RIVERSIDE, CA — On Saturday, June 24, La Sierra University Church and the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists confirmed the call of Beverly Maravilla to Gospel Ministry with ordination.
Born in Los Angeles, California, to parents who immigrated from El Salvador, Beverly Maravilla grew up in the Catholic faith tradition, the fifth of eight children of Rosa and Oscar Maravilla. The Maravilla family converted to the Seventh-day Adventist faith when Bev was in junior high after a retired Adventist couple invited the Maravillas to a Friday evening vespers at their house.
Beverly Maravilla attended public high school and participated in competitive theater for more than seven years. At La Sierra University, she started as a psychology major but with direction of Sam Leonor, Lida Biswas, and Steve Hemenway in La Sierra’s Spiritual Life Office, she entertained the possibility of professional ministry. Upon graduating as a religious studies student, the La Sierra University Church hired her as Pastor for Children and Family Ministries. July marks six years since she joined the La Sierra team. She continues to participate in improv acting and is an aspiring powerlifter.
Several hundred members of the La Sierra University Church community and the Southeastern California Conference joined the Maravilla family in celebrating Beverly’s ordination on Saturday afternoon.
Members of the La Sierra community, including children to whom Maravilla ministers, her friends and family members, Southeastern California Conference administrators, and La Sierra University Church staff members—her pastoral colleagues—participated in the service.
The biblical passage chosen for the occasion, Jeremiah 29, moves from Israelite captivity in Babylon through the divine command to build houses and plant gardens and to a promised blessing—the divine plan for a people in exile. Maravilla's La Sierra colleagues Devo Kritzinger, Vaughn Nelson, and Chris Oberg wove together pieces of the passage and her experiences in an immigrant family and as a pastor in the Adventist Church.
Fears of exile last long. New generations of adults who had been born in exile, never know the grandeur of home. Generation 1.5 shows those who had been children while immigration reinterpreted their traditions in light of their new home. Second generation immigrants, while they retained some traditions from their family of origin, began to lose markers of identity such as language, dress, or music. The assimilation causes generation among the immigrant community as the older generation worried about the loss of its identity. Amid these tensions comes the word from God through the prophet, which is surprising: “Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have children." Multiply and increase. Make home in this foreign land. Dig in, make home. It is a whole new world, and it will be your new home. The welfare of the captors and the exiles are bound together.
A junior-high convert has made home in an Adventist home. A theater girl has made home in a religious institution. A faithful woman has made home in Adventist pastoral ministry. You have made home, Bev, and you have made it well.
There are other voices with other messages. For a couple of verses in the passage, Jeremiah has been involved in a prophetic preach-off with these other voices, voices that declare a message that on the surface sounds more pious, more spiritual, more faithful: Resist Babylon. Fight or flee. Do not build or plant or invest in this city or culture because we are going home soon. God will get us out of here soon. Those voices are sometimes the louder or more numerous voices, but in this passage, they are not the voices that speak for God. Voices calling for living in, investing in, and enjoying the here and now are often misunderstood and misrepresented. The voices can be discouraging and damaging. “You know there might be days when you find yourself sitting in a Texas-sized stadium full of voices trying to drown out your voice and to silence your message, and maybe even on those days, you’ll find that, as you have told us, you literally cannot breathe. And yet we are gathered here on this day and in this place because you have been listening to the voice of the Spirit of God. And your heart has been captured by an alternative imagination.
Sometimes the competing voices will be louder and more numerous, but they do not represent the heart of God. This is the word of God from Jeremiah, a slightly different reading of the text from the typical one: God’s imagination for you is peace, wholeness, wellness and not affliction, trouble, adversity. Those come but not from the hand of the divine.
A God of possibility creates a community of possibility. By the grace of God, we have been given a leader in Pastor Beverly Maravilla who longs for brand new possibilities. It turns out a little girl from a Salvadorean immigrant family raised in the high desert chasing ducks and geese, in the Catholic faith, really can become a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist tradition. Thanks be to God.
