Sometimes, when you’re looking to help someone, you find something for yourself. That’s how Maxwell Urbina ended up a Perkins student.
“Initially, I looked into SMU for my brother, who was interested in a career in engineering at the time,” he said. “And I realized that God was guiding me to Perkins.”
In researching SMU, Urbina discovered that Perkins offered the M.Div. degree. A member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, he’d been planning to pursue that degree at Andrews University’s Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Michigan. But that would have meant spending years away from his family. His wife, Avelina Diaz de Urbina, is a physician and needed to stay in Dallas to work on obtaining her medical license in the U.S.
Thankfully, Perkins proved a good fit, and Urbina is on track to graduate in 2020. He has jumped wholeheartedly into campus life. He represents Perkins in the SMU Student Senate, serving on the Senate Scholarship Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, and is a member of the Perkins Student Development Committee.
Urbina also serves as Residential Community Chaplain (RCC) for the residential Commons that includes Mary Hay, Peyton, and Shuttles Halls, a responsibility he takes to heart. After learning about the practice of walking prayer in Ruben Habito’s spiritual formation class, Urbina began visiting every floor of each building in the commons every day, conducting a daily one-man walking prayer vigil.
“I’m walking the hall slowly and having a word of prayer for each student as I pass each student’s doorway,” he said.
Urbina hasn’t met any other Seventh-Day Adventist students on campus – but sees that as a source of blessing.
“Most of my Perkins classmates do not belong to the United Methodist Church,” he said. “They’re Pentecostal, Episcopal, Lutheran, Church of God, Catholic – and I learn from all these traditions. I think God sent me to this university to open my mind and my eyes and my theology. Not to change my doctrines or my beliefs, but to understand more when I meet someone who’s not in my faith … to understand that we are still children of God, all worshipping the same God, but from different perspectives.”
Urbina, who is originally from Nicaragua, comes from a family of politicians. He is the great-grandson of Joaquín Zavala Solís, President of Nicaragua in the late 19th century, and several of his family members were close associates of Anastasio “Tachito” Somoza DeBayle, who served two terms as President of Nicaragua in the 1960s and 1970s. But since he was a young boy, he has felt the call to ministry. He has already chalked up 18 years of experience as a pastor, having served Seventh-Day Adventist churches in Puerto Rico, California and Texas. For his next chapter, he’d like to pursue the chaplaincy full-time. He’s currently serving as a chaplain at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
“I know God called me to this ministry as a pastor,” he said. “Now, I believe He can use me to help people in the last moment of their lives.”
In the educational journey that eventually brought him to Perkins, he says, he has often had to step out in faith. When he first began pursuing an undergraduate degree at Washington Adventist University in Maryland, he was undocumented, lacking the proper paperwork to matriculate as well as the money to pay the deposit on his tuition and expenses. Somehow, he says, God provided.
Even his own birth, Urbina believes, was a miracle. His mother was in Managua, just three weeks pregnant, in December 1972 when a devastating earthquake struck, killing thousands and leaving 300,000 homeless. She was injured by a falling piece of heavy furniture and began to bleed; the family believed she was miscarrying. Maxwell believes it was prayer that healed her and saved the pregnancy.
Experiences like these lead Urbina to claim Joshua 1:9 as his favorite Bible verse: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
“When I read Joshua 1:9, it’s like it was written it for me,” he said. “Every day it reminds me that I have to be strong. Because God is always there for me.