Last updated: March 26, 2024

Today is the Day

In the throes of teaching full time, taking Asbury Seminary hybrid courses in Orlando, and raising her two teenage daughters by herself, Yamilka Sena began a house church. 

“I feel the call, the tug, that the time to get into ministry is now,” says Yamilka. “The Lord said, ‘Today is the day. Let’s go.’”

Long before her sense of calling became clear, Yamilka wasn’t focused on what to do; rather, she was “just being, with the emotion of being in love with Jesus,” Yamilka says. “I was just relishing, lost with abandon, with the purity of His love.”

Yamilka then entered a period of intense hunger in her spiritual life, which was accompanied by “a thousand questions” about texts in the Bible. It was a Tuesday night Bible study with her pastor – what John Wesley would call a “class meeting” – that helped Yamilka make connections in the Bible. “It was just a miraculous experience of how it opened this thirst for knowledge, for more of God.” The more Yamilka walked with God and engaged with people, the more she was shown that she was more than a teacher and a counselor – she was someone who preached the Word and helped lead others to Christ. “Whenever I preach, there’s a response to the gospel from the people that I can see,” she says. Through these experiences, and through the confirmation of others, God showed Yamilka that His will for her is pastoral work. 

A Thriving Career

When Yamilka received her call to full time ministry, she was seven and a half years into her thriving career as an Assistant Principal. “I deeply loved and cared for this role because it allowed me to have an impact and shape people,” she says. She impacted student achievement and engaged in community outreach. The decision to leave her role was very difficult; she calls it “an ‘Abraham giving up my son’ moment.”

Giving up her work felt like giving up her identity. Yet the Lord spoke to her through her study of Abraham’s sacrifice. “Abraham gave up Isaac just so God would give him right back,” Yamilka says. She realized that this story was meant to be about placing the Lord above all things. Now she feels that the Lord has given everything back to her. She now gets to work with even more people, including children and adults, through her home church. Yamilka finds that “there’s no bigger fulfillment than to live knowing that we have answered the Lord, that we are walking in His will, and that others will come to delight themselves in Him because of our response in obedience.”

When Yamilka left her career, she went back to teaching, a less demanding job that allowed her to focus on her Seminary courses while preparing to become a pastor. Yamilka did not feel ready to pastor, but the Lord spoke to her deeply that it is in her weakness that He is strong.

Yamilka learns so much from her classmates at Asbury Seminary as she works toward her Bilingual Master of Arts in Ministry. She loves connecting with like-minded pastors and church leaders who, like her, left or switched careers for the sake of ministry. Some of her classmates, in fact, became her friends and then her spiritual family. What began with conversations during classroom coffee breaks led to the forming of Wesley bands and prayer meetings.

Above all, Seminary has helped Yamilka satisfy her thirst for living water, as reflected in her favorite Bible verse, Psalm 42:1 “…As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”

The Union of Charismatic Orthodox Churches

Yamilka grew up Roman Catholic and later found herself in the United Methodist Church, where she learned about Wesleyan Bands and seeking holiness in daily living. When beginning her house church, she affiliated with a denomination that integrates her love of tradition, her evangelical experiences and her daily sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This denomination is the Union of Charismatic Orthodox Churches (UCOC). She was inspired to reach out to the UCOC Archbishop, Dr. Emilio Alvarez, after reading his book “Pentecostal Orthodoxy: Toward an Ecumenism of the Spirit”. Yamilka was drawn to the three streams of Orthodoxy, Evangelical, and Pentecostal, as discussed in his book. “To be able to lead a church with this trinity (lowercase ‘t’) feels like the best expression of experiencing the Trinity (capital ‘T’).

The Saturday services in her home begin with 30 minutes of fellowship. People Yamilka knows have been coming to her home church because of “the power of relationship,” she says. “But then the gospel is making them stay.”

After a time of fellowship, they engage in dialogue based on the Scripture. “They like the opportunity of having authentic conversations. People want to not only hear a sermon but have intimate connections and opportunities to express themselves as they discover how to live out the Gospel. Like the first church gathered, worshiped, prayed, and edified one-another, we seek to live out our Christian tradition,” says Yamilka. The liturgy incorporates worship, Prayers of the People, an affirmation of faith, a sermon, communion and a benediction.

Multiplying House Churches

If the Lord wills, Yamilka hopes her church will follow the model of multiplying house churches, because her experience of the work of Jesus in her life happened through a small group setting. “After we connect vertically with God, we want to connect with community. “And so right now my heart is set on home churches that remain small so that people can experience the Gospel in a personal way.”

Yamilka surrenders her pastoral work to God every morning, afternoon and evening. “You know what’s the best part? Not knowing what it will look like, because that is what will make it truly God’s. We humans – we plan and plan and plan. But it’s the season to be spontaneous and allow the spontaneous Holy Spirit to lead.”

Because of the difficulty she experienced leaving her Assistant Principal role, Yamilka wants to encourage anyone struggling as she did. “He calls us into the strangest places, at the time we probably think we need it the least. And when He calls, He will continue to call, and it’ll get louder until we answer.”

As for leaving a familiar role and entering new territory, Yamilka can speak to that too. “The Lord can use everything that we are – our skills, our gifts – and we can bring that into a new setting to present Him. We are the temple; we carry Him where we go.” Yamilka believes it is the power of relationship that allows us to share the gospel. According to her, we are most of the time speaking the gospel in a wordless manner, through companionship and just being.

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