A “PK,” or “preacher’s kid,” is a young person whose parent is a pastor. Elisa Perez-Trejo, 19, is a double PK. Both her parents are Lutheran clergy and seminary professors.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Perez-Trejo is a member of Iglesia Luterana Mexicana de Cristo, where she is a prominent leader in the youth organization. As such, she was selected as one of six young women from four countries to receive full scholarships to study at ELCA colleges. The ELCA’s International Women Leaders initiative is supporting Perez-Trejo’s study at Newberry College, Newberry, S.C.

The International Women Leaders initiative is a partnership between ELCA Global Mission, global companion church bodies and colleges and universities of the ELCA. Funded through Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, this initiative represents an investment in the education of young women and recognition that women play an important role in the life and ministry of the global Lutheran church. The initiative brings emerging women leaders from around the world to complete four-year degrees at ELCA colleges and equips them to return home to take on even greater leadership in their churches and communities.

In her congregation, Perez-Trejo was active on the youth board, serving as a worship leader and advocate for migration, gender and environmental justice.

“Elisa is a gentle soul who is passionate about social responsibility and justice in her home context,” said Kaleb Sutherland, coordinator for the ELCA’s International Leaders program.

These days Perez-Trejo is involved in Lutheran campus ministry at Newberry. “I like the pastor and the people,” she said. “They help make my days comfortable. The group is very nice.”

Besides the language challenge, the biggest challenge for Perez-Trejo has been small-town living. Mexico City has some 8.8 million residents; Newberry has just 37,521.

“Newberry is a very small town,” she said. “It has good teachers and people, but the town is really small. There are no taxis or buses. You have to have a car to get around.”

One highlight of the year will be Perez-Trejo’s first trip to New York City this month to attend the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women as part of the Lutheran World Federation delegation. This conference will bring leaders from around the world to advocate for issues that concern women.

Since 1988, more than 900 leaders have completed academic degrees and other study programs with scholarship assistance from the ELCA. They have returned home to serve as bishops, seminary teachers, pastors, doctors and more. One-third of them are women.

“The International Women Leaders initiative is a bold and timely investment in one of the most crucial priorities in church and society today: gender justice and equity in access to education,” said Tammy Jackson, director for the International Leaders program. “The ELCA believes the time has come for a strategic emphasis on the contribution of women in the life of the church and society. We are confident that this initiative will produce leaders in education, theology, politics, advocacy, community organizing, technology, climate justice, church administration and much more.”

Perez-Trejo’s plans after graduation?

“I will return to my country and work for one of the many good organizations that help our people,” she said. “Mexico is a wonderful place, but it has a lot of problems. We hope that things will be better in the future. My church wants to build peace.”

No doubt her pastor parents will be very pleased.

Laurel Hensel
Hensel, a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, Ill., is director of communications for Presence Health Foundation in Chicago.

Read more about: