Who is the LACRET Team?

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if a mission had an elite squad, their own “think tank”, their own group of veteran missionaries to call upon in unique and specific situations where experience and wisdom would be really helpful for knowing next steps to take?  Let it not be a surprise then– the Latin America/Caribbean Regional Equipping Team is just such a group.

They are made up of a group of veteran missionaries, many beginning their years of service in Venezuela decades ago.  They are highly educated, with almost as many doctorates as team members. However, they are not just a bunch of lofty, brilliant minds from the academic world. In fact, they are some of the most humble servants that can be found, with their hearts in grassroots ministry, in equipping people and helping them along in their various ministries throughout Latin America.  These are men and women who have a heart and much experience in mentoring, in team leadership, in pastoral training, Christian education for both children and adults, virtual ministry, and seminary training. They may just be our greatest untapped resource in the Latin America/Caribbean Division.

Ernest Dyck, the team leader of LACRET, says that the heart of the team is to be right in the thick of ministry on the field, and not simply be in academic settings. Ernest became the team leader just this January, and says it is a joy to work alongside his longtime colleagues and peers in this new role. Ernest and his wife Effie work as regional specialists in church planting and training teachers in Christian education.

ReachGlobal also has the wonderful resource of a Global Equipping Team, that functions much in the same way as this regional team.  However, the added strength of the LACRET team is that in their combined years of service on the mission field and years living in Latin America, there is a profound cultural awareness–they can pick up on many of the nuances of language and culture that many of us newer and younger workers would miss. They understand contextualization on a different level, whether that is in urban church planting, rural ministries, or in the educating of church leaders.  Every person on the team brings a different field of specialty and knowledge to the table– Rebecca Rodriguez with international women’s ministries, Jim Panaggio with spiritual formation, Ross Hunter with equipping for indigenous ministries, Carlos Tejada with pastoral networking, and the list goes on.

Ernest Dyck speaks for his entire team when he says that they greatly desire to be used as a resource to the other teams in the Latin America Division as well as to their national partners. They would be honored and delighted to come alongside you, whether it is in a consulting role, or to help facilitate training of some sort. For more information, please email LACRET1@efca.org

This video was made for the 2018 Latin America/Caribbean Conference. Team leadership has changed since then, but the heart of the team remains the same. Enjoy!

Soltera y, aun así, Santificada [Single and Still Sanctified]

[Last month, an article written by yours truly was featured on the EFCA blog, which you can read right here. It was a reflection on the blessings and burdens of singleness on the mission field and in the church.  One of our ministry partners in Mexico City has graciously translated it for us into Spanish, so that a wider community can enjoy and also share their insights. Enjoy!]

Soltera y, aun así, santificada.

Reflexiones de una misionera acerca de las cargas y las bendiciones de la soltería.

Oh Señor, “susurré en voz baja,” Iré a hasta lo más lejos de la tierra; Iré a las naciones; no hay límites de los lugares, las personas y las tareas que haría por tu reino. Pero por favor, te lo ruego, no me hagas ser como Amy Carmichael. Esa es mi única petición. Una vida en soledad, eso es demasiado para mí, no lo podría soportar”.

1 Corintios 7 dice que la mujer soltera tiene ciertas ventajas que las que no lo son, ella puede dedicar su mente y tiempo a las cosas del Señor. Soy una mujer soltera, y no muy joven, viviendo en el extranjero y sirviendo en misiones en el extranjero para la agencia misionera ReachGlobal.

La descripción del ministerio que hago requiere que viaje por América Latina y algunos otros lugares, reuniendo historias. Hago filmes, fotografía y también escribo. Cada mes me encuentro en un lugar diferente viajando muy lejos de la civilización, ya sea sobre un burro o en el asiento trasero de una camioneta. Realmente amo lo que hago y siento una gran satisfacción en ello. Estoy convencida que esto es para lo que Dios me creó. Tengo éxito en lo que logro y considero que el tiempo con el que ahora cuento lo aprovecho para redimirlo. Si estuviera casada y tuviera hijos, no podría hacer este tipo de trabajo en particular. Tampoco podría meditar tanto en mi estudio de la Biblia y mi oración o dejar todo lo que estoy haciendo para hablar con alguien que está sufriendo. El tiempo es mi mayor ventaja en este momento; el tiempo es el regalo de Dios para la persona soltera en el campo de la misión y en cualquier lugar. Sin embargo, cómo lo uso, bueno, eso es algo que tendré que darle cuentas al Todopoderoso.

