What do coffee, ministry and a nonprofit management degree online have in common? More than you may think! One student graduating with her master’s in nonprofit management through Grace College Online is already taking her degree across the globe as she serves in a wide range of capacities in Guatemala.
Can you imagine growing up in another country? For Melanie Contreras, this was the reality as a pastor’s kid in Guatemala. At the age of ten years old, she began learning to speak fluent Spanish and fell in love with the ministry, culture and people in Guatemala. As she grew in her own personal walk with the Lord, she knew that ministry was in her future.
“I could envision no other future apart from dedicating my time to full-time ministry,” she said. And full-time ministry is exactly what she set out to do.
Contreras finished her bachelor’s in biblical studies at Moody Bible Institute and began preparing for ministry. Before returning to school to get her nonprofit management degree online, she spent a full year in preparation mode before the door finally opened up for her to serve in Guatemala with a ministry called Kids Alive International. Her role was to establish an independence program for girls aging out of the orphanage and stepping into life on their own in Guatemala. She loved this role and served for nearly three years. After that, she spent the following ten years as the director of International Missions for her local church in Antigua, Guatemala.
“It was a tremendous experience to be a part of growing that program from three to five international teams a year. There were roughly one hundred volunteers to over fifty teams annually,” Contreras reflected.
During this season, she married her husband Alex, a native Guatemalan, and they began serving together. The couple had actually met back in 2003 before attending Moody, but did not get married until 2011.
Contreras and her husband have three amazing children, Alessa (9), Olivia (7) and Jonah (3). They enjoy this incredible opportunity to grow and serve together. One of their favorite experiences has been getting to start a nonprofit organization in the form of a coffee shop. La Vid Coffee Roasters opened its doors in 2018, and while the coffee shop and roastery is registered as a business in Guatemala, all profits pour back into ministry. This unforeseen passion for nonprofit ministry planted a seed for Contreras’ to consider pursuing a nonprofit management degree online.
Contreras is pursuing her nonprofit management degree online through Grace College’s online program. She is excited to graduate in August of this year (just two more courses to go!) and is even more excited for how it will continue to support her ministry endeavors.
Of course, the life of ministry is not without its battles. Because of the pandemic, the status quo was disrupted. However, God is the most active in the times His children feel least in control.
“The last two years have kept our minds and hearts in awe as we have seen God at work,” says Contreras. “It was during this season that we got to start another nonprofit organization called Tree Ministries. We moved and expanded our coffee shop, received our first additional full-time missionary, purchased and renovated a ten room/12 bath ministry house thanks to our gracious donors, and started an English-speaking mid-week service.”
How amazing is it that God is active in the time of most need? In the midst of Contreras’ busy life in Guatemala, she has had the opportunity to continue her education in order to support her many growing ministries — all online! Contreras is excited to graduate this year with her nonprofit management degree online which has given her more tools to expand her ministry as she takes all the steps needed to start a nonprofit organization.
“We are so grateful for what the last 14+ years of ministry in Guatemala have brought,” shares Contreras. “But we are even more excited about what the next chapter holds!”