I left Los Angeles on March 5, arriving in Miami on Tuesday, March 6, where I met up with Mark Bube and Douglas Clawson (General Secretary and Associate General Secretary of the Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church). Their purpose in the visit was two-fold, as I understood it, to see how the Foreign Missions Committee might be of help to the churches in Colombia, and also to advise the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations concerning the petition of the Presbytery of Gran Colombia of the OPC of Colombia to join the OPC in North America. Unless otherwise noted, in this report, the “we” refers to Brothers Bube, Clawson, and myself.
On Tuesday, March 6, we flew to Medellín, Colombia, where we spent two days. We met with Carlos Mario Marín, and his wife Cynthia, gave them some books and Bibles, and met some of the members of his church there (San Pablo OPC), and had extensive discussions with him, and visited the place where his church meets (a separate church also meets there, where his father is the pastor, whom we also met). We also met and had discussions with Orlando, an ordained Anglican priest who attends San Pablo OPC, and is interested in joining the OPC.
On Thursday, March 8, we flew to Cali, where we met with Mauricio Jiménez, and his family, and gave them some books and Bibles. We had discussions with him, and went to the town of Yumbo, about thirty minutes from Cali, where we met with a group of students who form a study group of San Agustín Seminary, which Mauricio is overseeing in that place. We had a meeting where we were introduced to the group, and I exhorted them from the Holy Scriptures (St. John 12:44-50). The students are from a variety of churches, and only one, Daniel López, is actively seeking entry into the OPC of Colombia as a pastor. He is currently overseeing a group of believers in Yumbo, while Mauricio pastors another small mission in Cali.
On Friday, March 9, we flew to Bogotá, where we met with Hugo Martínez, who is seeking to start a church in that city, and gave him some books and Bibles. He is a under care of the Presbytery, and explained that his studies were not progressing well with San Agustín. I told him I would speak with José Ríos, the rector of the seminary, about the matter, and also encouraged him to seek other means of progressing in his theological studies (in Bogotá, the studies offered by San Agustín are only by extension, with no study center or professors there). The work is still small, meeting thusfar only as a Bible study, although they have a good meeting place to begin worship services. The brothers encourage him to begin worship services there as soon as possible.
On Saturday, March 10, we flew to Barranquilla, where we met with Ener Sanjuán, the pastor of La Paz OPC there, José Ríos, missionary to Emanuel OPC in Barranquilla, who was to be ordained on Sunday, and Marlon Uparela, pastor of Comunidad de Gracia OPC in Cartegena, and gave them some books. We had an informal discussion on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, we attended the worship service at La Paz church, where Ener preached. That afternoon, we went to a hotel where the ordination service of José Ríos was conducted, with Ener preaching, and Marlon giving the charge to the pastor and to the congregation. We participated in the laying on of hands as part of the ordination, with other ordained elders and pastors from the Presbytery of Gran Colombia also participating (one pastor was prevented from attending due to the closure of the Bogotá airport, due to a visiting head of state).
On Monday, March 12, we went to Cartagena with Marlon, we visited a school where the teachers are members of the church, then one of the families of the church, saw the city, and in the evening, attended a service held in a local hotel, where we met some of the people who are a part of Comunidad de Gracia OPC, where Marlon preached.
On Tuesday, March 13, Mark Bube and Douglas Clawson returned to Philadelphia, and I flew on to Guatemala.
I arrived in Guatemala on the evening of Tuesday, March 13. Pastor Oscar Tenes who is starting the OPC in Guatemala City called me to make sure I have made it into town, and we arranged for Wednesday’s visits. On Wednesday, he came with six elders (Miguel López, pastor, Oscar Mendes, elder, Santos Pérez, elder, Casamiro Juárez, elder, Ramón Díaz, elder, and Israel Pérez, elder) from the “In Christ” Mam Presbyterian Church, from San Juan Ostuncalco, outside of Xelajú (Quetzaltenango). We had extensive discussions about the growth and expansion of the reformed faith among the Mam people, and we agreed that they would translate the Westminster Shorter Catechism and Confession of Faith into the Mam language, and I would seek to have it published. I asked how many copies they would need (thinking a few hundred), and they asked for at least two thousand, just for the members of their churches who speak their language. I also gave them some copies of the same in Spanish. They presented me with a petition from their churches to enter into a fraternal relationship with our congregation and the OPC, which will be forwarded after translation (it is somewhat lengthy). They then returned to San Juan Ostuncalco.
I then met with pastor Tenes. We discussed the growth of the church in Guatemala City, and the outreach to other parts of Guatemala. We discussed the situation of the Mam churches, and were in agreement that he would continue to go there at least once a month to hold seminars on various topics. We discussed the organization of the church in Guatemala City. At present, he has a number of Bible Study groups, and is considering when it would be appropriate to begin worship services. He is an experienced pastor, and has pastored large churches in the city, but he wants to start the church so that it grows appropriately and endure, unlike many churches there, which grow quickly, and then disappear.
I returned home to North America on Thursday, March 15, by the grace of God.