Saturday, March 27, 2010

Looking Ahead

As we look to the immediate future of what will be happening with the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela we are most excited and somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done.  We have to immediately improve the security fence(wall) on the front side of the property.  There have been breaches in the security and that is unacceptable.  We must have a safe and secure place for the people who live on campus as well as the classes and groups that come to the Seminary on a regular basis. This will cost about $4000US plus labor.  Fortunately, we do not have to pay the labor costs since one of our alumns is planning to do the work at very little cost to the Semninary other than materials cost.

We are simultaneously improving the kitchen and dining hall. The women who cook for the Seminary have been washing dishes for 30 or more people, 3 times a day, in a sink that is about 4 inches deep and 14"X8".  We have purchased two deep stainless sinks and faucets and will build concrete counters into which the sinks will be installed. This will be a HUGE improvement.  We still need to add a 20'X20' kitchen addition with a 6' deep water cistern underneath it.  However, that is for another time or when God places it on someones' heart to provide that.  We are also tearing down the old dirty and rusting dropped ceiling in the Dining Hall and replacing it with rigid insulation and finished luan as well as adding new lights to replace the old rusted tubes and adding two new air conditioners. This will cost about $3,000 (not including the needed but delayed Kitchen/Cistern expansion).

There are many more improvements needed on the campus, but they will have to wait for additional resources.  Generally, the students are most understanding, even when sleeping without air-conditioning and lacking any furniture for resting or lounging as well as other needs.  Thank God for their humble, generous attitude.

In June we will have another week of Seminary.  During the next months we will host a variety of church groups.  Then in August we will host the 3rd annual conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela.  We will also have the August Seminary session, followed by our Second Graduation as 12 students receive their equivalent Bachelor of Theology degree.

All of this will happen through the hard work of many people in Venezuela and the US.  Obviously, most of the cost will have to be covered by giving in the US.  Therefore, we invite you to give generously to the Seminary at:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Husbands and Wives, Fathers and Mothers, and Sons and Daughters Learning Together

One of the remarkable things about teaching in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela is how many couples and intergenerational students we have attending class.  Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, husbands and wives.  What a blessing to see a parent and child or husband and wife, both studying hard together to enhance their effectiveness in reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Pictures to follow - internet not being cooperative here.)

Our first Sunday back in Venezuela after a long absence we attended the Ondas de Paz UMC.  Alexander and Amarilys Commacho are the pastors.  I have already reported on what a great service we experienced there with several vibrant lay testimonies of being transformed though the grace of Jesus and several professions of faith.  People were standing outside in the doors and windows since the church was over-flowing.  The pastors are both students in the Seminary and it is such a joy to see them learning and then applying what they learn in their ministry together.

Last Sunday we worshiped at the Grace of God Church west of Barquisimeto.  Between 300 and 400 people were present.  We enjoyed such a great service and 15 people made a commitment to follow Jesus.  The pastor graciously invited me to preach and what a joy it was. The senior minister is Antonio Toloso, a student at the Seminary.  The pastor of small groups is Esley Toloso, his son - also a student in the seminary.We got to spend a morning with them this last week and saw the growth and maturity present in both their lives as they serve the Lord together diligently using what they have learned in their ministry for Christ.  It is so remarkable that the congregation speaks of the pastor's ministry "before" seminary and "after" seminary.

Today, God willing, we will attend worship at the Lugar Alitssimo UMC where Seminary graduate Yolanda Cacieda is the pastor.  He son, Alfonzo, has also been a student in the Seminary and they attended many classes together. We pray for a great worship service at Lugar. That church was built in memory of our son, Ray, and in honor of Jared and is the place where Jared and Lim were married.

Your giving to the Seminary through Venezuela Now, Inc. makes this and so much more possible. Teenagers and men in their seventies studying together.  In addition to parents and children and husbands and wives, grandparents and grandchildren are at the Seminary together.  This is changing lives and changing how the church functions in its effectiveness in reaching Venezuela for Christ.

Please prayerfully consider sending a gift for this ministry.  The address:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Check It Out

Seminary Complete for March - Again in June

What a great week of Seminary we enjoyed.  I taught in the mornings and David in the afternoon.  David taught the 3rd course of 4 in Biblical Counseling, or Self-Confrontation.  I taught the first half of the course: Mission of the Church.  The students could not have been more responsive.

See the man at the front left?  That is his son sitting to his left. The man is a medical doctor from Nirgua who has been attending the seminary for several years.  He and his son are faithful students.  Some time ago he resigned from his position as the Medical Director of the hospital to devote himself full time to the ministry.  He still practices medicine, but it is within the context of Christian Ministry.  He also pastors a church he planted a few years ago. He practices holistic medicine because he understands that healing comes from God.  He is praying for his city, a place of significant poverty and idolatry.  God has burdened him with the need to be the leader in leading his church in mission to his community.
Dan Dunn did a great job translating for me.  He is so smart and has such a servant's heart.  Pray for Dan as he finishes his PhD. Dissertation and seeks to discern God's next step in his plan for Dan and Nancy.

