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Pastor Neftali Coronado - a U.S. citizen


EATONTON – On Sept. 15 Neftali Coronado, pastor of El Buen Pastor (Church) in Eatonton, took his U.S. Citizenship test and passed it with flying colors. He is now proud to claim the United States as his new country.

Coronado stated, “I love this country and I am grateful for the opportunity it has given to me and my family. I pray for my new country every day.”

Gerald Harris/Index

Pastor Neftali Coronado proudly shows his son, Jared, his U.S. citizenship certificate.

The new American citizen was born in Mexico, but his mother died when he was three years old and his grandmother became his caregiver. “She was a great Christian,” Coronado recalls. “Seventy years ago she became a founding member of the little Baptist church in our town in Mexico. She was devoted to her Lord and her church.

“I went to church with my grandmother and when I was 17 I realized that I didn’t want to go to hell, I wanted to go to heaven, so I trusted Jesus as my Savior.”

One year later Coronado went on a Christian camping trip with almost 100 students and sensed that God was calling him to preach. He reported, “God touched my heart and I knew he wanted me to proclaim His Gospel. A year later, when I was 19, I preached my first sermon.”

Coronado enrolled in the Baptist Seminary in the Lomas Verdes area of Mexico City to prepare himself for the ministry. Prior to coming to the United States, he served as pastor of a church in Pijijiapan in the Chiapas (state) of Mexico.

Twelve years ago Coronado received a call from Stan Patterson, who was pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Greensboro, inviting him to come to Georgia to start a Hispanic church. So, in September of 1999 the warmhearted pastor left his church in Mexico and moved his family to Georgia.

Since arriving in Georgia, Coronado has started churches in Greensboro, Monticello, Newborn, Shady Dale and Eatonton. He is now mentoring Darwin and Dalia Regalado to be church planters and hopes to launch a new Hispanic church in Athens by the first of next year.

It was Coronado’s desire to become a more effective church planter that motivated him to seek U.S. citizenship. He explained, “After living here for more than a decade God touched my heart and convinced me that I could do a better job of building bridges and connecting with the churches here in Georgia if I became a citizen.”

Becoming a citizen takes time, knowledge, perseverance and money. Most citizenship applications may take 18 months to process. There is actually an eight-step process involved in acquiring U.S. citizenship. Those eight steps are:

Step 1 – Find out if you are eligible.

Step 2 – Complete an application and collect the necessary documents.

Step 3 –. Get photographed.

Step 4 – Send your application, documents, and fee to the Service Center.

Step 5 – Get Fingerprinted.

Step 6 – Being Interviewed.

Step 7 - Receive a decision.

Step 8 – Take the oath and become a citizen.

Coronado commented, “I studied a book that told about American history, the presidents, the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Flag, and the form of government we have in this country. I studied hard and passed the test the first time.

“My wife, Elda, wants to become a citizen as well, but it costs $680 and we did not have enough money for both of us to become citizens this year. We are saving the money for her to become a citizen next year.”

In addition to serving as the pastor of his church, Coronado supplements his income by serving as the custodian for Lakeside Baptist Church in Milledgeville.

The Coronados have two teenage sons, Jonatan and Jared; and the whole family is involved in the ministry of the church. Jonatan, who hopes to go to Shorter University next year on a football scholarship as a place kicker and plays the drums in the worship services, and Jared, who plays the keyboard. The Coronados are a sterling example of an active, committed Georgia Baptist family.

The name of Coronado’s church in Eatonton, El Buen Pastor, also seems to characterize him and his ministry. “El Buen Pastor” means “the good shepherd.”