La soltería es un camino hacia la transformación.

“25 En cuanto a las personas solteras, no tengo ningún mandato del Señor, pero doy mi opinión como quien por la misericordia del Señor es digno de confianza. 26 Pienso que, a causa de la crisis actual, es bueno que cada persona se quede como está. 27 ¿Estás casado? No procures divorciarte. ¿Estás soltero? No busques esposa. 28 Pero, si te casas, no pecas; y, si una joven se casa, tampoco comete pecado. Sin embargo, los que se casan tendrán que pasar por muchos aprietos,y yo quiero evitárselos.

29 Lo que quiero decir, hermanos, es que nos queda poco tiempo. De aquí en adelante los que tienen esposa deben vivir como si no la tuvieran; 30 los que lloran, como si no lloraran; los que se alegran, como si no se alegraran; los que compran algo, como si no lo poseyeran; 31 los que disfrutan de las cosas de este mundo, como si no disfrutaran de ellas; porque este mundo, en su forma actual, está por desaparecer.

32 Yo preferiría que estuvieran libres de preocupaciones. El soltero se preocupa de las cosas del Señor y de cómo agradarlo. 33 Pero el casado se preocupa de las cosas de este mundo y de cómo agradar a su esposa; 34 sus intereses están divididos. La mujer no casada, lo mismo que la joven soltera, se preocupa de las cosas del Señor; se afana por consagrarse al Señor tanto en cuerpo como en espíritu. Pero la casada se preocupa de las cosas de este mundo y de cómo agradar a su esposo. 35 Les digo esto por su propio bien, no para ponerles restricciones, sino para que vivan con decoro y plenamente dedicados al Señor” (1 Corintios 7:25-35).

Te puede parecer sorprendente saber que pasé más de una década de mi vida resentida con el apóstol Pablo y sus palabras en 1 Corintios 7. Literalmente me hacía encogerme cuando alguien lo compartía conmigo, y le rogaba al Señor que fuera otro pasajeel que se aplicara a mi vida. Si el que decía estas palabras era una persona casada, inmediatamente los desacreditaba, y generalmente me enojaba aún más por la injusticia de todo esto.

Tener la capacidad y el tiempo para preocuparse por los asuntos del Señor es una bendición, es un regalo.

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Sin embargo, en los últimos años, ha habido un cambio gigantesco dentro de mí. Fue tan gradual, y se produjo en una culminación de pequeños momentos que casi ni me di cuenta como sucedió. Un día, me topé con el temido pasajey, mientras lo leía, descubrí que de repente pude decir “¡sí y amén!” a lo que anteriormente me había causado tanto dolor y pena.

La implicación de Pablo es que tener libertad de tiempo, espacio mental y emocional es estar en buen estado. En lugar de dedicar esta libertad a un cónyuge, la persona soltera puede entregarse al Señor como una ofrenda. No es un estado menor; ¡Él lo llama bueno! Tener la capacidad y el tiempo para preocuparse por los asuntos del Señor es una bendición, es un regalo. Al verlo de esta manera dejé de estar enojada con las palabras del apóstol.

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Mi deseo era casarme muy joven. Recuerdo estar en la preparatoria contándole a mi madre mi sueño de casarme el día después de graduarme. Su ansiedad por este deseo expresado eventualmente se disolvió, ya que nunca salí con nadie en la preparatoria. Inmediatamente después de mi último año comenzó mi primer viaje de misión de seis meses y mi visión del mundo cambió. El primer viaje que realicé me llevó a Tailandia, allí me encontraba durante el tsunami de 2004. El sueño americano se arruinó para siempre,y desde ese entonces buscaba una manera de participar en el reino de Dios entre las naciones.

Ahora, 15 años después de ese primer viaje, después de muchos altibajos, el sueño y el deseo por alcanzar las naciones permanece. Lo mismo ocurre con el deseo de casarme. Y, sin embargo, ya no estoy enojada con Pablo. Entonces, ¿Cómo sucedió este cambio?

La soltería es un estado tan santificante como lo es el matrimonio.

He visto a casi todos mis amigos cercanos casarse y formar familias en la última década.

