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BPFNA Board Member Bios

Fela Barrueto  Rick Harris  Anita Peebles  Mayra Picos-Lee Michelle Schellinger Gutierrez  Asaf Vera Baltodano • Michael Ware

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. 

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) 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.


Board Members

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.  


Anita Peebles ('18)
Nashville, TN USA

Anita Peebles (she/her/hers) is an MDiv student at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN. A native of the Great Lakes bioregion, Anita is interested in ecotheology and environmental justice, children's spiritual formation, and religious social justice education. She hopes to begin a dual degree while at Vanderbilt with the Peabody School of Education. She is a 2014 graduate of Oberlin College with BAs in Religion and Environmental Studies. Anita has been part of two BPFNA partner congregations, Peace Community Church in Oberlin, OH and Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. 


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