Humming with Hospitality

Jake Hess

Para Servirle | At Your Service

When you cross borders within the Spanish-speaking world, you’ll encounter a spectrum of responses to phrases as common as “thank you.” In certain regions, “gracias” is almost always echoed by “de nada” (literally “of nothing” or “it was nothing”). In other places, however, you may hear “con gusto” (“with pleasure”).

During our visit to Guatemala, we were surprised to hear so many respond with “para servirle,” which translates literally “to serve you” or “at your service.”

In some ways, it sounds a bit formal, even servile. Rather than reflecting submissiveness, we learned to understand those words meant generosity, care, and hospitality. Everywhere we turned on the SEMILLA campus, our hosts met us with welcome and kindness. Everything hummed with hospitality.

Jake Hess

Jake Hess, pastor of Hively Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana, USA.

International Travel and Education Hub

Being such a welcoming enclave, SEMIILA functions as a hub for international travelers, aspiring Spanish-speakers, local and global missionaries, bi-vocational pastors, and myriad ministry leaders.

During our four-week sojourn, we brushed shoulders with all kinds of people.

  • Missionaries doing agricultural development,
  • Teachers hosting Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs in local neighborhoods,
  • Young leaders developing vocational programs for ex-gang members,
  • Graduate students studying psychology,
  • High school students doing theological and cultural studies,
  • Pastors using the sabbatical time to sharpen their Spanish and cultural understanding.

All these encounters happened within SEMILLA’s verdant walls: a kind of water hole where kingdom workers gather to drink and, once refreshed, return to their work anew.

Seminary Funded through Education and Hospitality

As a seminary in the 21st century, SEMILLA supports its vision for pastoral training by creatively pursuing other means of income. The Casa Emaús guest house and Spanish-language programs are two such creative pursuits. Other seminaries worldwide have noticed their ingenuity and are seeking to learn from their successes and struggles. North American seminaries cannot serve as templates for most seminaries in the developing world, they say; their contexts are too dissimilar. However, SEMILLA can.

Reciprocal Welcome

We encourage others to experience the welcome and vision of SEMILLA. We also encourage our Hively youth to apply for Goshen College’s Study Service Theology Term (SSTT).

Ultimately, we hope and pray that our congregation and the broader Mennonite church can develop deeper connections with SEMILLA such that we can reciprocate her welcome, kindness, and hospitality.

Perhaps, one day, we will be able to say back to her “para servirle.”