An interview by Gimbiya Kettering, director of Intercultural Ministries
On July 22, Nancy Sollenberger Heishman began as part-time coordinator of the SEBAH-COB, the Spanish-Language Ministry Training Programs for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership (a joint effort between the Church of the Brethren and Bethany Theological Seminary). Nancy holds a master’s of divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary and continues to co-pastor West Charleston Church of the Brethren in Tipp City, Ohio, with her husband, Irv Heishman.
What does SeBAH stand for?
Seminario Biblico Anabautista Hispano. It is a ministry training program for Hispanic pastors and congregational leaders coordinated by Bethany Academy in partnership with the districts. As coordinator, I will design a Spanish-language track for the Education for a Shared Ministry.
Before becoming the 2013 Annual Conference moderator, you were an interim coordinator for SeBAH. What excites you about returning to this role?
I look forward to reconnecting with students I worked with several years ago. I’m excited about encouraging and supporting more Hispanic leaders within the Church of the Brethren as they grow in their skills and understanding of ministry. I also look forward to working with Hispanic leaders to develop new programs that meet the unique needs of Hispanic Brethren.
How did you learn Spanish?
I began studying Spanish at age 48, which proves it’s never too late to learn a new language! When we arrived as mission coordinators in Santo Domingo in 2003, we spent a few months in intensive study at a language school, and then continued weekly classes as we began serving. However, I made the most progress in learning Spanish when I taught theological education classes in Spanish. That required quick learning for me, and lots of patience from my students.
What is your greatest challenge?
As an introvert, I have to continually challenge myself to reach out, being aware that my Spanish won’t be perfect, and depending on God’s grace and the patience of others.
What are your goals for SeBAH?
I would love to see an explosion of Hispanic congregations and ministries develop from the leaders trained through SeBAH. I hope the experiences of SEBAH students will lead to Hispanic Brethren taking on greater leadership roles on district, and denominational or related agency levels, transforming Brethren institutions and structures with their unique gifts and perspectives of the gospel. I also dream of many materials communicating Brethren identity, beliefs, practices, and understandings of the church being available in Spanish.
Learn more about Nancy Sollenberger Heishman’s role as coordinator of SeBAH at www.brethren.org/news/2015/nancy-heishman-to-lead-spanish-training.html .