Sunday, August 29, 2010

August Report

August was a busy month for the work of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  We hosted the National International Leadership Institute in which over 30 Venezuelan leaders received this excellent training authored by Wes and Joy Griffin.  We hosted the 3rd Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela at which they reelected Juvenal Perez their Bishop for the next three years.  We held the August classes which involved about 45 students.  The Seminary celebrated its second graduation as 11 students received their Bachelor of Theology (equivalent) Degree after six years of study in this rigorous program. We completed several improvement projects on the campus including air conditioning for the second Men's Dorm Room, air conditioning of the Cafeteria, Roof repairs, new ceiling and lights in the cafeteria and a lot of painting as well as minor repairs.  

David and Carol moved out of the Mission House as they return to the US for a year of deputation work with their supporters and are reassigned by OMS to head the field in Mexico City. We are greatly indebted to them for their years of work in Venezuela..  As they moved out, God called Dan and Nancy to move into the house and take over the management of the Seminary for the next year as Dan writes his PhD. Dissertation.

When we returned from Venezuela we had a great Disciples in Song Reunion Concert at Alpharetta First UMC to benefit the Seminary.  About $6500 was given for this ministry and we hope this can become an annual event.  We are grateful for the 700-800 people who attended, most of whom have been friends and supporters for  many years.

Now we have another great opportunity for you to support the work of the Seminary.  THE HOPE STORE is a ministry selling slightly used items to benefit various missions here and abroad.  We are the recipients of the December net sales.The HOPE STORE collects and sells used clothing and home furnishings, books, baby items, etc. with the financial benefit each month going to a different mission or ministry.

You can help.
Here is what we need you to do:
  1. Organize your local church or community to make a collection of used clothing and furnishings. 
    Deliver the collected items to the HOPE STORE on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 24, 25, 27, 10am - 6pm (arrangements can be made to deliver the items at times other than above). The HOPE STORE will receive, price and store the items until they are put on sale December 1. Unsold items after December 31 will remain in the store for inventory to benefit other ministries.
  3. Publicize the sale in your local church and community encouraging people to shop at the HOPE STORE in December.
The HOPE STORE is located in the Roswell/Alpharetta/Johns Creek community in the Nesbit Ferry Crossing Shopping Center (near Mount Pisgah UMC) at 9850 Nesbit Ferry Road, Suite 10, Alpharetta, GA 30022, at the intersection of Old Alabama and Nesbit Ferry Roads. Learn more about the HOPE STORE at or call Cathy Bailey, THE HOPE STORE at 678-777-2786 or
Help your church become more directly involved in the global mission by supporting these two great opportunities.Please continue to pray for the work of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. Pray specifically about you or your church or church group sponsoring a student (currently $2500/yr.).  Send your gifts to  
Venezuela Now, Inc. 
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Graduation, August 14, 2010, LaPiedad, Venezuela

Seminario Wesleyano de Venzuela celebrated its second graduation today after its founding in October, 2002.  Eleven students received the "Bachelor" of Theology degree after 6 or more years of rigorous study and work.  Pictured to the left is our oldest graduate: Luis Beltran Figueroa Rojas, "Abuello" to the other students.

These eleven graduates include pastors and Christian lay leaders who are working effectively to reach the lost of Venezuela.  Some of pastors of very large churches and some have recently started new congregations in their own homes.  Others are pastors of multiple congregations scattered as much as 5 hours apart.  Some have endured significant hardship for the sake of the ministry.  All have sacrificed financial gain in order to reach others with the gospel of Christ.

Additionally, the Officers of the Seminary conferred its first Honorary Doctor of Theology and Sacred Letters Degree to Dean David Cosby.  Dr. Cosby has served a lifetime as a missionary, leading others to Christ and equipping the indigenous leaders in Colombia, Hungary, Mexico and Venezuela.  He and his wife Carol finish their work as residents in Venezuela after they are being reassigned to Mexico where he will be the Field Director of the OMS work in Mexico City.

This is a time of transition as the Cosby's leave Venezuela and Dan and Nancy Dunn take over the leadership of the Seminary.  They will be traveling between the US and Venezuela frequently during the next twelve months. Pictured here:  Jane Lathem, Warren Lathem, Dan Dunn, Nancy Dunn, Carol Cosby, David Cosby.  Warren Lathem will continue to serve as President of the Seminary until a new Venezuelan President can be named at a later date.  This is a part of an intentional process of gradually creating indigenous Christian leaders.  Lathem will continue to serve the Seminary in a capacity to his current one, but with more sharing of leadership with the Venezuelans.

The Seminaro Wesleyano de Venezuela has served as the incubator for the United Methodist Church of Venezuela.  This church recently held its 3rd Annual Conference on the campus of the Seminary.  The conference re-elected Juvenal Perez to his second three year term as Bishop of the Church.  This seminal relationship is celebrated by both the Seminary and the Church.

Here the Bishop meets with Drs. David Cosby and Warren Lathem to consult on matters facing the church. This meeting took place immediately  following the graduation celebration.

You can support this ministry by giving to:

Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096.

August at the Seminaro Wesleyano de Venezuela

Wow, what a busy and great month in the Seminary.  It began with an International Leadership Institute national conference in which 32 national leaders were trained to share the learning and wisdom of the ILI here in Venezuela. That was followed by a day-long pastor's conference then the 3rd Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela.  Then we had 45 students taking two courses, one taught by Daivd Cosby and the other by me, Warren Lathem. 

