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BPFNA Board Member Bios

Isai Altamirano • Fela Barrueto • Jaime EscobarVerónica Garibay-Bravo • Rick Harris • Gail Hill • Anita Peebles  Mayra Picos-Lee Michelle Schellinger Gutierrez • Jason Smith • Jessica Torres TorresKaren Turner • Asaf Vera Baltodano • Michael Ware • Roxanna Wright

President

Mayra Picos-Lee ('19)
Wayne, PA USA

Dr. Mayra Picos-Lee (she/her/hers), a native of Mexico, teaches in the area of pastoral counseling and practice of ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University in King of Prussia, PA. In 2015 she was also appointed as Coordinator of Latino/a Initiatives at Palmer, and in collaboration with Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), American Baptist International Ministries (ABIM), and American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), is launching a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) in Spanish language in the Fall of 2016. This is a fully accredited degree that prepares women and men in pastoral ministry and/or church leadership through a series of courses in the areas of biblical studies, theology, and practice of ministry in a manner that is contextualized to the needs of Latino/a communities in Latin America and the USA. Mayra holds a D.Min. (Marriage and Family Ministry) and MDiv from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She earned a BA in Business Administration and a BA in Psychology from Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas and Universidad del Noreste respectively. She is also a marriage and family therapist licensed by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), and has served as a board member for BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz since 2013. As a Mexican immigrant, Mayra is keenly interested in issues of immigration, and her teaching experience at Palmer Seminary has contributed to the broadening of seminarians’ perspectives on immigration and other issues that affect our ability to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Beyond her experience at Palmer, Mayra has extensive experience teaching pastoral care and counseling in Mexico and Central and South America. Over the past years, she has also been involved in interfaith dialogue. Mayra believes that learning to love one another is a biblical mandate that extends beyond the barriers that we, as human beings, have created due to our differences in language, culture, ethnicity, and religion. The fulfillment of this mandate is made possible when we befriend those who we have been taught to fear. Being an immigrant has increased Mayra’s sensitivity to the importance of extending hospitality and welcoming the stranger, and she uses her educational platform to teach, discuss, and explore ways in which, as Christians, we are called to love one another by extending hospitality to all of God’s children. Mayra also maintains a private practice as a marriage and family therapist in Devon, PA, serving immigrants, bicultural families of various backgrounds, women, and other populations who have been historically disempowered.

Vice President

Michael Ware ('19)
Rochester, NY USA

Rev. Michael A. Ware (he/him/his) has resided in the upstate community of Rochester, New York for the past 16 years and is currently in his 10th year as pastor of Webster Baptist Church. He has a bachelor’s degree from Albion College in Michigan and a Master of Divinity from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. Before attending Colgate Rochester, Michael held an 18-year career in the pest control industry. It was when he became an active youth leader in his church and the New York State American Baptist Youth that inspired him to attend divinity school. Michael has a wife, Barbara, who works in the non-profit sector; a daughter, Jestine who currently works at the University of Rochester and takes graduate courses; and a son, Jason who is a freshman at DePaul University in Chicago. Both of his children grew up attending the annual BPFNA Summer Conference (aka Peace Camp). Michael’s involvement with BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz began after a 2006 mission trip to El Salvador, where he walked beside and listened to the stories of the folks at Shakkina Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. Ruth Orantes. In 2007, he became an active participant of BPFNA and attended his first summer conference. This defining experience truly solidified the meaning of community for him and gave him a place of belonging. Beyond the singing of songs and inspiring presentations, peace camp reminded him of a message from his journey the year before: there was so much work to do. In 2010, Michael was the worship leader for the BPFNA summer conference at Keuka College. It was here where he saw a presentation from Churches Helping Churches (a global partnership of church communities who help to rebuild other churches following natural disasters), which led him to co-lead three delegations of churches to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. When asked why he joined the BPFNA Board of Directors, he said: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”(Micah 6:8). This has been the scriptural basis of his faith journey long before his ordination in 2006 and what he seeks to live out every day! To BPFNA Michael brings his lived history of the civil rights struggle, his personal experience of justice and peace, and his dedication to work for positive, peaceful change everywhere.      

Secretary

Fela Barrueto ('19)
Valley Forge, PA USA

Rev. Fela Barrueto (ella/su/suyo) was born and raised in Lima, Perú and currently lives in Fresh Meadows, NY. She studied Literature at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Perú and moved permanently to New York in the ‘80s. Fela served as lay leader with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, both in the local church as well as at a regional level. In 1996 she became a member of an ABC church and started working for the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. In 2004 she received her Masters in Theological Studies from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Seminary) and moved back to New York where she served as associate pastor at Iglesia Bautista de la Comunidad in Elmhurst, NY and became licensed to preach the Gospel. Fela was ordained to ministry in January 2011, and her main goal is to be an instrument of peace and justice, especially for the ever growing prison population and their families. 

