Triumph Through Adversity


Argemiro Antonio Díaz was 15 years old when he graduated from elementary school.

He is now a graduate of the Biblical Seminary of Colombia and a director of a Bible institute near his hometown.

This is part of his story.

Early Memories

ColombiaArgemiro was born in 1982 along with his twin brother Emiro near the tiny municipality of San Pedro de Urabá in the rural part of Northwest Colombia. He was one of five children. He came from a poor family of “campesinos” (peasant farmers) as he puts it. 

Argemiro recalls that every December, he and his siblings received one school uniform, which had to last an entire year.  Most days the family had two meals, but some days only one and in dire situations, they were forced to forage for yucca, bananas and roots in the mountains nearby.

Early Education

While Argemiro attended school as a child, it was very sketchy and academically deficient.  When it rained, his teachers would not come to school.

Frequently, he was taken out of school for long periods of time to help with the planting and harvesting of corn, cacao and rice.  Furthermore, he and his siblings missed most Fridays to help out with the house and crops.  His dad figured that since it was Physical Ed. day at school, the kids could exercise at home instead.

Argemiro started kindergarten when he was eight (8) and he didn’t finish 5th grade until he was 15.  After that, his father did not have enough money to send the kids to the junior high or high school in the nearby town.  At age eight (8), however, Argemiro accepted the Lord into his life when his mother, a Christian, took him to an evangelistic campaign.

At the age of 20, Argemiro began a junior high and high school accreditation program.  He attended classes on Saturday for three years while working at home and finally graduated with a high school diploma at the age of 23.   It was a fairly poor education, but one that allowed him entry into the next phase of his life.

Violence at the Doorstep

Argemiro was raised in a region that was deeply impacted by the armed conflict that swept through Colombia from 1964 to the present. 

This conflict pitted the Colombian government who sought civil stability and the protection of its citizens against left-wing guerrillas who claimed to be fighting for social justice and protecting the poor against government exploitation.  Right-wing paramilitary groups arose as a protective measure against the threats of the guerrillas. Both groups were accused of drug trafficking and terrorism.

Rural Colombians were caught in the crossfire and were subjected to horrific violence and mass displacement at the hands of both right and left wing paramilitary groups. 

Argemiro’s uncle was kidnapped and killed by the leftist guerrillas.  His aunt’s home, farm and belongings were destroyed. Both were said to have aided the opposition’s paramilitary members. 

There were many nights for a period of three years when Argemiro and his family took flight and slept in the mountains near their home because of the threats of violence to their home and persons.

It was estimated that 6 million Colombians were forced to flee their homes due to the violence. This gave rise to the second largest population of internally displaced persons in the world, trailing only Syria in this tragic category.

Building Toward a Future

When Argemiro was 20 years old, his mother committed suicide, which left the family devastated. Argemiro mourned for nearly three years.  Soon after, he left his rural existence to live in the nearby town of Valencia.

In 2005, at the age of 23, Argemiro began studying at the Bible institute that he now directs because he wanted a better future for himself. In those days, unless a farmer belonged to a co-op, he could easily be exploited on the price of his crops.  Besides, farming was a tough way of life.  One lived with the anxiety of the unpredictable weather, the hard toil and even injuries related to farming.

Argemiro knew there was no way to escape the poverty living day by day in his father’s profession.

Arge PhotoBy 2009 after completing his program at the Bible institute, Argemiro began to work as a lay pastor in a small rural church.  It was during this time that he met his future wife Karen and they began dating.  After a year, he was so taken that he started making plans to wed his girlfriend.

He surmised that he would work in Bogota for a spell, earn some money and then return to get married in 2012.

The Lord had other plans.

In 2011, his denomination offered him a scholarship to study in Medellín at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC).  Argemiro had studied under three graduates of the BSC during his time at the Bible institute so he was further inspired by their example. 

Though Argemiro and Karen struggled with the decision (they would have to live apart and postpone their marriage for four years), they both knew this would be an opportunity of a lifetime.

In 2011, Argemiro took the 10-hour bus trek to Medellín and began studying at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia.  Argemiro was 29. 

Life at the BSC

To say Argemiro was unprepared for advanced university studies would have been an understatement.

He was woefully deficient in so many areas.

