For 42 years, Serafin and Alva Contreras have passionately served Jesus Christ in Latin America as pastors, missionaries and area missionaries for Foursquare Missions International (FMI). That’s all going to change in January 2012, when Serafin and Alva retire and hand off their current leadership role to FMI Associate Director Jonathan Hall.
But retirement for this dynamic couple isn’t about rocking chairs and sleepy schedules.
Serafin and Alva plan to continue their online ministry, which they say reached 40 million people in 2011 alone. They have a strong following on Facebook, and thousands of people are coming to Christ through their radio and TV ministry, videos and Bible studies.
When some people think of retirement, they visualize quiet days at home with the occasional visit from friends or family. Not so for Alva and Serafin. They plan to open their home regularly to ministry couples needing spiritual counseling or times of personal refreshment. When they relocate to Panama in January, they will welcome people into their home for days at a time as they help restore and then release them to effective ministry.
Ministry is a lifestyle for this called couple. It’s all they have ever known, and all they ever hope to do.
In the Beginning
Alva was 5 years old when she was introduced to Jesus Christ by Foursquare Missionaries Darlene and Edgar Coombs in San Cristobal, Venezuela. Darlene discipled Alva and gave her the opportunity to teach Sunday school at the age of 13. Alva would later study pastoral ministries at the Foursquare seminary in Venezuela, earn a certificate in missions and Christian education in Costa Rica, and graduate with a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Doxa International University in Coral Gables, Fla.
Serafin also received Christ at the Foursquare church in San Cristobal, at the age of 16. Almost immediately he felt a definite call to the ministry, and both he and Alva recall being filled with the Holy Spirit within one year after deciding to follow Jesus.
“Our lives were challenged for God to be witnesses of Jesus anywhere we could,” Serafin recalls.
The couple became Foursquare ministers and accepted their first pastoral assignment in 1969. They pastored in Venezuela for 21 years, serving congregations in San Cristobal, Tariba and Barquisimeto. In 1989, Serafin and Alva began serving as Foursquare missionaries and, in successive years, ministered in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador and Panama.
Life of Service
They currently serve The Foursquare Church as area missionaries leading the Foursquare presence in Central and South America. In addition, Serafín has represented The Foursquare Church and Foursquare Latin America as a member of the advisory and executive committees of the Pentecostal World Fellowship.
Foursquare Latin America has grown significantly under the leadership of Serafin and Alva.
“We have almost 17,000 churches and meeting places, over 38,000 licensed workers, and 1,300 churches planted in the last 12 months,” Jonathan Hall tells Foursquare.org. He says it is a wonderful privilege for him to follow Serafin and Alva, and a great honor to partner with other strong ministry leaders in Latin America.
Jonathan believes leaders in the region are committed to praying for an increased move of the Holy Spirit as the gospel is spread through the Latin nations. He affirms that kingdom expansion will continue in Central and South America through a new generation of leaders who are fully trained and released, and characterized by healthy partnerships and strategic networking.
New Season of Ministry
After years of fruitful ministry leading the Foursquare work in Latin America, Serafin and Alva say the Lord began to speak to their hearts about a new season of ministry for them. Last January, while in Los Angeles for a time of prayer and refreshing, God spoke to them “with boldness to our hearts,” the couple says. They knew the voice of the Lord was clear, and that the time was right for a change.
FMI Director Jim Scott recalls praying with Serafin and Alva about what the Holy Spirit was saying to them. He says it was like that eternal moment in the book of Acts when the church council in Antioch was asked to set apart Barnabas and Paul for the work to which God had called them.
“The church in Antioch was being asked to send their best into a new season of ministry,” Jim says, “and I was aware that FMI and The Foursquare Church were being offered a similar opportunity.”
The couple’s connection with FMI and Foursquare Latin America remains strong. Although their location may change, they will no doubt find themselves in high demand, speaking and ministering at Foursquare churches and in conferences and events worldwide.
They always remember how they were brought to Jesus Christ and carefully discipled for Christian service while they were still young. Much like Darlene and Edgar Coombs did so many years ago, Serafin and Alva want to help disciple emerging leaders, and already plan to make room for ministry couples in their home in Panama.
Hundreds of people who have received Christ under the ministry of Serafin and Alva have already been discipled and become pastors in churches throughout Latin America. The couple is humbled and grateful by this legacy.
They aren’t the only ones who are grateful. FMI and the national leaders, pastors and congregations of Central and South America are grateful, as well.
“Serafin and Alva are truly apostolic elders,” Jim Scott affirms. “They have provided visionary leadership, able administration, anointed instruction and compassionate pastoral care as a ministering couple in The Foursquare Church for 42 years.”
They will always be loved and honored in their homeland and, indeed, throughout The Foursquare Church.
By: Rod Light, an ordained Foursquare minister and educator in Los Angeles