2024: New beginnings; casas limpias; new opportunities; ropa nueva; renewed expectations, and another year of the unknown: these name a few of the excitements and fears of leaving an old year behind, and beginning a new. And the anticipation and unknown of nuevos comienzos (new beginnings) is an experience quite familiar to Dr. Alberto Paredes, and his wife Laura. Leaving behind successful careers in Mexico, los Paredes came to the United States to pursue seminary degrees; and if that challenge were not enough, in the fall of 2023, after completing three Master’s degrees between the two of them, they moved abroad again. This time, it was a new beginning with the same language (but new accent), a new climate, new culture, and with two young children in tow. It was a move following the Lord's leading to pursue a second doctorate for Alberto, to Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.
Nuevos comienzos can be thrilling, but also filled with challenges, and the latter is especially true of the Paredes’ story. Yet, as they have looked for the Lord’s guiding and have bent to His plan con corazones humildes y llenos de gratitud (with humble and grateful hearts), their lives have become a beautiful illustration of the Lord using humble, willing servants to build His Kingdom in ways we can only imagine.
A CALL TO SEMINARY
The Proverbs teach that, though our plans may be many, it is the Lord’s plans that will prevail (cf. Proverbs 19:21). Indeed, this is the case with Laura and Alberto, as the Lord has used their giftings and interests, and also shaped and molded their hearts to follow His direction. Dr. Paredes recounts that he always had a passion for studying theology, even as a young boy growing up in a Presbyterian church in Mérida, Mexico. But for many years, his theological interests were rooted in the love of theology for the sake of knowledge, rather than a spiritual calling. When Alberto began to consider a college degree in theology, his parents urged him toward something more practical; and he chose to pursue a secondary interest in biology and medicine. In God’s good purposes and planning, at the end of medical school, as he continued hearing sermons and reading theologians, the Lord drew this young doctor to Himself. Suddenly, the years of theological knowledge began having an impact on Dr. Paredes’ heart; he knew that his calling was not to theological training in and of itself, but to the preaching and ministry of the Word of God.
Laura also grew up in the church, although many unanswered questions and doubts caused her to leave church as a teenager. Only later in high school did a persistent friend persuade her to return. By the time she and Alberto met, Laura had not only been serving her church in Cabo San Lucas in several different capacities, but she was also a successful young lawyer, practicing in the most prestigious firm in the state. Marriage would mean eventually leaving behind a home and degree to pursue ministry and seminary, but the Lord’s plans were at work, and as the Lord knit their hearts together, Laura too was convinced of the call.
During their first two years of marriage, Laura and Alberto continued working in their professional callings, while also getting first hand ministry experience through serving in Laura’s home church which had recently experienced a difficult split. Caring for a hurting church body and helping to revitalize the church after a split is hard work for any pastor; for a young couple, the challenges provided an excellent, God-given test to see if practical ministry (not just theology) was the right calling. And indeed, through this experience Dr. Paredes felt his heart for pastoral work growing, while Laura was excited for the opportunity of truly knowing the Bible through seminary to provide solid answers to her questions, and the ones she was receiving from congregants.
A LIFE OF TRUST AND GRATITUDE
Coming to Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina was an exciting move, and an opportunity to pursue the knowledge that would help the Paredes serve faithfully has the Lord was directing them; but it also meant leaving much behind, and embracing a life of humility and truly trusting the Lord to provide daily bread. Becoming an international student is a great equalizer. Jobs are unsteady, unpleasant, or not lucrative; decent housing is often difficult to acquire, and dealing with health problems (and giving birth to children) in a different language and medical system can be quite stressful. For a successful career couple, dealing with all of this on top of pursuing seminary degrees might have become too discouraging.
Yet Laura and Alberto testify to the Lord’s hand at work through all of these times and circumstances. Rather than turning away from ministry because of the challenges, the Paredes sought the Lord; specifically, they sought to be grateful for all He had given. Pointing to Ephesians 5, Dr. Paredes explains that Paul’s answer to putting off the selfish sins of the flesh is “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). And certainly in talking with the Paredes, it is evident that focusing on God’s grace and provision for them has helped them have a willingness and humility to pursue His calling for them, regardless of the difficulty and unknown.
Photo scroll: The Paredes Family (Laura, Alberto, Pía, & Lucas) adjusting to a new life in Cambridge
With such willingness and humility, the Paredes were sensitive to the next steps the Lord had for using and equipping them. As they were finishing seminary, the Lord opened the door for them to move from the Southern United States not back to Mexico (as they had initially envisioned), but even further abroad to the historic and renowned University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. While Dr. Paredes had a heart for more theological studies if the Lord opened the door, the way seemed difficult if not impossible. Moreover, as his family grew (both their children were born during their time at RTS!), he desired to be able to provide them with the stability and security of a full-time job.
Dr. Paredes looks back on their entire journey as a family and couple, and is amazed by the continual faith, support, and encouragement of his wife, Laura. For nearly any young wife and mother (though perhaps particularly so for an international family), having stability in life often feels like an ideal. However, as God began to open doors – first as a Teaching Assistant, then with the opportunity to present a paper at a renowned Biblical Theology conference in Switzerland – Laura trusted that the Lord was calling her husband to more education. In fact, she discouraged Alberto from accepting a few pastoral jobs that would have provided stability for their family, because she could see in him the unique collision of both desire and opportunity to pursue a further degree that might enable Dr. Paredes to teach in a much-needed capacity in the Hispanic community.