Following the homily, the three pastors invited all those gathered to join in the laying on of hands for the prayer of ordination.
Panoramic image of the La Sierra University Church congregation gathered to lay hands of ordination on Beverly Maravilla.
Nelson began the with an affirmation and thanks for Maravilla’s calling “to be a minister of the Gospel in our church and in our world.” There followed a litany of thanks, including, “For Bev’s commitment and her courage and her willingness to keep on rather than abandon even when the very body she serves has done her harm, we give you thanks. For all that your Spirit has done in and through pastor Beverly, we give you thanks.”
Oberg continued: “With our hands of blessing and our words, God, we set Beverly aside for consecration. We signify that this community is ready for the power of the Spirit whatever else is up ahead. We recognize the calling on Beverly’s life, and we ask for more of that. So we set her aside for a purpose. To lead us with humility . . . to show us a better and better incarnation of the Seventh-day Adventist faith.”
Kritzinger concluded: “We pray for you beloved La Sierra University Church; we consecrate you and set you apart to be a community of grace and forgiveness, of peace and justice. We pray that you, church, would become incarnated glimpses of God’s Kingdom of Kindness, to work in synch with the Spirit like Bev has, to bring about a world where love rules over all, where enemies embrace, where all are welcome, where light shines in the darkness.”
Following a ministerial charge from SECC Executive Secretary Jonathan Park, SECC President Sandy Roberts officially welcomed Beverly Maravilla to ordained pastoral ministry in the Adventist Church.
"So Elder Beverly Maravilla, I get to continue welcoming you. Not really to ministry—you’ve been in ministry so faithfully and so well. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing today is because we recognize that. But I get to welcome you officially as an ordained minister of the Gospel in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. On behalf of your church, your colleagues, the World Church, thank you for faithfully answering your call. And I am really proud to have you as a pastor in the Southeastern California Conference. Beverly, not just at this church but in our conference does bring much joy. In addition to the joy, there’s a depth and a commitment to being authentic and faithful. Thank you for what you bring to our pastoral team in this conference."
Roberts made three presentations on behalf of the Southeastern California Conference leadership team.
First, a Ministerial Credential with the following words: “This is to certify that Beverly N. Maravilla is an ordained minister in regular standing in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and is authorized to perform the duties of said office.” Signed by the officers of the Southeastern California Conference.
Next, a Certificate of Ordination which stated: “To all who read these words, Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be it known that Beverly N. Maravilla, having given satisfactory evidence of her calling to, and having accepted the sacred work of the Gospel Ministry, was ordained by the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists on June 24, 2017 in Riverside, California." Signed by Conference officers and many members of the La Sierra University Church community.
Finally, Roberts presented a Bible with Beverly’s name engraved on it.
Beverly Maravilla responded with a reflection on her journey to ministry and her time thus far as a pastor:
“It does seem impossible to express the love the gratitude and the appreciation I have for this community for extending me an invitation to join you six years ago. I will take a few minutes to reflect on the goodness that I have witnessed in this community in your care.
“Pastoring was not something in my plan or on my list for my life. In one of my Freshmen English classes, Yesenia Andrade shared with me that she was studying to be a pastor. I remember I looked at her really confused and slightly amused, and with no self control or compassion, I blurted out, ‘Well, that’s so dumb. Do what you want, but women can’t be pastors, can they?’ I had seen women working in the church before, but I had never seen them in this capacity. She thought about becoming a psychologist for people like Yesenia, “but it turns out the joke was on me,” she said.
Speaking to the exile in Jeremiah’s writings, she said “For many years it was difficult for me to accept this as a blessing or a calling from God. It strikes me that we too are in exile. All in the world is not well. All in the church is not well. And even so these verses are here. Despite disappointing moments both in the world and in the church, the La Sierra community allowed her to hear the words in the Jeremiah passage “as an invitation to imagine. “Unpacking for service amid a life in exile seems silly, but we are here,” she said.
Jared Wright is Southern California Correspondent for Spectrummagazine.org.
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