My name is Maria Antonieta Fernandes. I was ordained as an Elder in full connection by the Desert Southwest Conference. I am the pastor at Christ Community UMC in Avondale, AZ. I have been the pastor leader planting a church in Las Vegas, NV, Global Community UMC. I am part of the Health and Pension Benefits committee at the Desert Southwest Conference. My first appointment was at Green Valley UMC, Henderson, NV as an Associate Pastor.
I was born and grew up in El Salvador to parents who raised me vigorously in the Catholic Church and its traditions. Because of my compassion for people, my first professional career choice was in medicine. I became a nurse in 1987 and took care the sick while also working in preventive care. This career gave me the opportunity of sharing the healing power of God’s word.
Many people know El Salvador has struggled economically and for over a century has been a country torn between peasantry and privilege. In 1980, civil war broke out in the country and continued until the 1992 signing of the peace accords. The loss of life during this period was a global atrocity. Many of the population who died in the war were women, children, and clergy. My family was in danger of losing our lives so on September 7, 1990, we moved to the United States as refugees of war with political asylum status. This was hard for me because I only spoke Spanish and had to learn English to be able to get my nurse license and communicate well in order to integrate and assimilate into this culture.
I have four adult kids. The oldest is a boy and the rest are three beautiful girls. My son has a degree in Psychology, one of my daughters is a nurse, the another one work as an account representative, and the youngest one is still in the University pursuing an Optometrist degree. I also have six grandkids, Three boys and three girls.
I was introduced to The United Methodist Church and began participating actively at Las Naciones Hispanic Church and represent it as the Lay leader at the Annual Conference for several years. At the University UMC, I was the youth director for five years. While working with the youth and different committees at University UMC, I hear God calling me into ministry. I was participating in a revival at Los Seguidores de Cristo Hispanic Church, and while praying, I heard a sweet soft voice saying “Antonieta alimenta mis ovejas” (Antonieta feed my lambs). At first, I did not understand what it meant but after praying and fasting, I found out that the Lord clearly was calling me to ministry. I promised him to obey if he led the way and in 2015, I completed the Masters in Divinity.
At the moment, my theology of worship has a multicultural approach. To be effective with this kind of theology, I have studied different cultures of people to be able to understand what they believe and how they communicate. Hispanics have so many different cultures within the Hispanic umbrella; but that’s true also within the Asian, African American, Anglo, Hindu, Native Indians, and others important cultures within the United States. I feel that even though the first encounters with people from other cultures can be kind of uncomfortable, under the grace of God, nothing is impossible. By respecting their beliefs, we can accomplish what Jesus sent us to do: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”