Treasurer

Rick Harris ('19)
King of Prussia, PA USA

The Rev. Richard G. Harris (he/him/his) is an ordained American Baptist minister, who retired in September, 2009 after more than 40 years of active ministry within American Baptist Churches, USA. Born in Oxford, NC and reared in Toledo, OH, Rick is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Andover Newton Theological School.  For more than 26 years he served as the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of North Oxford, MA from which he was called into the service of the American Baptist Personnel Services (ABPS), which is the American Baptist clergy profile system, a unit of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies of Valley Forge, PA. He was the national manager of ABPS for more than five years. Rick is married to Anne and they are blessed with a married daughter, Ericka, who lives in Massachusetts. Anne and Rick are active members of BPFNA partner congregation, Central Baptist Church in Wayne, PA. From 2011-2012 he served as the Interim Minister on the pastoral staff of another BPFNA congregation, The First Baptist Church in Beverly, MA. Rick is an active retiree, participating in numerous local church, association and national ministries, including providing pulpit supply in Philadelphia area churches. He is presently leading the church’s Peacemakers Mission Group, which is coordinating the BPFNA 2016 Summer Conference Local Arrangements. Rick has attended more than 10 BPFNA summer peace conferences over the last two decades, but has spent his 40-year-plus ministry promoting the causes of peace from anti-war rallies during the Vietnam era to the annual Interfaith Walk for Peace in Philadelphia. Rick believes that peacemaking is the core of a Christian life and service and considers service on the Board of BPFNA an honor and responsibility that eclipses any he has experienced in his call to ministry. He has received many professional honors during his career, but his real privilege in this life has been his call from God to serve the people of God, who led him to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.  

Youth and Young Adult Representatives

Asaf Vera Baltodano ('19)
Ciudad de México, México

Asaf Vera Baltodano is currently living in Mexico City, but was born and raised in Ensenada, Baja California. He is a member of Shalom Baptist Church in Mexico City. Asaf is in the middle of his Theological studies and is starting a program for a Degree in Pedagogy at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico). From an early age he has dedicated himself to working with youth and supporting the work of his churches in Ensenada and in Mexico City. He is also in the Federation of Young Baptists of Baja California and supports projects in the National Young Baptist Union. Asaf has also participated in some youth and teen camps and has given talks about integral mission, justice, and peace. Since he began his walk with Jesus on issues of social justice and peace, it has been a stronghold for his faith. Asaf attended the 2016 Summer Conference in Philadelphia, which was where he first became involved with BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz. Asaf says, “I am very encouraged to know men and women [doing this work]. Mexico has been the Jerusalem to which God has called me and I trust that God will continue to do his work calling more and more young people to work for a better world.


Michelle Schellinger Gutierrez ('20)
Boston, MA USA

Michelle Schellinger Gutierrez (she/her/hers; ella) was raised in Tijuana, a city along the US/Mexico border, and became aware of the impact and devastation of borders and how they affected entire families and communities. This understanding, rooted in her experience and faith, led her to pursue a degree in Social Work from Eastern University in Philadelphia, PA, in 2015. Since she concluded her studies, she has worked as a counselor to unaccompanied minors and as a case manager and advocate for children and families in the Philadelphia Child Welfare System. Currently, Michelle is pursuing a Dual Masters degree in Divinity and Social Work at Boston University. She hopes these degrees will help her in the varied and diverse work to further peace and justice around the world. Michelle has long standing ties with BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz and the Baptist faith and tradition. Her parents, Ray and Adalia, are deeply tied to the Baptist world. They have worked for International Ministries as missionaries for over 25 years. Michelle, along with her family, has also attended several Summer Conferences since she was in high school, and in the past three conferences she has been part of the leadership for the children’s program. Michelle is extremely excited to be joining the Board. She looks forward to this as a learning opportunity and hopes to contribute to the incredible work of BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz.


Isai Altamirano ('21)
Ciudad de México, México

Isai Altamirano was born and raised in Tijuana, Baja California (Mexico). He grew up in a Christian family and first got involved in peacemaking through the church where he went to school as a young child. At the age of 19, he decided to study theology in Mexico City. He first attended the Baptist Theological Mexican Seminary, but moved to the Baptist Seminary of Mexico after two years. While there, he met longtime BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz member and friend, Javier Ulloa, and former Youth and Young Adult board representative Asaf Vera, who introduced him to the organization. At the time, they were the only Baptists he knew who were working for peace. Isai’s journey with with BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz continued from there. In March 2019, he had the opportunity to work as a translator at the organizational staff retreat in Mexico City. That experience changed his life for good, and he knew that BPFNA was an organization he wanted to work with and get to know better. Isai believes that peace is something possible, not just a dream. He thinks that the church, Christian organizations and many others can do the work of peace and inspire more people to become peacemakers. By becoming part of BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz, he hopes to gain the tools to encourage more people to believe in peace and justice. Isai looks forward to meeting more people in the BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz network and starting this new chapter in his life.


