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Ernesto Hernandez came across Reformed theology by reading authors like Charles Spurgeon and J.I. Packer.

He was living in Chihuahua, Mexico, at the time, and had just finished his undergraduate training to be a software engineer. But he felt a persistent tug toward theology and ministry.

After attending a Bible school, planting a church, and preaching and teaching in his native Mexico, he and his family relocated to Texas, where he became heavily involved in an emerging Christian Reformed congregation called Valley Ridge Community Church.

“I always wanted to pursue theological education,” said Hernandez. But he had a full slate: a family to support and a full-time job in Texas.

Enter Distance Learning at Calvin Seminary.

“This was perfect for me…the only viable option was to do Distance Learning,” he said.
The Distance Learning program entails online readings, discussions, Google hangouts, and video presentations, along with five days of intensive on-campus class time each semester.

The on-campus sessions are a lively, integral part of the program: students reunite twice a year for the five-year duration of their program, coming face-to-face with the friends in their cohort and the professors with whom they’ve been interacting virtually. 

“[On-campus sessions] make the distance experience worthwhile,” said Hernandez. “The relationships I have been able to build during this program tend to be very special. We look forward to the next intensive to reconnect.”

Along with 79 other Distance Learning students, Hernandez traveled to Grand Rapids for the on-campus sessions of the program, including classroom instruction, corporate worship, and mentoring groups.

Hernandez’s classes included Forming Worship Communities with John Witvliet, Old Testament Narrative Literature with Arie Leder and Stan Mast, and Systematic Theology 1 with Ronald Feenstra.

“We can cover our local ministries [during our] preparation in seminary, all to the glory of God,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez is still reading Reformed authors, but he’s added several more to his repertoire. And now he receives class credit for his study. He will graduate with his Master of Divinity from Calvin Seminary in 2017.

Valley Ridge Community Church, an emerging congregation serving a primarily Hispanic population, has been part of Classis Arizona since 2009.

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