Thanks to all who have given to provide this ministry and this place.  As you can see in the photos, we are blessed.

Consider taking a mission team to Venezuela.  The Seminary is a great place to stay and work.  You will have a very meaningful time, you will make an eternal difference in the life of a nation and you will enjoy it all.

Give:  Venezuela Now, Inc.
          PO Box 1665
          Duluth, Ga  30096

Friday, March 12, 2010

Effective Ministry at Casa de Dios (House of God) UMC of VZ

Pastor Thoby and Pastora Elizabeth Ramirez have developed a remarkable church and ministry in the large city on the eastern side of the country, Puerta Odaz.  The city is one of industries, universities and beauty. The church was started with nothing but a Bible and the faith and faithfulness of the Ramirez family.

The Casa de Dios is especially effective in reaching the youth of the Puerta Ordaz city.  Last year the pastors planned and executed a nation-wide UMC youth camp. Dozens of conversions occurred in that camp.  It was so effective and transformational that the youth requested the pastors include the entire family in the next camp.  So one year later the Camp is for families and will be held in Puerta Ordaz in a park where the families will live in tents and learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and hear the preaching of the Gospel. This is reminiscent of the early days of Campmeeting in the US.  The camp is during Holy Week, so please keep this ministry in your prayers.

In the attached pictures you will see the celebration of Christian Baptism led by pastors Ramirez.  Notice the various ages being baptized. In Venezuela, baptism follows conversion.  So these are new Christians reached and now being discipled by the pastors and church at Casa de Dios.

Pastor Thoby has been assigned additional responsibilities by Bishop Juvenal Perez.  He is now the District Superintendent of the Bolivar state.  He makes sure the Connectional System of United Methodism in Venezuela is strengthened and enhanced and provides counsel and support and supervision to all the pastors and churches in his district.

As the area Superintendent, he and the pastors have issued an invitation to me to preach a State-wide Evangelistic Crusade next October.  Pray with us about this possibility.

Pastor Thoby and Pastor Elizabeth have been students in the Seminario Wesleyano de Vdenezuela for over 5 years and will soon graduate.  Their ministry has been greatly enhanced by their educational experience at the Seminary.  Your giving to Venezuela Now, Inc. provides the funds necessary for them to acquire an excellent theological education.  Thank you for your faithfulness. You are having an eternal impact on a people and nation.

Please send additional gifts to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Great Article on the Work in Venezuela.

Glenn Hannigan, editor of the Nor th Georiga Advocate has written a great article on the work in Venezuela.  Please go to the following link and read the article and pass it along to your friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Acts of the Holy Spirit in Venezuela

Report from Venezuela:
Dan, Jane and I arrived in Venezuela on Wednesday night after a pleasant, uneventful flight. We stayed that night at the Guest House in Miquetia.  We left the Guest House at 8:00am and made the drive to Cabudare/Barquisimeto in 4½ hours. Thursday afternoon we visited with David and Carol as she prepared the dinner for the Due West UMC mission team. 

The team arrived about 7:00 after their last day of work on the new church, Valle Dorado United Methodist Church.  They were exhausted and covered with a day of grime after working 10 hours in 100+ degree heat (This is unusual for this area of Venezuela.  The country is experiencing one of its worst heat waves and droughts in history). 

However, in spite of the back-breaking work of digging footings and mixing and pouring concrete, they were filled with joy.  Each person shared how much this trip had meant to them.  Stephen Brumbeloe, Pastor of Missions at Due West, asked me to share briefly how the work had started and a short history and take their questions.  They had a lot of pertinent and enthusiastic questions.  Then after a long day at the end of a long week, they left for their comfortable beds at the Seminary. They returned to Caracas the next day and arrived safely back in the US on Saturday.

On Friday Dan, David and I met with Bishop Juvenal Perez, the first bishop of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela and a graduate of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  He had some questions for us and we discussed at length issues such as ministerial ethics, church planting, Disciplinary fidelity, the 10% mission offering from each church for the work of the Conference, the role of the Seminary, Clergy accountability, statistical reports, planning and communication.  It was a full agenda, but well worth the time since Obispo Perez is such a mature and devoted Christian evangelist and pastor with a teachable spirit and hunger for knowledge. He also serves as the UM pastor in Punto Fijo as well as having planted three other new congregations and assigned lay pastors to them.

Saturday morning we traveled to the Seminary for a United Methodist Pastor’s seminar. At the request of the Bishop I taught and Dan translated for about 4 hours and addressed several issues for the UMC of Venezuela using the Church at Antioch in the Book of Acts as the pattern. It was a wonderful time with many of the UM pastors and spouses.  While we missed some who could not be there, these pastors had gathered from all across the country at significant expense and inconvenience.   

