Former Guatemalan ambassador brings valuable experience to the classroom

Manuel Espina speaks to the Theology of Missions class. (Photo by Kierston Smith)
September 30, 2020

By Bob Holmes

Manuel Espina has served as an ambassador — in more ways than one.

For over two years Espina served as Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States. Today, he still represents his country as a leadership consultant in Washington, D.C. But he is also an ambassador of Someone greater than a country’s president.

“I was telling the students today that we are ambassadors of God,” Espina said after speaking to a CIU missions class. “We should make it that every meeting we go to, every person that we meet, we represent Jesus of Nazareth. That is a great responsibility, but as well, it is a great joy.”

Espina is CIU’s international scholar in residence, passing along words of wisdom and knowledge from his experiences of rubbing shoulder with world leaders. He made his first trip to CIU in September, and plans on visiting about once each month.

“Ambassador Espina spoke to my theology of mission students,” said the dean of CIU Intercultural Studies, Dr. Ed Smither. “It was good for them to see a concrete example of a businessman and diplomat living out the gospel in the public square through his God-honoring work as a diplomat, but also his witness to other world leaders.”

So far, a common question Espina has fielded from students is how a believer tows the line between representing an earthly government and a Heavenly Kingdom.

“You have to have the same integrity in your home, in your work and in your society,” Espina notes, adding that requires accountability. He has been meeting with an accountability group for more than 13 years.

“We are very disciplined in coming together every week to have accountability talks,” Espina said. “We talk through the deepest secrets that we have and the deepest joys we have.” 

He also adds a warning.

“Every leader without an accountability team will sooner or later fail.” Espina said. “We have to have accountability to one another.”

Espina is also the founder and former president of the nonprofit Guatemala Prospera offering life principles to Guatemalan leadership that are rooted in the Bible.

“We want to transform our nation through the principles of Christ, basically bringing a moral intelligence to the society,” Espina said. “We have good leaders in Guatemala, but we’re missing principles and values sometimes. We have trained over one million people in Guatemala for free.”  

Espina says the United States and Guatemala share many conservative principles and values. Professor Smither noted that his students saw in Espina, a diplomat who possesses a high level of cultural intelligence.

“In his work, he has learned how to navigate other cultures but also helped the U.S. government to gain an accurate read on matters facing Central America such as economics and immigration,” Smither said.

After speaking to a number of CIU classes, Espina has been so impressed with the school that he hopes his two children, ages 12 and 10, will enroll at CIU when the time comes.

“I not only feel a part of this university, I love this university — the spirit and the culture. My kids are going to come here.”

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