His first year was one long constant struggle to understand the material and to turn in quality work.  There were many days where he felt like quitting and returning home.  As he puts it, “the shirt was just too big for me.” 

But he persisted. 

He sought help from his fellow students and professors and his military style discipline was hard to match.  Every school day for the first three years he was up at 6:00 am, attended classes until 12:30 pm, then studied from 2:00-6:00 pm and 8:00-10:00 pm, without fail.

The BSC was also prepared for a student like Argemiro.

Every year as part of its unspoken mission, it accepts students that would ordinarily not make the academic cut at other universities.  And then it surrounds them with attention and builds them up where they are deficient: grammar, writing, research and much more.  Part of its curriculum fills that gap.  In Argemiro’s case they also partnered him with a stronger student who could help him in some of his coursework.

The hard work paid off.

In 2014, Argemiro graduated with a degree in theology from the Biblical Seminary of Colombia.  He was at the top of his class.

Lessons Learned

Argemiro had only effusive things to say about his four years at the BSC. 

His academic pursuits were transformative to his mind and heart, world view and professional trajectory.  But it was the whole experience of living and studying at the Medellín campus that was life-changing, eye-opening and a cultural and religious tour-de-force. (That last one is my paraphrase! )

During his time at the SBC, Argemiro stepped down from his spiritual superiority platform as a proud Presbyterian.  His eyes were opened to new ways of thinking, doing church and being Christian.  He embraced his fellow classmates from differing denominations as brothers and sisters in the Lord. 

Argemiro developed a healthy theology of the Holy Spirit, a neglected component in his denomination that only associated the Spirit with holy rollers and speaking in tongues.

Argemiro also learned to appreciate new cultures as he lived and studied with students from the different regions of Colombia and professors and missionaries from other countries.

Through it all, Argemiro’s constant refrains were: Remember where you came from.  Remember from where the Lord has brought you.

Finally, it was during his time at the BSC that God fully prepared Argemiro and Karen for marriage. 

Karen had been through a terrible upbringing of ritual abuse and even of fathering a child through that experience.  She was deeply wounded.  Argermiro, try as he might, was not emotionally prepared to come along Karen with the grace needed to overlook this past. 

Argemiro emphatically claimed that their marriage would have been an utter disaster had the Lord not steered them apart for four years.

God did a tremendous job of healing them both and of redeeming Karen’s past while they lived in separate cities.  Their relationship and marriage became the stronger for it.

Ministering in Colombia

Soon after Argemiro graduated from the SBC he wed Karen who had patiently waited for him for four years.  (They certainly beat the odds for long-distance relationships and it is a testament to their strong characters in the Lord.)

Bible Institute

Bible Institute

Argermiro was installed as the director of the Bible Institute of Northwest Colombia (where he had previously studied) helping to develop leaders for the churches of his denomination in his region. 

Prior to that, however, the institute had opened its doors to train leaders from other denominations.

Currently there are 27 students at the Bible institute signed up for the three-year ministerial training program.  Class are held once a month for three days.

The content is rich and the curriculum is a variation of Argemiro’s coursework at the SBC: theology, church history, bible, education, counseling, homiletics and hermeneutics.

The Bible institute prefers high school graduates, but makes exceptions given the academic backgrounds of his students.  It is not uncommon to see 30 and 40 year olds with just an elementary school education.

The Bible institute has 8 professors in total made up of BSC graduates and local pastors. Argemiro teaches three courses per semester.

The institute receives about 15% of its operational budget from a mission in Holland and the rest from meager student tuitions.  Currently, it is running a substantial deficit, which makes the ongoing maintenance of their 70 year-old buildings problematic.

Argemiro also ministers as an associate pastor of his local church and as a director of a small foundation that does social work with vulnerable populations especially children.

Argemiro is developing plans for the long-term sustainability of these different projects, especially the Bible institute.  He would welcome short-term teams to visit the institute and region.


Argemiro continues to embody all that the SBC represents: passion for the Lord’s work, ministry preparedness, service, love for the Lord, his word and the communities he serves. 

His achievements have not come easy. They have prepared him to minister in the difficult regions where he now lives.

God has been faithful to him and has taken him from the life of a rural peasant farmer to one who will contribute to the development of many generations of leaders in Colombia.

It has been my pleasure to play a small part in his development.

To God be the glory!

– Gustavo Karakey is a professor of New Testament serving the Biblical Seminary of Colombia.