Board Members

Jaime Escobar ('21)
New York, NY USA

Rev. Jaime Escobar (he/him/his; él) was born in Chile but had to relocate with his family during the Pinochet regime. He now lives in New York and serves as Associate Pastor at the Spanish American Baptist Church in Union City, New Jersey. He learned about BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz through friends (Cheryl Dudley, Amaury Tañón-Santos, Fela Barrueto) as they are involved in the good and necessary work of the organization. Jaime is bi-vocational and also works as an optician in New York City. Jaime acknowledges his gifts as a talented administrator with good organizational skills. He is a teacher and also a conflict resolution facilitator. 


Verónica Garibay-Bravo ('21)
Querétaro, México

Verónica Garibay-Bravo (she/her/hers; ella) lives in Querétaro, México, with her husband Rubén and their two children Mateo and Paula. After attending the 2017 Peace Camp at Campo Mazahua, Verónica became very keen in joining BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz to learn how to foster peace and justice in her community among children and teenagers; to offer her skills and experience to serve God by contributing to the achievements of BPFNA’s mission and vision. Verónica holds a degree in Chemical Engineering and an MSc in Environmental Technology. She has 20+ years’ experience in environmental policymaking, both with the Mexican government and the private sector. Her professional experience includes working with trans-disciplinary teams in projects of diverse complexity and scale. In doing so she has cultivated her leadership, teamwork, as well as management and writing skills, both in Spanish and English. Starting August 2017, Verónica embarked on a PhD in Science Communication to enhance communication processes between scientists and stakeholders towards improved, evidence-based environmental policymaking. Verónica and Rubén joined Shalom Church, a Mexico City-based church led by Baptist pastors Javier Ulloa and Rebeca Montemayor, in 2003. In 2008, she and Rubén became teachers in the preschoolers Sunday school group and in 2010 the couple was invited to become advisors to the youth group. At the end of this year (2018) the Garibay-Bravo family is planning to start a Bible Study in Querétaro (where they live since 2012) sponsored by Shalom Church and guided by the pastoral staff. 


Gail Hill ('21)
Chico, CA USA

Rev. Gail Hill (she/her/hers; ella) is currently serving as pastor of Chico First Baptist Church in Chico, CA. She comes with a business background; being part of ABC life and has also attended several Peace Camps throughout the years. Gail is seeking Board membership because 2018 Election: Board of Directors she has a desire to become more involved with the work of peacemaking and social justice. Prior to becoming an ordained minister, Gail spent 20 years in the advertising and marketing industry. From there, she entered SMU Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX. During her time there, she was mentored by Dr. Isabel Docampo, who led her to Park Road Baptist Church for her internship in Charlotte, NC and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America in 2009. Since that time, Gail has enjoyed pastoring a church near Rochester, NY, attending Peace Camps, and marrying the love of her life, Tom Hill. Her current areas of interest include creating a new program with the Interfaith council in Chico regarding “Fear of the Other” and getting involved with immigration concerns on our borders with Mexico.


Anita Peebles ('21)
Seattle, WA USA

Rev. Anita Peebles (she/her/hers; ella) grew up in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, exploring the beautiful Great Lakes through camping and kayaking and attending First United Methodist Church of Eaton Rapids. Anita attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where she earned a B.A. in Religion and a B.A. in Environmental Studies. During her education there, she attended Peace Community Church in Oberlin (ABC-USA and Alliance of Baptists). Anita graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee with a Master of Divinity in 2018. In April 2018, Rev. Anita was ordained by Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, a congregation affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and pastored by Rev. Dr. Amy Mears and Rev. April Baker. Pastor Anita is humbled to be serving as Associate Pastor for Next Generation Ministries at Seattle First Baptist Church, where she works accompanying children, youth, young adults and families at SFBC along their faith journeys. 