Los he visto caminar hacia el altar, como deslumbran en su etapa de luna de miel, caer en cuenta de la realidad a los pocos meses y luego privarse del sueño durante meses (o años), cuando tienen bebés. He escuchado mientras comparten conmigo acerca de que el matrimonio y la paternidad es el proceso más santificador que jamás hayan experimentado. Mientras soñaba con el campo de la misión y tener un esposo, caminé por lugares solitarios mientras mi esperanza y dirección de vida se apartaban de la de muchos de mis amigos. También he visto como mis amigos han experimentado la soledad. ¡Mis amigos casados! ¡Los amigos que están viviendo mi sueño todavía experimentan soledad! ¿Qué es esto? Sus vidas y esperanzas tienen los mismos altibajos que la mia.

Un día, sin embargo, me di cuenta: la soltería es tan santificante como el matrimonio.

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Solía ​​aceptar la mentira condescendiente de “oh, entenderás la santificación cuando te estés casada”. Me lo dijeron una y otra vez, lo escuché de amigos bien intencionados e incluso por pastores. Esto me llevó a creer por un tiempo que la verdadera experiencia de vida llegaría una vez que llegara el matrimonio, así que debería esperar para tomar decisiones verdaderamente importantes hasta que eso sucediera.

Un día, sin embargo, me di cuenta: la soltería es tan santificante como el matrimonio.

Mis amigos casados ​​tienen que aprender a confiar en Cristo para satisfacer sus necesidades, deseos y soledad, ¡y yo también tengo que hacerlo! Yo hago lo mismo y también duermo sola por la noche. Mis amigos casados ​​tienen que buscar a Dios para conocer su identidad y propósito, ¡y yo también! La soledad es una condición humana, como parte de la caída. La raíz de esto, es realmente la maraca dolor por nuestra separación de Dios. Entonces, cuando experimento momentos de soledad, mis amigos casados ​​también lo experimentan. Mis amigas que son madres jóvenes al estar atrapadas en la casa lo experimentan también. Mis amigos cuyos hijos dejaron su hogar y los dejaron con un sentido de falta de propósito, también lo experimentan.

La soltería no es una carga

Puedo decir que los de ReachGlobal cuidan muy bien de las mujeres solteras. Desde mi primer día, me hicieron sentir que soy un activo, no un pasivo.

Durante nuestra capacitación previa al campo, todos tuvimos que llenar un formato, tanto matrimonios como solteros, describiendo algunas de sus ventajas y desventajas que traerían al campo en su estado civil actual. Una misionera recientemente me contó que cuando ella lo hizo, una persona casada en su grupo dijo que “las personas solteras están disponibles 24/7 para servir”. Nos reímos mucho por lo que esa persona dijo. Eso es extremo, y no es cierto, pero definitivamente si estoy más disponible para servir que, digamos, mujeres que tienen niños pequeños en su hogar.

La soltería es un regalo tan grande a los ojos de Dios como lo es el matrimonio.

Puedo aportar los recursos de tener más tiempo y flexibilidad, más disponibilidad emocional, menos personas a las que cuidar y una perspectiva valiosa sobre la dependencia de Dios. Las responsabilidades que tengo no son tan diferentes a las de las parejas casadas: debo cuidar como me relaciono con los demás, tener cuidado de mi seguridad. Tengo que depender de la gente para que me ayude a veces, especialmente cuando estoy en lugares donde no es seguro o culturalmente inapropiado que una mujer viaje sola.

Me encanta que en ReachGlobal, no se me trate como un problema que debe resolver, sino como una valiosa colaboradora en este ministerio. Muchas veces en la iglesia, me hacen sentir como una amenaza, como si estuviera haciendo algo mal y por eso todavía esté soltera (¡lo que implica que mis amigos casados​​hicieron algo bien para merecer el regalo del matrimonio!). La soltería es un regalo tan grande a los ojos de Dios como lo es el matrimonio. Aprecio mucho la perspectiva que nuestra misión tiene en esta área.

La soltería es enriquecedora y satisfactoria.

Hace unos años, cuando fui a un entrenamiento de pre-campo, conocí a una mujer soltera que sirvió en Hong Kong durante 38 años. Probablemente ella no tenga idea del tipo de gigante espiritual que ha sido para mí. Su influencia en mí ha sido muy alentadora.