Many pastors shared great testimonies of what God had done and is doing through their churches.  These testimonies sounded like they came right out of the Book of Acts.  A medical doctor and graduate of the seminary told of a recent event witnessed by a number of doctors in which a man was being autopsied and revived. He had been dead so long much of his innards were destroyed and had to be replaced with plastic parts.   But he is alive and praising God for the miracle, giving thanks to the Great Physician.  Another pastor shared the picture of a man who was completely debilitated by a tumor on his brain.  It had cut his brain function to just 30%.  The pastor shared how difficult this was for him and his family.  The church gathered and prayed for him and he was instantaneously healed.  The healing was certified by his doctor. As the pastor showed me a picture of the man he told me he had been cleared by his doctors and was employed driving an 18-wheel truck across the country.  Another pastor told of the new church plant north of the city and had the layman in whose home it is meeting at the seminar.  He will be enrolled in the Seminary on Monday! More stories like these there were shared and we rejoiced.

We also learned that Pastor and Pastora/Dr. Carlos and Maria Perona are both finishing advanced degrees.  Carlos is getting the equivalent of a PhD. in Instructional Theory (one of his undergraduate degrees is in engineering).  He is obtaining this degree so he can provide greater acceptance for the work of the Seminary.  Dr. Maria, a pediatrician, is getting a terminal degree in Human Sexual Behavior to assist in her work with unwed mothers and dysfunctional families.  She will also use her degree to benefit the Seminary. Carlos and Maria have planted 8 churches in 8 years and have several more opportunities they are considering.  What remarkable leaders they are!

After the seminar we gathered with the pastors from the Bolivar State to hopefully give them some encouragement and support.  Their homes and churches are 18-22 hours from the Seminary but that does not keep them from riding all night and half the day just to get to Seminary.  Their isolation makes the connectional system of Methodism very difficult.  However, the Bishop traveled (by bus over 24 hours each way) to visit with them 3 times in the last year and they are doing remarkable work. Pastor Thoby Ramirez, the District Superintendent for the Bolivar state, is leading the pastors of his area in a nation-wide Family Evangelism Camp (in tents) at the river in Puerto Ordaz being hosted there during Holy Week.  The first one was for youth and was so transformational the youth requested this one include the whole family.  This is the old Campmeeting in a new setting and God is doing what God did in the old time Campmeeting.  They are also planning a state-wide (Bolivar State) Evangelistic Crusade in December and issued an invitation to me to come and preach.  We are praying about that possibility.

Sunday we attended worship at Ondas de Paz where pastor Alexander and pastora Amarilys Commache are leading a dynamic church which continues to grow and outgrow the space currently available.  Thanks to the mission team from Tucker UMC, they are gaining more and more space.  However, today there was such a large crowd that many stood outside and shared in the worship through the windows and doors. We learned the church is praying and looking for a larger location to accommodate their growing ministry. This is a church that is known in the community for its ministry with children and families, especially single mothers.  The worship service was filled with enthusiastic praise and worship and the testimony of the transforming grace of Jesus in each of the lives of 6 women who had just returned from a spiritual retreat. Then the Bishop preached and several adults and youth made professions of faith.  Alexander and Amarilys are finishing their university degrees while continuing to take classes at the Seminary.  They are providing extraordinary leadership to this congregation.

After worship we went to the old hotel where we used to stay on each visit. We had lunch, visited with our friends on the restaurant staff and had the best ever cup of CafĂ© con Leche. 

On Monday morning we woke to the wonderful sounds of rain.  This is the first rainfall in several months in Barquisimeto and much of Venezuela.  Pray for more rain.

The Seminary class began Monday at 2:00 with David teaching.  He is teaching the third class called, “Self Confrontation” and is a great class helping these pastors and lay leaders understand and grow in their own personal holiness, building stronger families and better communities. I began teaching at 8:00am on Tuesday morning “The Mission of the Church, I.”  We will deal with mission and vision this week, and in August teach then second half of the course on core values, leadership and strategic planning. 

We are so blessed to see the remarkable growth of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela and the continuing strengthening of the Seminary (over 40 students attending class this week).  We so thankful for this opportunity to get to be a small part of the remarkable things God is doing in Venezuela.

Please keep all of this in your prayers.  Also, please consider a first-time gift or and extra gift for the support of the Seminary. It continues to have remarkable impact on the effectiveness of the church in Venezuela.  You can mail a gift to Venezuela Now, Inc.  PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA  30096.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Off to Venezuela

Jane and I along with Dan leave today for the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  This is the first time Jane and I have been able to travel in 18 months due to my health issues.  However, Praise God, he has restored my health and we are off!

We are so thankful for David and Carol, Dan and Nancy, Samuel, Ana, Anna, and others who have continued to provide an excellent theological education within the best of our Wesleyan tradition.

At the invitation of Bishop Juvenal Perez I will teach 9 hours in a seminar just for United Methodist Pastors on Friday and Saturday.  Then next week we will have classes in the Seminary.  We expect about 50 students and pastors to attend.  I will be teaching and Dan will be translating, Mission of the Church, I.  David will be teaching an additional class of Inductive Bible Study focusing on another book of the Bible.  For the next two week we hope to visit with a number of pastors and churches and see many of the friends we have missed so much.

Please pray for both these events.  You can also help with this work by sending your gift of love to Venezuela Now, Inc. PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096.