Jason Smith ('22)
Arkadelphia, AR USA

Jason (he/him/his; él) serves as Congregational Engagement Specialist with the Alliance of Baptists, focusing on development and fundraising strategy. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Sutton School of Social Sciences with Ouachita Baptist University. He grew up as a missionary kid in Costa Rica, a place he called home until age 14, and continues to be involved in special projects collaborating with communities of faith in Latin America. He and his wife Myra live in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where Myra is Assistant Professor of History at Ouachita. They are currently in the process of adopting two children from Bogotá, Colombia and hope to be completed with the process by the fall 2019. And just for fun, they share their home with three lively dogs.


Jessica Torres Torres ('21)
Scottsdale, AZ USA

Rev. Jessica Torres Torres (she/her/hers; ella) is a pastor, currently serving in the area of hospitality at First Baptist Church of Scottsdale and gave workshops in Hispanic Baptist Church in Glendale, AZ. She grew up, and pastored several years in Puerto Rico. She also graduated from Evangelical Seminary in Puerto Rico. Her ministry interests are creation care and social justice. Jessica learned about BPFNA ~ Buatistas por la Paz through her professors while in seminary (Dr. Doris García, Dr. Guillermo Ramírez, Rvdo. Ricardo Mayol). She also participated in two BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz sponsored events; The Conference of the Network of Churches for Afro Indigenous, Latin American and Caribbean Peace; and an event at the Mayense Intercultural Seminary in 2014. In 2016, Jessica submitted a proposal for sponsorship to BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz for the First Encounter with Creation event, which was developed by the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. Jessica possesses varied gifts including organizational, teamwork, coordinating and writing skills.


Karen Turner ('22)
Toronto, ON Canada

Karen (she/her/hers) has a Baptist history but is currently an active member of the Church of the Redeemer, a wonderfully diverse and progressive Anglican parish in downtown Toronto. It was here where she and her partner, Heather Steeves, had a full church wedding in 2016, shortly after the Diocese of Toronto “got its act together” on same sex marriage. Karen has a MSW degree and worked as a social worker for many years in the health care sector in the suburbs of Toronto. Karen and her partner have been active members of BPFNA - Bautistas por la Paz for many years and faithfully attend Peace Camp. In January 2011, Karen joined the BPFNA Friendship Tour to Chiapas to celebrate her retirement. Since then, she has returned to Chiapas several times, and travelled in other parts of Mexico. She has been involved with some BPFNA-supported peace initiatives there and also took part in a Conflict Transformation training in 2011. Karen was on the BPFNA – Bautistas por la Paz Board of Directors from 2010-2016 and served in a variety of committee responsibilities. Karen’s previous experience on the Board was satisfying and challenging, not only because of the opportunity to be involved in overseeing the important work of BPFNA but also because of the deep and lasting relationships formed with committed people with whom she worked. She understands and supports the transition that BPFNA is currently undergoing and feels it is important to reconsider the role of Canada in the organization’s mandate. She sees BPFNA - Bautistas por la Paz as a prophetic organization of people enthusiastically joining the worldwide work of bringing in the Kingdom of God. 


Roxanna Wright ('22)
Philadelphia, PA USA

Roxanna Wright (she/her/hers) – mother, grandmother, retired educator, songwriter, social justice worker and Zumba dancer! A woman of color, Roxanna grew up in an African American community, attended a predominately white school system and was affected by discrimination and racism. Her heroes were her parents; civil rights activists who were strong advocates for education. Roxanna received her Bachelor’s Degree in music education from an HBCU, Central State University (Wilberforce, OH) and her Master’s Degree in education from Cabrini College (Rosemont, PA). She is an accomplished musician and has released a CD called Courage to Fly with the single Oops…Fake News, which she hopes is an inspiration to encourage human dignity, justice and human compassion. As a songwriter, she began composing while teaching vocal music and directing musical plays for over 30 years in the Philadelphia School System. Inspired mostly by her students and other young people she directed in youth church choirs and summer camps, her direction in life began to broaden. She traveled to Haiti and with God’s help, founded and directed Project Compassion: To enrich the lives of children, Inc. The organization was comprised with Haitians, Haitian Americans and African Americans who educated and financailly supported children living on the streets primarily in Jacmel and Demas, Haiti. It also financially aided a Haitian principal while educating over 300 children and supporting an orphanage in Mariani Carrefour from 1997 to 2010. In 2007, Roxanna retired from teaching full-time and became a substitute teacher in the private sector. In this role, she was able to realize that the issues affecting private school children were basically the same issues affecting children attending public schools. The only differences were systemic and economic. As a member of Central Baptist Church, Wayne, PA, Roxanna became a member of BPFNA - Bautistas por la Paz through working in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and meeting (then Program Coordinator) LeDayne McLeese Polaski. From there, she became involved in other interfaith social justice groups such as the New Sanctuary Movement (supporting undocumented immigrants) and POWER Metro (dedicated to economic and racial justice). 


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