Ella me dijo que incluso ahora que ya tiene más de 60 años, la gente se acerca a ella en la iglesia y le dicen que están orando para que ella tenga un esposo. Ella les ha pedido que no lo hagan y que mejor oren para que su carácter sea más parecido al de Cristo. Ella me dijo, muy en el espíritu de Isaías 54, que a pesar de que era una mujer soltera, no estaba fuera de la perspectiva de que Dios quisiera que tuviera hijos espirituales. De hecho, si las palabras del profeta son verdaderas, “Porque más hijos que la casadatendrá la desamparada” (Isaías 54: 1). Ella me acorraló y me habló con firmeza, diciendo que sería mejor que discipule a las personas. El hecho de que nunca haya dado a luz a un hijo no significaba que no debía ser madre. Cada mujer en la tierra es llamada ser madre, ya sea una verdadera madre biológica o no: Dios nos creó para ser criadoras y dadoras de vida, lo somos hasta lo más profundo de nuestros huesos.

Más tarde, me encontraba leyendo las biografías de algunas de las “mujeres poderosas” en las misiones: Amy Carmichael, Lilias Trotter, Corrie Ten Boom. Aunque oraba para que el Señor no me hiciera como Amy Carmichael, al leer más sobre su vida, pensaba en mi conversación con las misioneras de Hong Kong. ¿Cuántos niños en India llamaron Amy Carmichael amma (“madre”)? Ella no fue una mujer desamparada: Carmichael tuvo una gran y vasta familia, ¡un nido lleno!

Preferiría ser como Amy Carmichael y vivir una vida de soltería que enriquecedora y plena, que estar casada y vivir de una manera inferior a la que Dios me llamó a vivir.

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Al parecer es cierto lo que está escrito en muchos libros y artículos, que hay aproximadamente 10 mujeres solteras por cada hombre en el campo de la misión. Si de hecho hay un hombre soltero en el campo de la misión, es probable que ni siquiera termine la escuela de idiomas antes de casarse. ¡Ahora lo he visto con mis propios ojos y puedo dar fe de que es verdad! La gente dice que el campo misionero no es un lugar para encontrar un esposo.

Aquí está mi pequeña aportación al respecto: Dios puede traer a quien quiera, en cualquier momento que él quiera, a cualquier persona que él elija. Prefiero estar en obediencia y sirviendo y no tener esperanza de encontrar un esposo que estar sentada en mi casa en desobediencia y casarme con alguien cuyo corazón no vaya en la misma dirección que el mío hacia Dios.

Me atrevo a confesarlo: Preferiría ser como Amy Carmichael y vivir una vida de soltería enriquecedora y plena, que estar casada y vivir de una manera inferior a la que Dios me llamó a vivir.

La soltería es una manera de redimir el tiempo.

Mi anhelo por el matrimonio y mi anhelo de servir en el extranjero crecieron a la par durante años. Al final de mis 20´s, fui sorprendida por una profunda convicción: no quiero estar frente al Todopoderoso al final de mi vida y decirle que nunca fui a servir en las misiones porque estaba esperando a que me enviara un esposo.

¡No quiero tener que decirle que pasé años en desobediencia, años en los que podría haber sido útil, solo esperando a que un hombre viniera a rescatarme! Dios tenía trabajo para mí, y seguí postergando mi compromiso de entrar en el campo solo porque no quería “dejar pasar la oportunidad de casarme”.

Quiero lo que él quiere para mí. Nada más y nada menos.

Efesios 5:15-16 nos dice “Así que tengan cuidado de su manera de vivir. No vivan como necios, sino como sabios, aprovechando al máximo cada momento oportuno, porque los días son malos”. Redimir el tiempo. Eso puede significar muchas cosas en muchas temporadas de la vida, pero para mí, en el momento en que esas palabras me iluminaron, significan que fui llamada al servicio, a ser útil, y a ir a las naciones. El llamado es ya. No “algún día cuando llegue mi príncipe” sino ahora.

Mi esperanza es dar algo de luz acerca de los desafíos particulares que las mujeres solteras enfrentan en el campo de la misión. Siendo honesta, los desafíos que enfrento son casi exactamente los mismos que enfrenté en los Estados Unidos, especialmente en la iglesia. Recibo los mismos comentarios poco sensibles tanto aquí como en casa, los mismos comentarios con asombro de “¿Por qué rayos no estás casada todavía? ¿Te sientes llamada a estar soltera? ¿No quieres tener esposo?”. La respuesta, después de años de discutir el tema con Dios, es:” Quiero lo que Él quiere para mí. Nada más y nada menos.”

