Ramon Guzman was a soldier in El Salvador during the nation’s tumultuous civil war in the 1980s and did not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Little could he have imagined that years later, in 2011, he would be a seminary graduate with high honors and would be serving in the ministry as a pastor.

Guzman is one of 20 recent graduates of Golden Gate Seminary’s extension Contextualized Leadership Development program hosted in Oklahoma.

Connected to the Robert Haskins School of Leadership (RHSL), a Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) program dedicated to training and developing effective leaders and workers of multicultural churches in the state of Oklahoma, people like Guzman receive financial aid through the State Missions Offering to receive up to two diplomas in Christian Leadership from Golden Gate.

On June 4, Guzman and 19 others walked across the stage of a commencement ceremony to be recognized for their degrees.

“It was such a special day,” said Anthony L. Jordan, BGCO executive director-treasurer, who delivered remarks to the graduates. “This is a lifelong dream of mine to see pastors and ministry leaders equipped and able to bring the message of Jesus to their culture.”

Graduates originate from various countries throughout the world, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico.

“The people of the BGCO, such as Dr. Jordan and Dr. Haskins have been such a blessing to me and these students,” said Marta Elisa Cáceres, director of the RHSL.

“We want to train and educate pastors, church planters and lay leaders to make an impact in their culture, both here in Oklahoma and in many cases, back in their home country,” she said.

Cáceres, herself an immigrant from El Salvador, is a pastor’s wife and understands the importance that a quality education can make.

“We love the students who come through this program, and we are so proud of all they have accomplished,” she commented. “Of this year’s alumni, 10 are ordained and several are already serving as pastors.”

The BGCO also held a special graduation banquet at Oklahoma City, Exchange Avenue. Randall Adams, leader of the BGCO Church Outreach Team, was the special guest speaker.

“You have equipped yourself to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your people. Love Jesus, love His church, share the Gospel, and you will do well,” Adams told the graduates.

“Most of these students are immigrants. They work very hard to earn a living for their families, while also educating themselves to be the best ministry leaders they can be. Their work ethic and dedication is most humbling,” he said later.

The State Missions offering goes to help fund more than 20 vital ministry programs, such as the Robert Haskins School of Leadership.