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Developing Leaders for Ministry in the Rio Grande Valley

On May 8, 2024, Dr. Tony Celelli, president of Stark College and Seminary and I signed a five-year memo of understanding (MOU) to launch a collaborative effort to develop ministry leaders by providing educational, volunteer, missional, and vocational opportunities for students serving vulnerable children and families.


Stark will provide ministry courses that lead toward a certificate, diploma, B.A., M.A., and M.Div. degrees with a potential focus on nonprofit leadership and social work ministry. What makes this MOU exciting is that these programs in higher education are supported by an endowed scholarship that makes Stark tuition even more affordable for students in the Rio Grande Valley. Stark provides world-class theological education for ministry and is accredited with the Association of Biblical Higher Education. They are a trendsetter and leader in undergraduate and graduate theological education through affordable, flexible, and competency-based learning programs.


Buckner will provide Stark students with learning and service opportunities that augment their classroom experiences and volunteer and vocational opportunities when they graduate. This helps equip them to serve vulnerable children and families in the Rio Grande Valley.

The vision for the endowed scholarship was born in the hearts of generous donors who understood the need to move “up-stream” to develop ministry leaders through an educational experience that prepared them to serve vulnerable children and families. The MOU is a budget-neutral effort that achieves what neither Stark nor Buckner International could do alone. It is a win-win-win for Buckner, Stark, and vulnerable children and families in the Valley. Buckner staff have an excellent pathway to up-skill themselves and prepare for greater roles and responsibilities at Buckner. Potential students interested in serving vulnerable populations in their communities have an opportunity to obtain an affordable education that equips them with a biblical worldview and tools to help them serve others.


I strongly support the leadership of Dr. Tony Celelli and Stark College and Seminary. This collaboration will benefit vulnerable children and families, Buckner staff, and Stark students. Collaboratively, we can focus on the long road to protecting children, strengthening families, and transforming generations. Hope, truly shines here!


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