my siblings but surrounded by the love of God and of my grandmother. She was called to God when I was about to turn eighteen. I was alone again, but this time was different as God and my church family had become the best legacy my grandmother and mother could have given me. That was also the time when my desire and vocation grew stronger—I wanted to be a minister and I wanted to be able to give back in the immediate future some of the many gifts I had received. The experience of living faith through concrete actions confirmed my vocation.
I become aware of the TESF programme when I was in the second semester at the Reformed University in Barranquilla. As a young woman with little financial resources I was faced with the danger of having to drop out. However, my teacher of the Old Testament, seeing my love for theology, my vocation being reaffirmed with every single class and experience, felt very strongly about helping me so together we started the process of applying for a scholarship.
The goal behind studying theology and completing my master’s degree has always been clear to me: To improve my vocation and to continuously update my knowledge of this field, being aware that the Colombian context is ever-changing and that undoubtedly, the Bible is our most essential source to find a message that is relevant in our context.
I fulfil God’s call through my vocation: I live to serve in a church surrounded by sectors with a high-risk population, displaced people, victims of unemployment, inequality and a lack of many other human rights.
My wish is to be a source of inspiration for young women without opportunities, women who cannot have children (being one of them myself), to encourage orphans (like myself) to find in God a mother, father, and protector, to help other women in their community who, given their economic reality, do not have the opportunity to go to university after concluding their basic studies and exercise their own calling.
I am firmly convinced that looking at my reality many women with similar circumstances can identify themselves with my experience. Today, every time I am standing in the pulpit preparing a sermon, I feel that I can speak properly about topics such as faith, doubts and walking on top of the water, among others. Nowadays, as women in Colombia, we are still fighting and organising ourselves to fight in the midst of a reality filled with conflicts and physical as well as emotional, verbal and even spiritual violence. Throughout my life, I have lived a number of these and sometimes all of them at the same time, and in the name of God and together with God I have overcome them.