Dependiendo de dónde esté de visita, a menudo se me considera extraña, poco convencional o simplemente un espectáculo triste porque no tengo un esposo o hijos, lo que da valor, identidad y seguridad a las mujeres en gran parte del mundo. Tengo el privilegio, en cambio, de demostrar que Dios le da a cada humano valor y dignidad simplemente porque estamos hechos a Su imagen. Hay momentos en que tengo que depender de mis compañeros de equipo y de otros misioneros para darme seguridad, ayuda y comunidad. Pero lo que me ha sorprendido es que esto funciona en ambos sentidos. Las familias con niños en el campo de misión necesitan “tías” y compañerismo con otros tanto como yo necesito la dinámica de una cena familiar. Dios nos hace a todos parte de su familia y todos cumplimos con un papel especial durante las diversas estaciones de la vida en que nos encontramos.

Aun siento la soledad vez en cuando. Como oleadas que vienen y que se van. El consuelo ahora es saber que todos experimentamos esto, que el ir y venir de la soledad en el mundo no es solo para las personas solteras. Esta necesidad que sentimos puede ser redimida; se puede canalizar; se puede usar para declarar entre las naciones que todos necesitamos a Dios, que nuestros corazones claman a causa de nuestra separación de Él.

Kathryn Bronn es la coordinadora de comunicaciones de ReachGlobal Latino America / El Caribe. Usa la fotografía, cortometrajes, blogs y medios mixtos / pintura para contar historias del Reino de Dios donde quiera que vaya. Puedes encontrarla en kathrynbronnblog.com o @kathrynbronn en Instagram.

Traducción por Jorge Altamirano.

Jorge Altamirano es pastor en la iglesia Cristiana Vida Abundante en la Ciudad de México, también es profesor de inglés como segundo Idioma, traduce artículos de publicaciones, materiales y libros cristianos.  Puedes contactarlo a través del correo jamfielm@icloud.com y en Facebook/Jorge Altamirano.

 

 

Introducing :: Gene and Gloria Van Den Bosch

For those of us on staff in ReachGlobal, the names Gene and Gloria are very familiar. For those reading this who may be from a supporting church or just a prayer partner, the Van Den Boschs have been wonderful friends, colleagues and mentors to many of us through the years.  They have recently come on board with ReachGlobal Latin America/Caribbean as part of the Member Care team.  We call them our “Pastors to Missionaries”, and they will serve a crucial role of supporting those of us on the field. Today, I thought it would be nice for them to share their own story of how they have come to this point. We are so incredibly eager for them to begin their ministry, and I hope you enjoy the read:

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In 1993, we felt called to go on our first short-term missions’ trip to Romania.  We can still remember the Sunday when we felt God’s call to go on that trip.  Missions was not something that we had ever thought we would do or even knew much about.  God took us totally out of our comfort zone (even out knowledge zone).  We spent two weeks in Romania and saw God do things we had never experienced before, we met people who had survived Communism and had such hard lives yet had a joy in the Lord and heart for sharing the Gospel that we had never seen before.

We went on our 2ndshort-term trip to Romania in 1994 and after that trip, we experienced a tug to return.  God took us on baby steps as He called us back to serve Him long term. On December 3, 1995 we flew to Romania.  Our two youngest daughters attended Black Forest Academy in Germany; our two oldest daughters stayed behind in the US.

During out time in Romania, we experienced culture shock, culture fatigue, language learning and building relationships, and learned what it meant to plant a church.  It was in these years that our understanding of who God is and what God can do and our faith in Him grew more than at any other time in our lives.  It was the best of times, the worst of times.

God brought us back from Romania in mid-2001.  We felt God closing the door to us living in Romania but didn’t feel Him closing the door on being with ReachGlobal.  We had developed a heart to care for missionaries because of our experiences in Romania.  We had hoped to care for missionaries on the field, but God also closed that door to us. He had another plan for us; he called us to the EFCA National Office in 2002 and God showed us how we could care for missionaries in our roles there.

We have told countless applicants over the years that we were the poster children for going overseas unprepared and not ready. We believe that God gave us those experiences, so we could build an onboarding process to ensure that those feeling called to go would be prepared and ready.  There are so many ways God met us over these last 16 years, so many ways in which He revealed Himself to us.  He has grown us up in so many ways to understand who we are and who He created us to be and how we can use His gifting of us for His glory and to serve His people.