Last night we had the Graduation Dinner where we not only had a great meal and were blessed by the music of the Ondas de Paz MC Worship Team, but hear the moving testimonies of all 11 graduates. Today we will have our second graduation and celebrate the great work God has done in the lives of these graduates through the ministry of the Seminaro.

One example was the testimony of Pastor Antonio Toloza, pastor a great church in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He said, "My church talks about my ministry as 'before and after' attending seminary. It has changed the way I do ministry and it has changed the effectiveness of our entire church."

More will follow, but just wanted to give a quick update.  You can send gifts to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Today we were privileged to participate in a joyful and powerful worship experience at Ondas de Paz UMC. Musical worship helped us focus on celebrating God's love in our lives and giving Him thanks and glory, with an exuberant spirit of gratitude and glee. The preaching was strongly based in Biblical truth, with an emphasis upon the full life which God intends for each of us, in conjunction with an emphasis upon honoring God as God rather than attempting to use God for our own ends. Several people made first-time decisions to become Christ-followers (pictured on the left), and there was also a 20-minute time of prayer for married couples focusing on restoration, reconciliation, or renewed commitment. This was a special work of the Spirit for many couples (some of whom are pictured at the right). This local congregation has just recently moved the setting of its worship experiences because it outgrew the former facilities. It is exciting to see how the pastors and lay ministers of this congregation have been impacted by some of the training they have shared in the Wesleyan Seminary of Venezuela. God is amazing! Please continue to pray for the UMC of Venezuela (and for all other churches too). There is a great need here for a strong move of the Spirit.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

3rd Annual Conference of the UMC de Venezuela

Bishop Juvenal Perez called to order the 3rd annual conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela at about 3:00 on Friday, August 6, 2010 on the Campus of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela in LaPiedad, Venezuela.  Pastors and laity came from all across the country to be a part of this time of reunion, reporting, worship, celebration and business. As the afternoon session adjourned for dinner, pastors were still arriving by bus from 20-24 hours away.

Pastor Toby Victor Ramirez led the opening devotional time followed by typical spirited Venezuelan singing and worship (Oh, how I long for the Church in the US to experience such vital worship). This was followed by a few words from the Bishop and then I taught/preached on Paul's call to the church at Philippi to "Shine like the Stars in the Universe." Dean Dan Dunn translated for me and did his usual excellent work.  A short break followed (with VZ coffee!) and then pastor Carlos Pirona preached from Exodus and defined the difference between selfish dreams or visions and God's vision and the necessity of the church holding on to the vision of God for the church.  Needless to say, he preached circles around the gringo.

There followed a break for dinner and then the Conference gathered for a time of high worship at the Ondas de Pas UMC in Cabudare.  This church has outgrown its former meeting place and is now renting space in the community of Aqua Viva  Unfortunately, my intestinal bug returned and I was unable to attend.  Hopefully we can get a later report from others who were there.

Today (Saturday) the conference will worship, hear some reports about conversions and new churches, elect their second bishop and close with Holy Communion and commissioning of the pastors.  The Bishop has asked me to take the gavel for the election since he feels to preside at what  may be his own election would be inappropriate.  He has also asked me to Celebrate Holy Communion at the end of the day.

Please keep this conference in  your thoughts and prayers.  God is blessing the UMC de Venezuela with reaching a lot of lost people.  Pray for faithfulness, integrity and strength.

The Seminario Wesleano de Venezuela was the birthing room for this Conference of the United Methodist  Church and continues to provide a critical link for the connection here among the United Methodist churches and pastors across all regions of this large country.

You can help in this work by sending a gift to;
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096  USA

Monday, August 02, 2010

Article from

Inward or Outward Focus?

I just finished teaching for a day in a State-wide pastor's conference in Venezuela.  I was asked to teach on the Mission Church.  The invitation came from a pastor who was the Valedictorian of the first graduating class of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela ( Pastor Wilmer Perez had taken my course on the Mission of the Church and wanted to introduce his fellow pastors to both the concept and the seminary. He stated to them that going to the Seminary had changed his life and ministry, particularly the course on the Mission of the Church.

One of the primary differences between effective and ineffective churches is the primary direction of their focus.  Ineffective churches are inwardly focused - almost exclusively. Effective churches are primarily outwardly focused.  Ineffective churches consume all given to them (leadership resources, finances, location, facilities, etc.) with centripetal power.  Effective churches multiply resources given through the release of centrifugal energy into the world. Effective churches are about "them," those outside the church.  Ineffective churches are about "us." those inside the church.

This simple comparison and contrast is worth much more examination and something I do in the Seminary course.  However, it is enough of a thumbnail sketch for one to begin to understand the basic difference between the Mission Church and the Traditional or "Chapel" Church.

The pastors in the conference in Venezuela demonstrated this simple, but profound truth in an exercise depicted in the following pictures.  I asked for volunteers and 10-12 people quickly stepped to the front. Then I asked them to form a circle and join hands.  They did what I have seen in every case where I have scores of times asked this to be done.

Then I asked them if they could still hold hands and form a different kind of circle. After some discomfort and confusion they eventually moved to the form of a circle pictured here in which they were facing outward. These contrasting ways to be in community (holding hands) are powerfully demonstrative of the difference between the inward focus or outward focus of ineffective and effective churches.

There are many ways illustrate this and/or examine objectively which one best describes our church.  However, simply asking this question is a great beginning:  "Are we primarily an inwardly or outwardly focused church?"  The answers may help us change the focus and move from ineffective, irrelevant church life to transformational ministry in a lost and broken world.