IG friends, It’s been a while and so, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my story, in order to give you another window into my life. I am grateful you visit the site often and regret taking such a long break after my father’s passing, but I needed the time to mourn and figure some personal things out…happy reading!
My name is Elba N. Schlottmann, but most people call me Beba. Elba is my mother’s name as well. Beba is a nickname, which means baby, but it also means drink. I’m not sure which one was intended, but either way, it stuck, and now everyone calls me Beba. I was born in Manati, Puerto Rico, were I also spent most of my early formative years, climbing on trees, playing around the pineapple fields, and eating mangos I picked and peeled right of the ground on my way to school. I seldom had a clean uniform by the time class began, and I often had band-aids on my legs and knees from “playing rough”.
I grew up in a devout Catholic home. My family also dabbled into a sect called Santeria (worship of the saints) for a while. For a time, I was very confused about what I was supposed to believe religiously, yet somehow; I developed this strange desire to know God personally.
During this time in my life, God had already developed a plan to reach my family. One of our neighbors had two college students. They were devout Christians, although each belonged to a different denomination. They would often ask my parents if they could take us to church with them, and thankfully my parents never said no. My sisters and I enjoyed going to VBS and Sunday school each week, and my parents had to listen to the bible stories we were learning about, because we were too excited not to share.
When I think of that time, I realize I had a lot of religious influence in my life. My mind was bombarded with bible stories and
teachings about Jesus on a weekly basis. I asked a lot of questions, and I read the bible religiously. I just couldn’t get enough of it. I spent many days just reading the bible in my room and talking to God, a God I didn’t know but was falling in love with.
By this time my parents’ marriage was in turmoil and visits to the Catholic Church for mass had become less and less frequent. My father was drinking more than usual and both of my parents were spending less time with each other or at home. As things began to unravel in our home, my mother finally gave her heart to the Lord, and began attending the Pentecostal church with us. We continued to try to get our dad to come to church with us, but he wouldn’t have it. My father was against going to the Pentecostal church because he thought they were crazy people with strange practices. It’s ironic though, given the fact that many times when we got sick, my parents would take us to a witch doctor…I guess Pentecostals were weirder than Santeros!
My dad had back problems from an accident he had while on patrol (he was a police officer). Because of his injury, he had been given a desk job. He would work at the desk until the back pain became unbearable, and then he would go home. Something interesting happened to him several times on his drive home; he had to drive right by the church property on his way home. He said that he would park across from the work-site and watch the church members work. He would feel such a pull in his heart to go help, but would fight it, until he would finally give in and go help. He told me that every time he walked through the threshold of the property, his back would instantly stop hurting, and as soon as he walked out, the pain would return.
One day, my father decided he would test God. He told Him, “I am going to read the entire bible. If what these Pentecostals are saying is true, and if you are truly God, I will give my entire life to you forever, but you will have to reveal it to me only through the
bible.” He didn’t want to be preached at, or go to church to be converted. For about a month, my dad would come home from work and go to his room to read the bible. Whenever he have questions about something he didn’t understand, he would call our missionary neighbor, and she would come to the house and explain it.
About a month passed, and once he finished reading the entire bible, he knelt down beside his bed and gave his heart to the Lord. He knew he needed to make it public, and so the following Sunday morning, my father finally decided to go to church with us. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live! My father didn’t own a bible, in fact he had borrowed the one he had been reading, and so he grabbed the large catholic bible (the one with pictures) on the coffee table that was used for decoration. That book was large and heavy, and my father looked funny carrying this bible. I can’t remember if my mother made him leave it right before walking out of the house or if she let him take it to church.
One of my favorite memories of my childhood in Puerto Rico was watching all the families walk together to church on Sunday mornings, whether it was to attend the morning’s mass or to any other church service in the neighborhood, every Sunday morning at the sound of the bells, families walked together to church. Is hard to find the words to express what it felt like to walk with the whole family together to church, as I had dreamed and prayed for so long. On that Sunday, my father publicly accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior. The entire congregation exploded in shouts of praise and gratitude for a long overdue-answer to prayer. What a momentous occasion! Without a doubt, this was a very significant day for us.