There are 3 things that we have said we would never do that relate to our life as missionaries.  1. We lived in MN in the 80’s when Gene was with IBM and we said we NEVER wanted to live there again.  2. When we joined the mission, we said that we NEVER wanted to work at the National Office. We currently live in MN and have worked at the National Office for 16 years.  The 3rdis, we said we NEVER wanted to do Ministry Partnership Development (MPD) again to raise up prayer and financial partners.

In August 2018, we went to the Latin America Caribbean area conference and it was there in conversations with our staff, through Bible teaching times, personal Bible reading and prayer that God dealt with our ‘never’ of doing MPD again. We also believe that, while He released us from our roles at the National Office; as in 2001, He hasn’t released us from ReachGlobal.

God is giving us our original desire to care for missionaries.  It is a role called Pastors to Missionaries (PTMs) which is part of our Member Care team. While we won’t be living overseas, we will be caring for missionaries through visits to their locations, through emails and through skype calls.  Some of this care will be reactive as they have difficult circumstances in their lives; some of this care will be proactive as we give them resources to help guard their hearts.

We will be PTMs to the missionary staff in ReachGlobal’s Latin America/Caribbean division and we are very excited about this.  We will be doing this on a part-time basis – we are retiring for a reason! The pull of grandchildren is powerful!

For most PTMs, it takes 1-2 years to build relationships with those on their fields.  We are blessed to know our missionary families already as the majority have come through the onboarding process.  We are so excited to be able to care for these dear colleagues.

During out time at the National Office, we cared for those preparing to go, through processes, details and tasks.  Sometimes, caring for them meant hard conversations in which we needed to speak the truth in love.  Sometimes it meant saying no, sometimes, not yet.  As we look at this new role as PTMs, our focus is to listen and love them. How great is that?!

God is asking us to step out in faith to trust Him to what He has called us to in our repurposing.  It is a faith journey that is not completely new for us; but this is taking us to a place of total reliance on God’s provision for us.

We are excited about raising up a team of people to partner with us in serving and caring for our missionary staff in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.  We believe that anything that is done to expand the Kingdom of God on this earth through our missionaries is counted as heavenly reward to us. but also, to those who partner with us in prayer and finances.

In great anticipation of God will do!

Let’s be praying for and cheering on Gene and Gloria as they make this transition and walk through the MPD process this year!

How God is Raising Up Leaders Through IBAC

It’s a pretty incredible sight.

Hundreds of Latino pastors, crowded into a room, hungry for the Word and ready to grow in their theology.

They come for three day sessions, twice a year, as they work through their seminary studies.  Why is it done this way?  These men and women are already in full-time ministry.  They are in positions where they can’t drop everything and uproot their families to go attend seminary.

Many have said, nationals and missionaries alike, that the greatest need in the Latin American church is the need for theological education.  Good theology!  This is a region of the world where Catholicism has reigned for hundreds of years, but where the prosperity gospel is also growing like an untamed weed.  Evangelism is truly only the first piece, the first step.  What comes after that? Discipleship. That’s the longer step, the piece that takes dedicated relationship and a commitment to walk through life with people. Commitment to the long-haul.

The design of IBAC is discipleship of pastors and church leaders, who will (and often are already) leading people in their own local community.  Men who are leading out of their own testimony and knowledge of God, but need further training in the proper handling of the Word.

Consider how this model of multiplication discipleship affects the countries where it is being used–

IBAC has a presence in five countries – Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the United States.  There are currently 22 locations, training between 2,200 and 2,500 pastors and church leaders annualy. That’s 2,500 men and women who are in leadership positions in their churches, so consider how many people they are discipling themselves and affecting with the Word!

The 7 year program has been completed already in five locations, which represents  about 660 graduates to date.  IBAC is planning on starting new Bible Institutes in 6 new locations (in Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama). What huge opportunities to bring people into deeper knowledge of the Word, and then have them apply it immediately in their own native setting.

There are currently  22 partner churches who have adopted a Bible Institute – 21 in the United States, and 1 in Costa Rica.  If your church, or a group from your church is interested in more information, or making the commitment to walking alongside one of these schools, you can contact Jim Wilson at jim.wilson@efca.org.

Restoration is a Team Sport

As EFCA pastors have learned, restoration is best done in community.

