This past November, Hope College had the privilege of hiring a new Chaplain of Discipleship named Charly Pena. Charly is a husband to Diana Jacqueline and a father to his three beloved daughters, Emily Christine, Angela Sophia, and Vivianna Valentina. Charly is a lover of Greek food (especially during his time in Greece with his wife for their 20th wedding anniversary) and cinematic music. Charly has a great appreciation for music because he loves all music that brings joy, and as he says, “Moves the fibers of our soul and turns sadness to joy.”
He was born in Cali, Columbia and moved to the capital of Columbia, Bogotá, when he was young. When he was eighteen, he moved to Miami, Florida for school where he eventually met and married his wife. Charly got a degree in sound engineering. However, soon after he got his degree, sound companies started hiring fewer people and he struggled to find a job in this department. Charly became a worship leader at his church and loved doing this because of his love for God and music. Charly has also started acting, a passion of his. While in Miami, he did TV commercials as well as multiple Spanish Soap Operas including Aurora, En Lola Volcán, and many more!
After two and a half years of acting, Charly started to feel a conviction from the Lord to not take higher roles as he would have to compromise the values he had as a husband, father, worship leader, and son of God. As a talented actor, Charly was offered higher roles and he was even noticed by fans while out in public! However, he turned down these roles and instead prayed for an acting job that glorified God’s kingdom. Soon after, a ministry called “Yes He Is” contacted Charly and asked if he would act in the short scenes that the company produced on teachings of biblical values and the life of God to others. Charly accepted and loved this job immensely. He eventually stopped acting and became part of the production team and later the director. In this new role as director, he wrote many scenes and clips. Throughout this journey and from the start of his acting career, Charly was also working part time at American Airlines to help support his family.
After a little while, Charly prayed again, asking God about what to do within his ministry and his love for music. He ended up coming to Holland, MI to meet someone who said they would help him with Christian music production eight years ago. Charly said, “Looking back, God was just showing me that this place existed.”
Charly and his wife were discerning that their call was not just music, it was bigger. He states, “I felt something about Holland, MI was for me. I visited again and went to Western Theological Seminary to get answers from God, but it didn’t seem like the place for me. It seemed like there was too much tradition and liturgy and I’m used to organic, laid back and more contemporary ways of worship and connecting with God.” After going back to Miami with lots of prayer, Charly and his wife and even his daughters knew that God was calling them to Holland. In 2015, Charly and his family moved to Holland and Charly attended Western Theological Seminary while also commuting to Miami every other weekend to work at American Airlines. After seminary, Charly worked part time at a church in Holland that started leading worship in Spanish. He was still commuting to Miami to work at American Airlines and, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, he retired from this job as he was expected to become full-time at this church. This plan however was disrupted when COVID-19 hit, and the church was unable to employ him. Charly said, “It was a very big struggle for me as I was relying on it and expecting to be ordained. After this, I started knocking on doors, but nothing happened. I started applying to regular places, and even became the Spanish voice recorder for Daily Bread. But eventually, I applied for this job. I was very blessed to have a friend who told me of this job. I thank God for this.” After seven months of interviews, Charly got the job as the new Chaplain of Discipleship.
So far, Charly is loving Hope. Charly said that he is passionate about college students because he believes that it is a very formative and crucial phase of one’s life. He mentioned that he didn’t have campus ministries around him as a source of guidance amid moments of hardship and frustration. He wants to be there for people during their struggles and joys. He is passionate about loving people, different cultures, and bringing community together. Charly stated, “I feel honored to be here with my experiences and my gifts. To be a vessel for God’s hands and be people’s companion in their journey while they are here.” During Charly’s first chapel, he played the song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and told all of Hope College that this is what he wants to be for the students. This encapsulates Charly very well. The new Chaplain of Discipleship is a friend to us all.