As I mentioned before, I have been curious about Jesus for some time, and as a result of the events that led to my father’s conversion; I developed a greater love for the scriptures. I think part of my fascination with the scriptures came from the stories in the Old Testament, and from watching my father spend so much time studying the scriptures. This experience has become all the more special to me, with the recent passing of my father due to sickness. I would often call my dad for advice or to talk about new things I had discovered from the word. My father did not have much patience for silliness or for ignorant choices my sisters and I made, but he never turned away a good bible discussion, and if I needed to share a spiritual struggle, he was always willing to listen and had great wisdom to offer. I miss that.
I’ve experienced ups and downs in life as we all do, but God has strategically placed amazing mentors along the way, who have poured into my life and have helped nourish my love of the scriptures. I have experienced both, Godly and wise counsel as well as misguided and ungodly counsel. Nevertheless, many things about my upbringing were blessings in disguise. God had a hand in my life before I could even learn to say his name, and my father was probably the most influential person in my spiritual formation. After his passing, he had left each of my sisters something special. He left me his bible and a lifetime of beautiful memories.
I went to West Coast Christian College to pursue my education in Music and Psychology. West Coast Christian College had that perfect family atmosphere I needed and a Spanish division, which worked in my favor since I was still learning to speak English. Mastering a second language proved to be easier than navigating the cultural challenges. However, I felt confident as my friends were patient and very helpful. The instructors were wonderfully helpful as well, and I found myself in an atmosphere pleasant enough to make me want to stay beyond the first two years. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree there and then moved on to marriage.
I met my husband at a youth camp while recruiting for WCCC. We became good friends, and after completing our studies we were married. While we were engaged, we attended a local church in Fresno, California and the pastor at the time, Rev. Roger Daniel gave us our first ministry assignment as youth leaders. We never thought about doing youth work before. I supposed, I always thought I’d end up involved in ministry somehow since it was in my DNA. But we started teaching the teens’ Sunday school class, and that evolved into a part-time youth leadership role. Since then, we have worked in the capacity of Youth Pastors, Music ministers, and even school and church administrators until recently, when we decided to launch our own organization; Abante International.
My husband, Brian Schlottmann and I have two wonderful sons, Matthew (20) and Julian (18). They are our pride and joy, and they are both very capable in ministry, and talented in other areas as well. Matthew hopes to become a youth counselor, and Julian wishes to become a character design expert. Is hard to believe that there was a time I held them in my arms. Lately I have to look up when I talk with them. I thank God daily that my father’s love for the word has been passed down to me and to my immediate family. I see traces of his influence in myself and now in my sons.
Currently, our family is based out of Atlanta, Georgia. However, because of our organization, we spend most of the year traveling abroad. The mission of Abante International is to prepare world changers to learn, live and lead within the context of a global community. We do this by taking students on a nine-month journey around the world, where they engage cultures, follow a strategic educational plan, and receive extensive hands on discipleship and leadership training. It is still a young non-profit organization and we have had to make many sacrifices, but I love what we do and wouldn’t give it up, unless God led us to stop.
Through the years, I have learned that ministry is not only for the four walls of the church. The great commission is fulfilled whether I am working at a local church in America, or at a village in Romania. God has shown himself in different shapes and forms, and in several colors and languages. For us, the marketplace is an area where we see much need of Godly presence. At the very core, we want to influence culture and shift it towards God. Why should the enemy rule over our government? Why let the enemy rule over the Arts and Entertainment industry? Why don’t we have more Christian influence in the Sciences? These are the questions we asked ourselves, as we began to put a plan together for what we wanted Abante International to look like.
Therefore, I am currently pursuing my Master’s Degree in Ministry Leadership in the hopes that I can learn more about how to better serve the body of Christ, wherever that may be. My goal is to use what I learn to help lead Abante International’ colleagues through discipleship and leadership training, as well as to provide support to other organizations locally or abroad. It is also a goal of mine to use my writing skills to provide a positive view of Christianity in today’s society.