May 20, 2011 | Myrna Anderson

A theological fellowship from the Fund for Theological Education is helping Daniel Camacho to fulfill his call to the ministry.

People were always telling Daniel Camacho as he was growing up that he had a call to the ministry. What Camacho wanted was a call to play shortstop for the New York Mets. “I thought those claims were ridiculous,” he said of the predictions, “but they’ve come back to haunt me.”

Now a Calvin religion and philosophy major, Camacho recently won an undergraduate fellowship from the Fund for Theological Education (FTE). The $2000 fellowship supports “gifted young leaders from diverse racial and ethnic communities and a variety of Christian faith traditions who are exploring ministry as vocation.” It also enables Camacho to attend a four-day FTE conference in New Orleans this summer.

He is grateful for the gift: “It’s hard for students of theology, or involved in ministry, to find fellowships of this sort,” he said.

True knowledge

Camacho grew up in Uniondale, N.Y, the son of Colombian parents who, though not full-time pastors, did various types of ministry. “I think they know a lot more than I do,” he said. “Even if I know more knowledge in books, they know Jesus, and that continues to inspire me.”

His mother was a preacher, and Camacho compared her to Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. “It’s been her prayers and her love and her work that have pushed me forward,” he said. The family attended a Spanish-speaking United Methodist church— “a vibrant community that nourished my faith,” he said.

Despite prognostications, Camacho didn’t have a sense of his calling until high school. “I realized that among friends and in school, I was passionate about sharing the gospel and I was passionate about sharing my faith,” he said. “That was the moment that I realized that this might be what God wanted me to do.” His pastor confirmed his calling and encouraged it—even allowing Camacho to share the pulpit from time to time.

He first came to Calvin in 2009 through the Entrada Scholars Program, the college’s month-long, summer college immersion experience for ethnic minority students. Camacho found himself intrigued by the Reformed worldview and terrified by both the climbing wall (“I’m afraid of heights”) and the salsa dancing. He overcame at least the latter fear: “We stayed there until the whole event ended. It was, like, ‘Turn the music off! You have to go!’”

Liberal arts foundation

Camacho chose Calvin to give his ministry preparation a liberal arts foundation—which is why he studies philosophy as well as religion. “I see it as giving me a broader perspective. Just because I get involved in the church doesn’t mean I have to limit myself,” he said. “Philosophy asks the big questions.” (Camacho also minors in church, society and ministry through the department of congregational and ministry studies.)

“I think one of the great things about Daniel is he has as much to teach us as we have to teach him,” said Jamie Smith, who has mentored Camacho. “He really combines incredible intellectual gifts with deep interests and ability in theology and a real passion for justice especially in areas like race and immigration and things like that. I’m glad he’s a sophomore so he has a couple more years to hang around.”

Camacho is looking forward to two more years of studying, but he’s also looking ahead to seminary—and, beyond that, to ministry: “I want, first of all, to be a pastor who sees the church, who ministers sacraments, who visits people,” he said.

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