In 1997, following 20 years as a successful church planter in his native Costa Rica, Pastor Eduardo Castillo was facing his greatest personal failure: the dissolution of his marriage and family. Yet equally devastating was the reality that the blame fell squarely on his own shoulders: His failure to balance his personal life with his ministry life had driven his wife away and left a gaping wound that would take time, God’s grace and many people to heal.

Reeling from the blow, Eduardo spent two years in God’s “waiting room,” wondering if he would ever return to ministry. In 1999, he felt called to move to the United States. Once there, he contacted a long-time friend of his father’s, a missionary who had once started a Bible school in Costa Rica. Then retired and attending Faith EFC in Colorado Springs, Bill Brown took Eduardo under his care and began to restore hope.

Eduardo is indebted to American friends who offered friendship and ministry support, such as John Emig (at left, while visiting Eduardo in Costa Rica). John and his wife opened their home to Eduardo when he was living in Colorado.

In turn, Bill introduced Eduardo to Bruce Redmond, the EFCA Rocky Mountain District church-planting coordinator. Bill knew that Bruce had been searching for a Latino church-planting pastor. With Bill as interpreter/middleman, Bruce got to know Eduardo, saw his heart for God, connected with his passion for ministry and realized that before him was a man in the midst of a very positive process.

In 2000, Bruce invited Eduardo to join him in Colorado as part of a path of personal and ministry mentoring. “That brought healing to me,” Eduardo says. “In Costa Rica, you have no intentional equipping or training to be a church planter. The churches are isolated. Now I felt belonging.”

As Bruce mentored him through church-planting boot camps, pastoral gatherings and conferences, others also joined the restoration process: the EFCA’s Board of Ministerial Standing, various pastors and church leaders, and his adopted church family at Fellowship Community Church in Centennial, CO.

To serve as an EFCA church planter, Eduardo knew that he must pursue EFCA credentialing, and one step of that credentialing included an extensive exploration of the cause of his divorce. Eventually, Eduardo’s personal healing reached the point that he now considers his ex-wife and her husband to be good friends.

Finally, in 2001, with a renewed spirit and EFCA credentialing in hand, Eduardo was ready to return to ministry and launch his first Hispanic church plant.

Then came September 11.

The days following the World Trade Center disaster proved tumultuous for Eduardo because of immigration issues. Finally, with just days left on his religious worker’s visa but the immigration issues not yet resolved, Eduardo returned to Costa Rica, hoping to not jeopardize his ability to later return.

While back in his home country, Eduardo soon realized that his visit would not be a temporary one. Senior leaders of the evangelical churches of Costa Rica began asking this newly trained leader for help in equipping the pastors of 3,500 mostly independent churches. And so he stayed.

What started as one pastor contemplating leaving ministry forever due to personal failures, 10 years later has grown into a movement called INCRESE—the Spanish acronym for the Institute for Healthy, Ecclesiastical Growth. Thus far, INCRESE has provided training for almost 1,000 pastors and church leaders and launched the Union of Evangelical Free Churches of Costa Rica.

And to think that it all began with a broken pastor, a restoration team who loved him and a God who never gives up on His children.

Story originally published in EFCA Today magazine (www.efcatoday.org), fall 2011, published by the Evangelical Free Church of America. Written by Timothy Young, Dale Eudy and Steve Yohn. Timothy Young is the mission-team leader and an elder of Living Rock EFC in Gillette, WY. Dale Eudy is director of ministry partnerships for INCRESE. Steve Yohn is senior pastor of Strasburg (CO) Community Church.

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CONNECT

latinamerica@efca.org or info@increse.net

SERVE

Bring a short-term team to Costa Rica. Contact us to discuss options!

PRAY
  • For the restoration of leaders in Costa Rica and throughout Latin America as they participate in the INCRESE movement.
  • For the work of Eduardo Castillo and the other INCRESE trainers and leaders.
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Make an online donation to INCRESE.

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Where Would I Be?

Cristo yo te amo, Cristo yo te amo.
No hay nadie como tú, Jesús.
Y no sé dónde estuviera, si a ti no te tuviera,
Si no hubiese conocido al Dios que me ama.

Jesus, I love you, Jesus, I love you.
There is no one like you, Jesus.
And I don’t know where I would be, if I didn’t have you,
If I hadn’t met the God that loves me.

It is a cold January morning in southern Minnesota, and this is one of the worship choruses we sing. What a message in this song. Does the congregation feel the meaning of this song in their hearts?

