For over 90 years Women’s Council has dedicated itself to addressing the needs of seminary students. In the early years this included such practical projects as making drapes and pillow cases for the dorm rooms, and setting up a small kitchenette in the residence quarters. In 1964 the Council purchased and donated a Chickering piano in ebony finish delivered from the Steinway Company. In later decades attention focused more exclusively on the raising of scholarship funds.
Beatrice Lyons, Scholarship Chairperson
“It is my honor to connect Women’s Council members with our amazing students! As a former Women’s Council scholarship recipient, I can attest first-hand that many of these students would not be here without your prayer and financial support. As you read their bios below and get to know each one, I pray that you are encouraged by the knowledge that their callings have been deepened and strengthened as a result of your partnership.”
Aseneth May Castaneda, MACO/MDIV (2025)
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Undergrad: Utah Valley University, B.S.; Courses in Dance/Movement Therapy at Lesley University
Bio: I am Aseneth May Castañeda, soon to be Aseneth May Castañeda Scavongelli. I am from the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. My fiancé, Daniel Scavongelli, and I met at Seven Hills Presbyterian church in Cambridge. Daniel and I will be married next year. Since high school, I have felt increasingly called to ministry through the arts and mental health. I am undertaking a journey to understand my identity as an artist in God’s kingdom. My experience of having strong, supportive mentors, disciplers, counselors, and friends has made such a difference in my life. I hope to be that difference through Christ for other artists of the faith. I am pursuing Gordon Conwell’s degree in Mental Health Counseling in order to obtain the practical tools and credentials to support the calling I believe God has put on my life. As one who wants to serve in both ministry and mental health, I am registered as a dual degree student. I am prayerfully considering a different second degree or certificate in the hope of tailoring my classes toward arts, artists, and theology. In the future, Daniel and I hope to work together to develop a Christian organization for holistic wellbeing. We desire for this holistic approach to include standard mental health services, art programs, and art therapies. We aspire to help make mental health and wellness more available to the marginalized populations through this organization. It is a humbling honor to accept the support and partnership of the Women’s Council. This offer is an incredible reminder that God provides in unexpected ways.
Ashley de Souza, Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation
Hometown: Framingham, MA
Undergrad: B.A. in English & Creative Writing, Framingham State
Bio: I was born and raised in Framingham, MA. My parents came from Brazil with the intention of a better and more stable life. This country consisting of unknowns to them became my home. Growing up in a Latino household and a predominantly Brazilian church allowed me to value my culture and be exposed to the vibrancy and spirituality that are innate in Brazil. Being a first-generation immigrant made me a hybrid in which I saw the world and God from two very distinct lenses. This ability is where my passion for writing stemmed and I majored and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English & Creative Writing from Framingham State. While on a journey to pursue an MFA in poetry, God intervened and led me to youth and young adult ministry where my focus is spiritual growth and maturity. Within a year in this work, my pastors recommended I go to seminary. I’m a Spiritual Formation major and the LSA senator for the 2019-2020 academic year. I still lead the young adult ministry in my home church. I hope my writing and ministry can become part of the revival God has begun through the youth and young adults here and in Brazil.
Beshoy Estafanous, MACO (2023)
Hometown: South Hamilton, MA
Undergrad: BS in Electrical Engineering
Bio: My name is Beshoy Estafanous, and I was born in 1989 in a small village in Upper Egypt. I am the son of a Coptic Orthodox priest and was raised in the Coptic church since childhood. Praying the liturgies and being ordained as a deacon at the age of 5 has played a big role in my upbringing. I am engaged to my beautiful fiancée, Hekmat, and we are expecting to get married at the beginning of October. When I was 19 years of age, I attended a retreat at St. Mary’s convent in Assiutthat focused on the topic of the Cross. It was there that I took the decision to follow Christ intentionally. The message of the Cross has given me hope and joy throughout the journey. The crucified Messiah has sustained me when life was rough and has given me life throughout. Knowing that I am loved by the almighty God and that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less has been the main factor in shaping both my character and my life.
When I came to know the Lord on a personal level, I felt a calling to serve Him by being a vessel for healing for others. I have felt burdened to help those who are seeking healing and to live the life Jesus died to give them. I wanted to study counseling at Gordon-Conwell so that I would learn a solid biblical approach to the integration between theology and psychology. I desire to learn how to counsel both believers and unbelievers by speaking truth into their lives and by adopting Jesus’ heart towards clients.
