As the angels worshiped the birth of our Savior with singing, we also can worship Him in sweeping music or in the sweeping of floors.
It’s their day to preach in class. The small room buzzes with activity as several nervous seminary students look over their notes one last time. The tall, lanky professor calms their anxious spirits with a laugh and a reassuring reminder that they’ll get through it. He says in his soft Latino accent, “Remember, if you lose your place, always go back to Scripture.”
Starting Out in Guatemala
Born and raised in Guatemala, Oscar López Marroquin (ThM, 1975; ThD, 1993) trusted Christ at the age of eleven. Since boyhood he nurtured the dream of becoming a medical doctor. God also gave him extraordinary gifts as a pianist and choir director. By the time Oscar was twenty-one he had become a renowned choir director who trained the thousand-voice choir that accompanied Billy Graham’s 1958 evangelistic campaign in Guatemala.
“Music opened many doors for me throughout my life, but soon it was replaced by theology,” Oscar says. “For a while, I considered music the queen and theology the maidservant. Today, I think the opposite.” Oscar still loves all types of music, especially classical melodies and folk tunes.
Oscar started college as a pre-med student at the University of Guatemala, and he now admits that he had “fame, reputation, and riches” at the forefront of his mind. But then God brought Peggy, a blonde missionary from North Carolina, into his life, and she changed everything.
Peggy had moved to Guatemala to teach music and to train Christian high school students to serve the Lord. Soon the two started dating and became engaged. According to Oscar, Peggy’s decision to marry “one of the natives” raised a few eyebrows, but after three years of courtship, the couple married.
Three years later Oscar received a full-tuition scholarship to study music at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, and the couple moved to California. “When Oscar first came to America, he hardly spoke any English, so Peggy translated his notes for him,” his mentor and missionary colleague, Don Rutledge (ThM, 1957), remembers. “He worked as a janitor at a church to pay the bills.” Oscar graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Westmont in 1967.
Moseying Down to Dallas
The following year Oscar and Peggy joined CAM (Central American Mission) International in Dallas. Oscar became the program director at TGNA, CAM’s radio station. Later Oscar enrolled in the master of theology program at Dallas Seminary, where he built a special rapport with his professors as well as his fellow students.
“Oscar was in my preaching classes and showed unusual giftedness in expository preaching,” Dr. John Reed, senior professor of pastoral ministries, recalls. “He learned quickly and has always exhibited a deep love and compassion for his students. I have always appreciated his energy and enthusiasm. In his student days he would return from a trip to Guatemala and speak English so fast I couldn’t understand him. He would tell me, ‘Spanish is a fast language!’ One of my greatest achievements as a teacher has been to get Oscar to speak English more slowly.”
In his second year at Dallas Seminary, Oscar was elected chairman of the Student Mission Fellowship (SMF). At the end of his last year in the program, Oscar received the prestigious Lewis Sperry Chafer Expository Preaching Award and preached to the entire faculty and student body.
After graduating from seminary Oscar returned to Guatemala to become TGNA’s manager and a professor of homiletics at the Central American Theological Seminary. Later he completed his ThD, again at Dallas Seminary. In 1996 he became a visiting professor, and he joined the faculty full-time in 1998.
A Traumatic Trip to Guatemala
When asked about the most important thing he’s learned about the Lord during his life, Oscar says, “I’ve learned that God is in control in the horrible trials as well as in the sweet experiences.” And he and Peggy have had their share of trials.
Thirteen years ago, as they crossed the border into Guatemala to hold worship seminars, several armed gunmen kidnapped Oscar and Peggy and held them captive high in the mountains. The couple pleaded with the Lord through prayer, knowing that more than 90 percent of missionaries kidnapped in this manner were killed. Though the kidnappers stole all their money and possessions, the men miraculously spared Oscar and Peggy’s lives and released them.
Back to “Big D”
The couple returned to Texas soon afterward. During the years since that experience, the Lord has enabled Oscar and Peggy to find healing by learning to forgive their kidnappers and to acknowledge God’s sovereignty even in this experience. A seasoned understanding of God’s character and attributes contributes to Oscar’s personal mission, which is threefold: “To exalt God, to edify believers, and to evangelize those without Christ.” Oscar lists his favorite Scripture passages as Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” and Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”
The Lópezes’ intercultural marriage of almost forty-five years serves as a vibrant testimony to God’s faithfulness. In describing their relationship Oscar said, “After salvation, it has been the richest experience of my life. It has broadened my horizons three-hundred-sixty degrees. It has made me realize that my monocultural ‘box’ was too small and square. It has taught me to surrender my egotistical views, to be willing to be stretched, to acknowledge that there is more than one way to do things, and to learn to appreciate and dialogue with people from other cultures.”
Worship flows naturally from Oscar’s life, so it’s no surprise that the theology of worship is one of the emphases of his writing and teaching. He coauthored a hymnal in Spanish, Celebremos Su Gloria, that has sold over three hundred thousand copies. In addition he’s currently writing a book on the theology of worship, which he has developed from his doctoral dissertation on liberation theology. He describes the book as “an attempt to meet the lack of a solid biblical and systematized document for worship.”
Oscar balances his teaching with myriad other interests. He often travels to places as varied as the Canary Islands (a province of Spain) and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He continues to enjoy music and also demonstrates a strong commitment to physical fitness. Many a student has seen him running on the treadmill at Baylor’s Tom Landry Fitness Center near campus. Oscar, who has run several marathons, says, “Running long-distance races (including the Boston marathon) has taught me discipline and endurance. Hebrews 12:1–4 describes the Christian life as an endurance race. Life’s not a one-hundred-meter dash; it’s a marathon.”
One of Oscar’s dreams is to develop a new academic track within the pastoral ministries department at Dallas Seminary that will help students minister to the over thirty-five million Spanish speakers living in the United States. He also hopes to help open extensions of the SETECA (the seminary in Guatemala) in the Canary Islands and other countries.
Oscar’s life reflects his commitment to glorifying God by equipping students to minister to the wounded souls of Christians and non-Christians alike. In some ways Dr. López got his childhood wish. He may not possess the title “medical doctor,” but he has had a profound ministry of spiritual healing. Yet despite his ministry success Oscar remains, as Don Rutledge says, “the same humble servant who swept floors in a church to get through college.”
Marla Alupoaicei (ThM, 2002) is a writer in the Creative Ministries department of Insight for Living in Plano, Texas.