Note:  Argemiro Díaz can be reached at

Introducing Santiago Benavides

Graduate FocusIntroducing Santiago Benavides!

I am excited to introduce you to Santiago Benavides, a graduate of the BSC who is having a great impact for the gospel in Latin America (see my interview with Santiago here).

Santiago was born on November 8, 1977 in the city of Bogota, Colombia, though he grew up in the town of Limón in central Venezuela.

An important moment in Santiago’s journey of faith came at age 15 when he attended his first church service for his father’s baptism.  One particular testimony of a man released from alcohol touched him deeply.  As he stated, “once I came to church that day, I never left.”

Santiago always felt called to minister through music. He attended the Biblical Seminary of Colombia because he wanted to be biblically well grounded before he began to compose his songs.

He recounted that one of the seminary’s greatest gifts to him was the way it balanced academic rigor with passion for ministry.

Santiago is a singer, songwriter, producer and not the least a pastor who has toured extensively throughout Latin America, with a few stops as far away as Kuala Lumpur, Budapest and London to share the gospel with music.

He mixes Colombian folk with an acoustic flair and penetrating lyrics to present the gospel in an honest, biblical, down-to-earth and humorous way that really touches people where the are.

You can check out my interview with Santiago below.  His music is available through ITunes and on his own site:

Life Goes On (Even in Transition)

Life Goes On (Even in Transition)…

Though we are now back in Boston, my (Gustavo’s) work at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC) continues anew. Among other things…

1) I am starting a new semester teaching a virtual course on Hermeneutics and an intensive course called Overview of the New Testament.

I am excited to test a new webinar software (WebinarJam), which is typically utilized by Internet marketers, but makes a great resource for virtual professors to connect with their students through live trainings.

2) I am also helping on translating portions of a Greek language software which the BSC will utilize in their residential, virtual or Masters programs.

3) I am continuing on my doctoral thesis (the world-class libraries await) – I recently completed research on the use of the shepherd image in the Intertestamental literature (I wish that on no one! :)).

I am excited to begin this new stage of ministry to Colombia.

Do You Know The 7 Rules?


I am pleased to announce my new Udemy course entitled: 7 Rules of Bible Interpretation EVERY Christian Should Know!

Think of it as Ninja Bible Study techniques (come to think of it, that’s what I should have called the class. Bummer!)

Who Is It For?

 If you’ve ever wanted…

  1. To go much deeper in your personal Bible study
  2. To contribute more in your small group studies
  3. To better prepare as you lead Bible studies

…then this is the course for you.

Grab Your Discount

 Head on over to the course page for more details. For a limited time, 80% off the regular price:

Use the following link:

All proceeds help to fund the ministry of theological education in Latin America.

Same Ministry, Different City…


It was 1999 when I took my first seminary course. Church History I with Dr. Garth Rosell.

I was only 34 (yikes!), married with one child. Our son Emilio had been born the year before and Rochelle was pregnant with our second child, Caroline. I was also living in Boston and working as a manager of a technical support division for a niche software company.

Little did I know where that first class would take me and our family. Since then, we’ve had the adventure of living in Costa Rica, Paraguay and Colombia. I’ve also had the privilege of starting a PhD program.

Ministry Overseas

Teaching in Lima, Peru

Teaching in Lima, Peru

As a professor, I’ve taught rural pastors in Paraguay and prepared undergraduate students for ministry in Colombia. As a guest lecturer for Gordon Conwell’s Hispanic Ministries division, I’ve taught national leaders from every Spanish-speaking country from Mexico to Argentina.

In Paraguay, I was blessed to serve as a pastor for a small rural church, something I repeated for a church on our seminary campus here in Medellín. To this day, these remain highlights of my missionary career.

Teaching is My Passion

 I began with this rather long introduction as a way of saying that teaching and mentoring leaders is my contribution to the kingdom. I’m not a great evangelist and I’m a so-so pastor (although my parishioners loved me because I always kept my sermons to 20 minutes! J)

But teaching? That’s my life. That’s my vocation. It is what I do to help the church fulfill its mission to this world.

Bible Institute

Bible Institute

Recently, I ran into one of my former students Argemiro Diaz. He wasn’t the most academically prepared student when he came to the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC). But you talk about grabbing a bull by the horns. He was tops in his class by the time he graduated.