My desire is to serve the Lord in this area by building a network of fellow believers and professionals who are burdened to serve others in general and Arabic-speaking believers in specific through counseling. I am already involved in ministries at both St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Natick and the Arabic Evangelical Baptist Church in West Roxbury. My dream is to start a counseling ministry for adolescents in Egypt who have no resources, because if it were not for those who stood by my side and gave a helping hand to me when I was a teen, I would not be where I am today.
Rachel Lohia, Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies (2025)
Hometown: Richmond, VT
Undergrad: Bachelor’s in Music Education, Gordon College
Bio: I am blessed to have grown up in a Pastor’s family just outside of Burlington, Vermont. The Lord blessed me with musical abilities and from a young age I loved instruments and foreign languages as both came easily to me. When asked in fifth grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded, “a mommy!” Since that didn’t satisfy my teacher, I settled on a music teacher because I wanted to learn how to play all the instruments. I pursued music passionately, became a music teacher and was even able to start my own music program in Lawrence, MA. After a short-term mission trip to North India to teach music for a summer, I felt called to live in India full-time as a music teacher. I moved there the summer of 2012, a 20-something single gal excited for this new adventure the Lord was taking me on. In December 2014, I married Livingstone, a friend who had acted as a liaison on several tourist trips. We were blessed with Josiah in 2015 and Jasmine in 2016. I continued to teach until the end of the academic year (March 2017) and then we moved back to the US, landing in Vermont. I began studying in 2019 through the Part-time Partnership Program, one to two classes per semester. My hope has been to learn more about how to study and teach the Bible, as well as learn about world religions so that we might be better neighbors when we encounter others from different backgrounds. I hope to be able to disciple and teach others both here in America and back in India, if and when then Lord leads us back there.
Larisa Pelger, MATH with dual emphasis of Old Testament Studies and Biblical Languages (2023)
Hometown: Dalton, Ohio
Prior education: Studied and then taught Biblical Studies at Youth With A Mission’s Colorado Springs campus from 2012 to 2020
I am earning my Master of Arts in Theology degree with a dual emphasis in Old Testament Studies and Biblical Languages. My husband, Rob, and I have been married for nine years and we moved to South Hamilton, Massachusetts in the summer of 2020 after serving on staff with Youth With A Mission in Colorado Springs, Colorado for five years. We both have a heart for missions and I have particularly felt drawn to the Muslim world and to Bible translation since I was a child.
When I was a Bible student in Colorado Springs back in 2012, my own faith was tested as I ran into question after question about God’s character which I couldn’t seem to answer satisfactorily. Though I never questioned God’s existence (the existence of creation was plenty of proof for me), I was very concerned about whether or not he is trustworthy and good. I studied my way through the New Testament and wondered why my view of my Lord was so shaky.
Then I began my Old Testament studies. I felt like my eyes were finally opened to God’s graciousness and faithfulness. Book after book unfolded the history of God’s people; prophet after prophet revealed his consistency and greatness. Though my questions weren’t fully answered, I was finally able to acknowledge that I can trust God’s goodness, regardless of them.
Several years ago I attended a small conference on the state of Bible translation and distribution where I learned that 91% of languages do not have a full Old Testament translation. The realization that so many thousands of people groups don’t have access to the portion of Scripture where my own faith was strengthened and solidified moved me deeply and focused my Bible translation hopes on the Old Testament.
Anthony Rando, Master of Divinity/Master of Arts in Counseling (2023)
Hometown: Miller Place, NY
Undergrad: Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics
Bio: Originally, I am from Long Island, New York, but lived in North Carolina for 8 years prior to coming to seminary. It was there that I became a Christian and started my journey walking with Christ.
While living in North Carolina, I was involved with a neighborhood children’s ministry and felt a strong urge to attend seminary. I became involved with Youth with a Mission and participated in counseling school in Recife, Brazil. We then went to Italy and Portugal with a missionary team to provide lay ministry counseling services. This ministry awakened in me a passion for counseling and the social sciences. I hope that through the MDIV/MACO I will be able to disciple others to follow the Lord both in the United States and internationally.