THE NEED & VISION FOR TEACHING IN THE HISPANIC COMMUNITY
As Laura and Alberto have served in the church, both in Mexico and the United States, their hearts have been burdened for the need of the Hispanic community to grow in theological knowledge. As Dr. Paredes says, in general, the Hispanic church has been living off of theology produced centuries ago, and the need to “move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” is great (see Hebrews 6:1). As a counselor, Laura has become burdened by the need for the Hispanic community to grow in Biblical-theological truth as a means to better equip and counsel others. Although Hispanic culture typically cares well for others – a gift that Gospel truth only multiplies – a lack of “sound doctrine” (cf. Titus 2:1ff, I Peter 4:1-11) often produces unhelpful (and even harmful) advice.
For Hispanic churches, the desire to know truth typically is not the problem, but accessibility is. It was this reality that drove Laura to pursue her Master’s of Counseling, rather than another seminary degree. With Alberto serving in a pastoral context even prior to seminary in Mexico, Laura discovered the reality that women would flock to her for biblical counsel – counsel which she often felt unequipped to provide. While the Paredes had the opportunity to leave their home country and study in the United States in a second language, the majority of Latin-American pastors and lay-leaders will not be able to do likewise, for a multiplicity of reasons. And the reality is that there are insufficient Spanish-speaking, Latin-American seminaries that are equipped to provide the training necessary.
The Lord has made it the heart and desire of both Laura and Alberto to do everything He would permit them to do in order to help bring solid, Reformed theological teaching to the Hispanic community – in the United States, throughout Latin-America, and in the world. As a Hispanic man who not only has two seminary Master’s degrees, but is also now working on his PhD, Dr. Paredes has a strong desire to use his education well to help resource and care for the Hispanic community in whatever capacity the Lord might see fit. Even throughout his time in seminary, Alberto began devoting much time to creating accessible resources for Spanish speakers, dealing with all sorts of topics from a Reformed perspective (e.g., prayer, history, theology, Biblical studies, even short articles dealing with current events from a Biblical perspective), which he publishes on his website, enviados.org. Writing and teaching has blossomed into a book on the theology of the Lord’s Supper, Santa Cena virtual, to also writing for the Spanish branch of the Gospel Coalition. Together, the Paredes have hosted a counseling conference at their home church in Mexico, and this summer, Dr. Paredes will be teaching courses in two different Latin-American seminaries.
LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE
It is encouraging to see the Lord already using this young couple to serve the Hispanic community in so many areas; yet in humility, Dr. Paredes sees his work simply as giving back to the Lord a portion of what God has allowed them to study and learn. Prior to seminary, the Paredes would not have imagined (or even desired) to live outside of Mexico; yet now, as they have continued to open themselves to God’s guiding, they could see themselves potentially returning to teach and do pastoral work in the United States, should it be God’s desire.
Incredibly, the United States at this point seems to afford the greatest opportunities for growing and equipping Hispanic leaders for Gospel ministry. The US offers many strong seminaries with a growing number of Hispanic students – both Hispanic-Americans who will go on to serve the growing Hispanic-American context, and international students who will return to their countries of origin to strengthen the gospel there. Dr. Paredes recognizes the need and potential for Hispanic professors not simply to teach, but to come alongside and mentor this next generation of leaders, so that they in turn can have the necessary equipping and encouraging to lead their flocks well, and spread the Gospel throughout the United States and the Spanish-speaking world.
The reality is that the work is costly: Many new beginnings, countless times of needing to trust the Lord in the next steps, countless nights of studying, and days of counseling men, women, and families. Yet Laura and Alberto trust this investment is greater than themselves: it is an investment in the Kingdom of God. For this reason, with gratitude and humility, they are continuing forward, in a new life, in a new country, seeking to serve the Lord faithfully, and trusting Him to use them in any way He may so desire to help spread His truth in the Hispanic context and beyond. May the Lord continue to bless the Paredes family and the life and ministry to which He has called them, and may He use the work of their hands beyond what any of us could imagine.
¡A Dios sea la gloria!
WAYS TO PRAY FOR THE PAREDES FAMILY
Pray for the family’s health as they adjust to the germs and allergens of a new country; pray particularly for their son Lucas, who will be 2 this month, and has been struggling a lot with his asthma.
Give thanks with the Paredes for the Lord’s sustaining them and providing them (in Alberto’s words) “absolutely everything we need” for every step of the journey. Please join them in praying for God’s continued faithful provision for them. Pray that they will trust Him to continue to provide their daily bread, so they can focus on the work to which He is calling them. To give directly to the Paredes family, click here.
Pray for Alberto to have the ability to be faithful in his work as a student, but also in making time to be with and care for his family. Pray also for Laura as she continues to care for her two young children, while pursuing a second Master’s degree through RTS-Distance.
Laura and Dr. Alberto Paredes have two children, Pía (3.5), and Lucas (2 in Jan 2024). Both are graduates of Reformed Theolgical Seminary in Charlotte, NC, where Alberto received his MDiv & MATS, and Laura her MACC. They are currently residing in Cambridge, UK, as Alberto is pursuing his PhD in Medical Language in the Pentateuch and Septuagint. In their spare time between studying and raising 2 children in a foreign country, Alberto and Laura serve with their local church community, and spend much time writing, teaching, and counseling others, in English and Spanish.
Please consider giving to HLI so that we can continue supporting couples like Alberto & Laura in their studies and as they are (already) caring for the Hispanic community.