Center Director Dr. Wilfredo Estrada greeted everyone before introducing PTS President Steve Land.
“The vision this president has is very unique. He has called us to work in this area, and has given us the freedom to do so,” Estrada said via translator Juan Garcia. “We would not be here if we could not count on the support of Steve Land.”
Land thanked the gathered guests for their acknowledgment and for attending the event.
“We are here by a happy providence, a relationship that has been decades in the making, friendships that have battled storms, challenges and battles over the years,” Land began. “Here we are today acknowledging the hand of God. No one is here by accident today.”
Land said, “This center helped us focus on our mission; helped all of us come together. When God is at the center and we all draw closer to God, then we all draw closer together.”
The Center for Latino Studies will be a point of focus for students in the program, as well as a gathering place for Hispanic leaders in the church. There will be an open-door policy for those passing through town or working in the area.
Estrada jokingly added visitors need only bring coffee.
The building itself will house an office for Estrada, a prayer chapel, a study area complete with books and a computer, a parlor and a conference room.
Guests of the summit viewed the ribbon cutting as a culmination of ongoing discussions concerning proper training for Latino ministers.
“They see this center as a ministry and a real blessing to Latinos in the United States,” Estrada explained. “They see the center as an instrument to serve men and women in the church.”
The growing number of Hispanic Americans has challenged various denominations, including the Church of God. The summit grappled with the idea of how the church can reach the masses while still meeting the needs of members.
Establishment of the center is seen as a step in the right direction.
“We are so happy the dream has come true,” Estrada said. “Now we are able to serve the Latinos from this office and we are so grateful the seminary and the church have been working together to have this place ready.”
Land shared his gratitude for both Estrada and his wife, Pastor Carmen Estrada’s, presence.
“They personally have birthed many sons and daughters in the kingdom. They have provided leadership for years within the Church of God,” Land said. “So today we thank God for them. God always has the right person for the right time, and they are for this time.”
A number of contributing partners made possible the renovation of the center on Walker Street.
Johns Island Church of God in South Carolina contributed $6,390 in materials and labor. An additional $12,100 was again given in materials and labor by the Iglesia de Dios El Milagro from New Orleans.
A special thanks was given to Lee University for the around-the-clock work provided by the Physical Plant.
Land and Estrada said they would see at least 12 university employees working on the house at any given time.
“We are happy we had the opportunity to jump in and help make this dream a reality,” physical plant director Larry Berry said. “When we were first approached we knew it was a large task, and it would take a lot of effort to get it done in time. Dr. Conn asked me specifically if we could get it done in time, and I told him we were fortunate enough to have great people on our staff, and I believed we could get it done.”
Guests were invited to tour the facility following the ribbon cutting.