Argemiro is now a director of a Bible Institute in his hometown. He is now preparing leaders for his churches and his region. How awesome is that?

Ministry in Boston

In a week or so, our family will be returning to Boston. But my work as a professor at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia will continue. My full-time responsibilities from Boston will include:

  1. Teaching virtual courses for the BSC
  2. Teaching for Gordon Conwell’s Hispanic Ministries Division
  3. Visiting Medellín twice per year to teach intensive residential courses
  4. Supervising student theses for graduating seniors
  5. Translating an online software to teach Biblical Greek
  6. Developing courses for our upcoming Masters program
  7. Fastracking my PhD thesis now that I have access to libraries

Returning to Boston will not be the end of my cross-cultural or teaching career at the BSC. Furthermore, I will maintain my status as a full-time missionary with the United World Mission.

For these reasons, I am asking that you continue to support this work with your generous donations to UWM. There is much left to do. The job of preparing leaders, pastors and missionaries for the global church will continue, even from Boston.

As I stated earlier: same ministry, different city.

Serving with ESL


This week our kids volunteered for a special week of ESL hosted by our local church in conjunction with a short-term team from Southridge Fellowship Church in Langley, British Colombia.

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The Canadian group, which consisted of 15 youth and four adults, worked in a foundation serving handicapped children during the day.  In the evenings, from 7-9 pm, they taught English as part of the local church’s outreach to the community.


Emilio, Caroline and Natalie were each assigned their own table with a few members from the Canadian team and local Colombians.  All three taught ESL, acted as translators for the table, and genuinely enjoyed themselves.

You’re a Winner

The evenings began with a drawing for prizes (to encourage people to show up early) and incorporated lots of games and conversational activities, making each session seem much shorter than a typical classroom environment.


Our kids interacted with the local community and members of our church, met a wonderful team of Canadians with whom they quickly bonded, and greatly enjoyed serving other people in their acquisition of a new language.  To top it all, I think they might even have some innate teachings skills.


Indeed, Emilio was asked to teach in the weekly Wed-Fri English classes that the church offers.  I didn’t think his head could swell any bigger after getting accepted to Phillips Exeter Academy!  :)



Road to a Masters Program


It is hard to believe that in a few short months, the Biblical Seminary of Colombia will be in a position to offer one of the few evangelical, accredited masters programs in theology on the Latin American continent.

After years and years of dreaming, we are now in the final stages of having our program approved by the Ministry of Education of Colombia.  And what a program it promises to be.

Program highlights

We will begin by offering a Masters of Biblical Exegesis (with a hope of expanding into other emphases) in partnership with Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles.  The combination of Fuller’s world-class professors and significant on-line Bible and theology resources significantly increases the value of our program for our prospective students.

The program is mostly virtual by design in order to allow anyone on the Spanish-speaking continent to study without leaving their home.  In addition, there will be a core set of two-week intensive courses that will be taught in Medellín.  This is wonderful news for Gustavo as he can be an integral part of the masters faculty even from a distance.

Road to a PhD

The program has been specifically designed for anyone wishing to pursue advanced theological studies in an evangelical context.  Also, because the program’s focus is on languages and advanced exegesis, it is ideally suited to prepare students for eventual PhD studies (the next stage of our dreams here at the BSC).

Latin America desperately needs its own theologians, scholars, writers, professors and leaders who can provide direction and resources for the church and who can engage the broader culture with the gospel in a constructive and prophetic way.  The masters program is another step in preparing this new generation of leaders.

We ask for your prayers as we make our way through the arduous accreditation process.

Virtual, Moving, Anticipation

Going Virtual

Gustavo is teaching a virtual course this semester (the Book of Acts).  Since the virtual program’s inception last year, student enrollment has nearly doubled at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC).  While teaching virtually has its challenges, the on-line platform is extremely flexible allowing Gustavo to engage with his students through articles, forums, chats and video lectures.  Indeed, he is able to deliver the same quality content that residential students receive but with the added bonus of being within a Web 2.0 environment.

In a remarkable tale of the program’s reach, last year one of our residential students (Joel) met and married another student of Colombian / Swedish decent.  They both moved back to Sweden and Joel had to drop out of the undergraduate theology program.  Well, imagine my surprise to find out that Joel returned to his studies through our virtual program.  It has been a real pleasure to reconnect with Joel, to study the Book of Acts together and to read about how he is contextualizing its lessons within his own European church context.

