Today, we continue our series introducing the staff of Faith Formation Ministries. Now it is time to get to know Communications Strategist, Paola.
Paola, you grew up as a missionary kid in Nicaragua. What kind of faith formation did your parents do with you what you want to be sure to do with your children someday?
One of the things my parents did well was to never assume that my sister and I were too young to understand something related to our faith. That is not to say that they did not adapt their answers to our ages, but they never dismissed our questions or dumbed down their responses. My parents encouraged my sister and I to practice our faith from an early age, as well.
I remember quite vividly one day when there was almost no food in the house. My parents were both full-time seminary students with two young daughters, and both working part-time to support our family. I was concerned that we would not have food to eat, but my parents kept telling me that God would provide for us. And indeed he did. Later that day, friends from the seminary rung our doorbell and told us that they had felt led by God to buy us groceries.
The primary thing that my parents did that I want to make sure to do with my children someday was how they ensured that my sister and I always felt included in our family and ministry decisions. We always knew that our parents saw us as integral parts of their ministry, and that we had valuable contributions to make. When I was nine years old, the time came to finally go into the missions field. We took a family visit to Nicaragua to see if that was the place where God was calling us to go. After the trip, they asked my sister and I how we would feel about moving there to live and work with the people we had met. We prayed about it as a family, asking for God’s direction, and God’s response was clear to each of us.
Can you describe for us a key person (or people) who played an important role in your faith formation?
My dad has played, and continues to play, a key role in my faith formation. Ever since God called him to missions in his late 20s, my dad has had a special sensitivity to hearing and seeing God’s presence and work in his life, and in the lives of those around him. He has had a special boldness that has allowed him to encourage people in their faith journeys at key moments when those people really needed to hear a word of encouragement from God. I have tried to learn from my dad not to be afraid to ask to pray for someone or to offer someone an encouraging word. My dad has also played a key role in giving me the confidence to practice my spiritual gifts, and to be confident that God will support me in the work that he has called me to do.
You studies International Development at Calvin College, and also work for the CRC Office of Social Justice. How do you see community development and social justice fitting with faith formation?
I have learned that social justice and caring for others are an integral part of faith, and like many other parts of our faith, require practice and formation to develop. I think that God cares deeply for those who are marginalized and oppressed whether by poverty, oppressive systems, broken institutions, or prejudices. And I think God calls us as his body to work toward redemption and restoration in those areas.
Through my international development classes and my work at the Office of Social Justice, I have seen numerous churches doing community development and working in areas of social justice. Starting my work for Faith Formation Ministries (FFM), I have seen how FFM wants to be a resource that connects churches and gives them a platform to share what they are doing, and to learn from what other churches are doing. I would love to see churches sharing what they are doing in the areas of community development and social justice, as well. I think both of those areas are an important way to love our neighbors.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and how would you use it in your role as Communications Strategist?
Teletransportation. I love the idea of being able to travel to any place in a matter of seconds. In my role as the Communications Strategist, I would teletransport to different conferences and events to network with churches, individuals, other ministries, and other communications experts. Not only would my teletransportation abilities save lots of money, they would also let me use my time more effectively.