Each Sunday, as I stand in front of the congregation of El Camino (The Way – the name for our Spanish service at our EFCA church), I long for each one to understand the message that we sing together, to be touched by the message put to music.

But, usually, I don’t know if they get it.

My husband, Tim, and I work with Hispanic immigrants in a small Minnesotan town. In contrast to some of the charisma one might see worshiping in a church in Latin America, people here are hesitant to express their feelings. They are outsiders in this North American culture, often stressed and stretched by their circumstances. Some have little church experience. Many of the faces show little expression as we worship, so it is hard to know what is going on inside.

However, I know that each one of us on the church leadership team knows the truth of this song well.

An unlikely team

Tim and I left our overseas assignment in Venezuela in 2000. It wasn’t our plan. But after our youngest son was diagnosed with autism, we felt that God was leading us back to the U.S. and we followed. It was a difficult move.

Fellow EFCA ReachGlobal missionaries Ted and Juli never planned to leave their assignment in Costa Rica to move to Minnesota, either. However, late in the summer of 2007, this became their home, too. And though we all continue to work with ProMETA, an online seminary program for Spanish-speakers, we didn’t expect to do it from a little town in the middle of the corn fields.

Mirian, our Chilean coworker, came with her husband, Heriberto, to the U.S. in 2005 to serve as a missionary to Hispanics in Minnesota. Heriberto was to be the pastor of El Camino, but now Mirian serves the church as a widow after losing him to cancer three years ago.

Mark, our newest team member, came to our small town in 2009 after a teaching job fell apart. He wondered what God had planned for him, a gifted pianist and Spanish teacher, as he moved to southern Minnesota to work for a friend’s company making signs.

All of us have been through numerous difficulties. We don’t know where we would be without our God — the God who surprised us all by bringing us together to lead a ministry to hurting immigrants, a ministry conceived in the minds of the our church’s pastors before any of us even arrived.

So I know the El Camino leaders can sing this song deeply from the heart, but what about our congregation?

Ministry to the hurting

After the service this January morning, I take time to visit with members of the congregation like usual. Today Ana* is back in church. Life has been hard for Ana.

Her parents have been in the U.S. for many years and have been working for a long time on citizenship papers. However, Ana’s status in the country is questionable. She has been through one divorce and a relationship with an abusive boyfriend, and she has endured a number of painful miscarriages. She is a single mom to a 2-year-old.

As a young girl, her church experience was very limited, and she saw the tough side of the Hispanic community in our town. Immigrants often work long hours and irregular schedules, making life difficult, especially on families. As immigrants are uprooted from their communities, they struggle to adjust culturally in a new place. Some make poor choices leading to alcohol abuse, drug use, crime and dysfunctional family situations.

Ana didn’t think there was much hope. About five years ago, when Mirian told her that our purpose as a church is to help the Hispanic community and to help them learn about God, Ana told her, “That’s a nice idea, but it will never work here.”

However, as she grew in her relationship to us (and especially to Mirian), her perspective about our work began to change. When her child was born without the strength to live, someone was there to love her and support her as she said goodbye to her baby. When she started to feel God’s pull on her heart, someone was there to teach her. When she was ready to give her life to God a few years ago, someone was there to lead her.

Now, she has a desire to know her Creator and to serve Him. Her life hasn’t changed overnight, but God is working in her. Now, after a last try to “make it work” with her boyfriend, she has finally left him, moved back to our town, and is part of our congregation once more.

After the service, we chat. As Ana begins to share, I hear her say, “Oh, that song, it’s so true. What would I do without Jesus? I haven’t followed Him like I should, but I’ve learned many things now. What would I do without Jesus?”

As she talks, another woman, Consuela*, stands by. Her story is difficult, as well. She faces life as a recent widow, now raising her children as a single mom. She agrees with Ana — where would we be without Jesus?

God works in hearts even when we don’t see it on faces.

None of us (the leadership team) expected to be where we are, but God in His providence is using us in the midst of our life stories and struggles. He is using us to reach the Spanish speakers in our community – people like Ana and Consuela – and rewarding our faithfulness with their testimony to a love and need for Him.

*Names changed.

Story by Carolyn, EFCA ReachGlobal Latin America missionary. Carolyn’s husband Tim serves as a professor with ProMETA.

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PRAY
  • For Carolyn, Tim and their teammates as they minister to Hispanics in southern Minnesota.
  • For the Hispanic immigrants who attend El Camino — that they would find hope in the midst of hardship.
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