Going Virtual 2.0

Upon our return to Boston, Gustavo will continue as a professor at the BSC teaching in the seminary’s three virtual programs, supervising student theses (via Skype) and making periodic trips to Medellín to teach intensive and extension courses.  While Gustavo will miss the day-to-day interaction with students, the administration and other professors, there will be no shortage of opportunities to contribute to the seminary’s growth and quality of programs as well as the development of pastors, leaders and missionaries for the Latin American church.

Moving On Up (and Out)

Our plans for a Boston relocation are proceeding smoothly.  We have already pre-sold most of our belongings (only the car, the piano and some china are left).  We will be arriving on June 8th, 2015 with a ton of suitcases where we will need to purchase furniture, a car and setup our home.


In the madness of returning to Boston, there are still two big outstanding family issues:

1) On March 10th, we will be officially notified about our children’s school acceptances.  Our girls are hoping to attend Boston Trinity Academy in Hyde Park while Emilio is hoping to attend one of the many excellent boarding schools in the New England area.  Please pray that the admission officers show favor on our children and on our family.

2) Please pray for Rochelle as she starts thinking about reentering the job market and as she explores possibilities.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding our move and Gustavo’s continued full-time commitment to the Biblical Seminary of Colombia via United World Mission.

To start contributing towards our work in Colombia, please visit our partnership page.

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Important Decision

Dear Friends:

We wanted to share some important news with you!

As you know, last November we began seeking a more traditional educational solution for our girls after many years of home-schooling.  Emilio is looking at New England boarding schools for 2015 and does not factor into the equation.  We also realized at the time that we would likely have to relocate since no school in Medellín would validate our girls’ home-school education.

In December, we began earnestly considering a relocation to Bogotá where our girls could enter El Camino Academy’s program and where Gustavo would be a short flight away from the Biblical Seminary of Colombia’s (BSC) Medellín campus.

However, as we prayed and consulted with our church, missions agency and ministry partner over a difficult three-month period, it became clear that our hearts were being pulled in another direction. The girls had increasingly expressed a desire to return to Boston to do life, school and church with their friends.  Our family was experiencing cultural fatigue from having lived overseas for 9+ years.  Rochelle was also eager to return to the place we had called home for two decades and where she could communicate in her native tongue and hopefully reenter the work force.  Finally, we realized that Gustavo could perform his work from virtually any place in the world.

It is for these reasons and many others, that we have made the difficult decision to return to Boston in the summer of 2015.  Our girls will hopefully be attending Boston Trinity Academy in the fall and we hope that Emilio will be entering a boarding school somewhere in New England.  Rochelle will be seeking employment in the Boston area.

As for Gustavo, he will continue as a full-time supported missionary of the United World Mission and as a full-time, off-site professor at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia.  Gustavo will deliver virtual courses for BSC’s undergraduate program and make periodic trips to Medellín to deliver intensive residential courses.  We should mention that several U.S. professors currently have this arrangement with the BSC.

In addition, Gustavo will continue to deliver masters level courses for Gordon Conwell’s Hispanic Ministries division in different Latin American countries.  Finally, upon the completion of his PhD, Gustavo will also be eligible to deliver virtual courses for BSC’s masters program to begin in February, 2016.

We are excited for this next phase of our family and ministerial life and for the joy of being able to return to Boston.  While we will greatly miss living overseas, we are thankful for everything the Lord has taught us with our experience over the years of ministering in Latin America.  In addition, we are heartened by the fact that Gustavo can continue to pursue the important ministry of leadership development and theological education from our home base in Boston.

We covet your prayers during this important transition.  Feel free to write, text or call if you have questions or need more information.

We miss you all and hope to see many of you soon.


Gustavo, Rochelle, Emilio, Caroline and Natalie Karakey

Feliz Navidad 2014

Karakey Kids Christmas Video

Emilio, Caroline and Natalie began instrument lessons about 18 months ago.  Listen to the fruit of their labor.  Emilio arranged the music for the flute and clarinet based off a four-part saxophone music for “Carol of the Bells”.

Sus Amigos en Cristo,

Gustavo, Rochelle, Emilio, Caroline and Natalie Karakey