Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and this week we are so pleased to introduce Xiomara Reboyras.

Xiomarah, tell us about your ministry journey, the places and ways you have been serving and are serving.

My journey as a Christian began when I was nine years of age when I had my first Vacation Bible School experience at a Methodist church in my home town in Puerto Rico. That Methodist congregation became my church family. One year later my mother joined me in attending the church. After nine years, my father became a Christian and a member of that church.

Church was my world. Everything in my life happened in terms of “the church.”  I can’t remember happier times in my life. Our pastor, my one and only pastor until I became a pastor myself, was a female, and I was an active part of her ministry and life. To her, I owe my own becoming a minister at the age of twenty-three. I have done it all in ministry: from teaching the kids to teaching adults to serving as church administrator to being in charge of missions and evangelism, which eventually led me into leadership at the state level. I believe everything I did was preparing me for a new calling to seminary and ministry. Saying yes to my calling was the greatest joy and the most terrifying experience at the same time. I had big shoes to fill, not just my pastor’s but every amazing, intelligent, powerful, committed and beautiful female minister in the Methodist Church.

After one year of seminary, I was appointed to my first church in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was located in an extremely poor and socially challenged area, and there I learned what happiness and richness in ministry is all about. That congregation became my family, my teachers, my friends, my counselors. I am not sure if I was their pastor, or if they pastored me.

After five beautiful years in doing transforming work with families and the entire community, it was time for me to accept a new church assignment in Palm Coast, Florida. From a small congregation of 100 members in the poorest area of Puerto Rico, I became the first female, Latina, congregational care pastor of a 3,000-member congregation in what was then the fastest growing city in the United States. This church allowed me to grow in areas I never dreamed possible. Being their pastor was a daily challenge for me. Away from my family and friends, away from my country and culture, and grieving both my mother church and the church that made me a pastor, I was in need of everything that in God’s grace I was given by my new congregation.

Yet ministry had more in store for me. I still had to experience ministry with a life partner, and this became a reality when I married my Baptist pastor husband seven years ago. This was the biggest change of my life: doing ministry with a spouse. What an adventure! For seven years we have been growing as a couple while sharing the challenges and beauty of ministry together. In the last year, we both have gone through extreme change together. We left the local church to answer to an absolute different calling. He now serves as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Latino Field Coordinator, and I serve as the pastor of one . . . him.

 What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?

The greatest source of joy in ministry has been and always will be people. First, the wonderful colleagues and partners in ministry who became family along the way. These friends have always been God’s instruments every time I need a good laugh or a new perspective of life and ministry. Second and most important, serving those in my congregations in the way they need to be served and simply doing “life” by their side has been a source of joy and strength for me. After seventeen years in ministry, every call I receive from one of my members asking for prayer or advise or to share some important family news is a gift from God that fills my heart with joy. Lately, the kids and young teenagers I pastored in our last church come to my house every week, unannounced,  to tell me about their lives, romances, wishes, concerns, goals, and dreams of ministry. This and witnessing my daughter become a woman who loves the Lord will continue to make me grateful for the ministry I am privileged to have.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?

Challenges are part of everything we do in life. How we perceive and deal with them will determine if these challenges are steps in to our success or defeat. You and only you decide if challenges make you stronger and more capable even if it takes all your possibilities of growth from you. I can mention a few things that helped me grow and made me the strong woman and minister I am today.

First, my age was a challenge for a long time. For the longest time, I was the youngest adult of my congregation. It was not just doing ministry, but it was making sure that I was strong enough to do ministry not based on anyone’s expectations but relying exclusively on the Spirit of God. Second, the fact that I am a woman, but not just a woman; I am vocal, energetic, fearless, and intelligent woman who is not afraid of doing whatever needs to be done in this so called “men’s world.” The challenge was not to be a woman pastor. The challenge was and still is to never feel that I have to prove something to anyone. My responsibility and focus have been to do what I was called to do and do it with excellence. If you have a problem with that, complain to the One who called me. I was fortunate enough to have amazing role models, women ministers that walked and opened a path for me. The challenge was not that people have different ideas of what a women’s role should be in church. The challenge was to never let the poorness of their minds determine my success. Third my culture has been a challenge. I am a Latina whose first language is not English. I learned to pray, preach, and process emotions in Spanish, and as if that is not enough… I have an accent! None of these will ever change, but they have made me and will continue to equip me to do the important ministry my Latino community so desperately needs. Have I ever felt discriminated as a Latina? No. I’ve felt sad for those who have a limited and uninformed view of things. As a Latina, as a professional, and as a minister, I’ve accomplished everything I have worked for, but I am aware that I am one of the few and lucky ones, especially in my culture. Therefore, it gives me a reason to be a voice and advocate for my daughter and for all women.

What advice would you give to a young woman discerning a call to ministry?

If God is calling you . . . rejoice in the fact that He has called you knowing that He supports, provides, strengthens, guides, and empowers the ones He calls. Be willing to enjoy every step of the way, the good and easy and the not so good and extremely difficult because God is there. Never, ever change who you are, remember that He called YOU . . . not an idea or expectation of you. Don’t worry about what you don’t have or can’t do or don’t know. God will take care of that. Your only and true responsibility is to honestly and intentionally grow in your relationship with Him and in the process, ministry will be made clear and possible. Be happy! Be Happy! God’s people need happy ministers who truly love the church and serving God.  Yes; seminary, education and connections are important and necessary, but all of that is nothing without love for the ministry and the church. If you are not happy in your ministry, you can’t be an effective representation of our Savior for those that will need you the most in their lowest times. Lastly my dear and beautiful sister: DON’T BE AFRAID, GOD IS WITH YOU, and we are all here to walk this beautiful path with you.