Two Elgin Methodist Churches Welcome New Pastors
Two Elgin congregations recently welcomed new pastors who hail from far and wide. First United Methodist Church welcomed the Rev. Robert Sathuri from Hyderabad, India, while Wesley United Methodist welcomed the Rev. Roger Zavala from Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua.
Most interesting resume points: During college, Sathuri was a passionate cricket player and did play-by-play announcing for cricket and basketball broadcasts. Zavala was a seminary president for the American Baptist denomination.
Sathuri grew up in India as a second-generation Christian. The family attended a Methodist church, but there came a time in high school when Sathuri purposefully committed himself to Jesus at a Youth for Christ meeting.
He earned a degree in commerce and banking and two master's degrees in philosophy, then entered a doctoral program in comparative religion. Not knowing if or when they would return home again, Sathuri and his wife, Teresa, came to Illinois in 1994 so he could attend Evanston's Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
"I had a deep desire to serve the church, whether here in the U.S. or back in India," Sathuri said. "I was open to however God's spirit would lead."
Elgin is his third ministerial appointment in 12 years, and he hopes to have a long stay. His focus is on encouraging his congregation to be "agents of transformation" in the community.
"I've been asking every baptized Christian to claim ownership that we are the representation of God's love here on the face of the earth," he said.
First United Methodist also has welcomed a new assistant pastor, the Rev. Fabiola Grandon-Mayer, who was born in Chile.
At Wesley, where Zavala says "only a few" members are Hispanic, the new pastor finds himself challenged by his first full-time Anglo ministry
especially by giving a sermon in his second language.
But the congregation, set in an area that's more than 50 percent Hispanic, is intentionally trying to reach out to its neighbors.
"Probably this is one of the reasons why I was invited to come," Zavala said.
After graduating from seminary in Managua, Zavala pastored a few Latin American congregations before returning to his alma mater as president for 10 years. He came to Lombard to get his doctorate, then found he couldn't go home.
"After some years, it became difficult for me to go back to my country," Zavala said. "The spaces for work were very limited."
With a family to support, he found the United Methodists offered more opportunities for Hispanic ministry than the American Baptists did. Zavala helped with a UM outreach in Des Plaines and, after making the denominational move official, shepherded two other congregations before he and his wife, Flor, came to Elgin.
"(Pastoring an Anglo congregation is) a very good opportunity for me to be immersed in the American culture," Zavala said. "If I am going to live in this country, it is important to be involved speaking English and knowing the families. …