Report on Visit to Latin America, Jan. 1-20, 2007
I arrived in Guatemala on the evening of Jan. 1. On Tuesday, pastor Oscar Tenes picked me up at the hotel, and we traveled to Xelajú (Quetzaltenango). On the way, we discussed the growth of the church in Guatemala City, and the outreach to other parts of Guatemala. He is very interested in seeing the church planted throughout Central America, and has already visited the church in El Salvador. We also, as always, discussed theological questions and the state in general of churches throughout Guatemala. We arrived in Xelajú in the afternoon, and were greeted by the members of Christ Presbyterian Church Mam. Mam refers to the Mayan ethnic group and to the language spoken by people in the church. We met with a committee of the church composed of Miguel López, pastor, Oscar Tenes, elder, Santos Pérez, elder, Casamiro Juárez, elder, Patricia Díaz, leader of the youth group, Appolonio Pérez, Nicolás Correto, Rafael Méndez, Ramón Díaz, Israel Pérez, and Jinaro Mendoza. I presented the history, beliefs, practices, and work of the OPC in the U.S. I explained the origins and the conflicts with liberalism, and expounded from the Word about the infallibility of the Bible, salvation by grace alone, the covenant and especially the implications in terms of infant baptism, our understanding of church government, and especially our practice of discipline, and our view of women in office. They asked me many questions, with some doubts expressed about our view of woman in office, although most of the comments were very positive. One very interesting comment was that the Wycliffe translation that they use in their services says that we are "saved by grace and faith" in Ephesians 2, and it was observed that what I explained in Spanish was not the same, although they seemed to agree with my understanding of the passage. Oscar Méndez is our main contact there, and he seemed anxious to move the group to act immediately to progress further in terms of contact and such with us, but the pastor suggested that they meet later, and Oscar Tenes and I were invited back, with the hope that we could develop these same themes more broadly. Most of the members of the group are bilingual, although their worship services are in Mam, but some of the older members had a little trouble following the Spanish, and among themselves, they speak only Mam.
The next day, Wednesday, Oscar Tenes and I traveled to Santa Lucia Cotzumaluapan, in the Department of Esquintla, where we visited Jesús Castellanos, a member of the Santa Ana church, and his family. His sons are regular attenders at Santa Ana, but their wives and children live in Guatemala, and it was an opportunity to meet them for the first time, and to tell them about their family up north, and to tell them that I always encourage the men to send money home, and to seek the reunification of their families at the earliest possible moment.
Oscar Tenes and I then traveled back to Guatemala City, where he put me on the bus for El Salvador.
I arrived in El Salvador on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday I met with some of the members of the pastoral team, Tomás Eliseo Martínez, Jaime Olmedo, and Miguel Angel Rivas. We discussed their current work and their plans for the future (see attached Appendix 1). They asked how they could become an integral part of the OPC, and I explained the difficulty of such a step, and what the Presbytery of Gran Colombia and the GA were doing in that respect. Miguel was especially eager to pursue that, even though I tried to discourage him. Both Jaime and Miguel are university and seminary professors, and we spoke with Jaime about the possibility of further study at Westminster or Greenville Seminaries (all of the men have visas to visit, and have visited, the US, so it doesn’t seem insurmountable). On Friday, I met with the same men again, as well as Francisco, a young man in the church who is to begin seminary in Honduras this month (at a seminary of the CAM, Central American Mission). We then had a service, where we sang hymns, prayed, and I exhorted the congregation from Philippians 2:1-18. Afterwards, there was a time of eating pupusas and fellowship. We met at their building, a rented location near the Metrocenter, a better-than-average area west of the old downtown. There are many young adults in the church, most with a college education and good jobs, which is quite unusual for churches in the country I’m told. They have a desire to reach out to their contemporaries, many of whom look down on Christianity as something only for the lower classes. I was informed that they had formed a Consistory, composed of the following members: teaching elders Miguel Rivas, Jaime Olmedo, Francisco Lozano and Eliseo Martínez. As ruling elders Gabino Ramirez (treasurer), Adonay Guzman, Rubén Solorzano y David Martínez(Secretary).
I arrived in Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon, and was met by José Luis Enrique and by Moisés Campos.
I went to the home of Moisés, where we had extensive discussions about his work and beliefs, and commitment to the reformed faith. On Sunday, I went to their worship service, which was attended by about 80 people, mostly adults. I was impressed that a majority were men, which is not usual. Their worship service was almost identical to an OP service, with the occasion interjection of an Amen from the congregation. The pastor preached from Matthew 11:28-30, for about an hour, and developed the theme of Following Christ in our Daily Lives. After the service, I spoke with all of the members, including all of the members of the Session. In the afternoon, more discussions with the pastor and some elders, and then in the evening we went to the evening worship service, which was attended by about 25 people, many the same as in the morning, with a few children. It was conducted as a typical OP service, and I preached from Philippians 2:1-13. Pastor Moisés and I discussed more about the reformed faith and our practice of it, and he will communicate further with me. I expect to help him and his church set up a website so they can promote the orthodox presbyterian church of Costa Rica.
I arrived in Baranquilla, Colombia on Monday afternoon. The meeting of the Presbytery began soon after my arrival, at Emanuel OPC. Present were Marlon Uparela (pastor, Cartagena), Carlos Mario Marín (pastor, Medellín), Ener Sanjuán (pastor, La Paz, Barranquilla), José Ríos (licentiate, Emanuel, Barranquilla), Marco Peña (elder, La Paz), and Juan Carlos Gutiérrez (elder, La Paz), and myself, as "assesor". communicatons were received from all of the men under care and others. Their agenda is covered below (Appendix 2). Among the highlights were the examination and call of José Ríos to the gospel ministry, the establishment of Emanuel as a seperate congregation (heretofore, a mission of La Paz). I conducted the initial part of the examination in theology on the floor of Presbytery, with the other members taking part afterwards. It took about two and a half hours. He was approved and will be installed in March, d.v., with the visit of Mark Bube and Douglas Clawson. The Presbytery also set a tentative schedule for the brother’s visit then, to some of the churches and missions. The Presbytery also decided to ask the GA of the OPC of North America(through the Ecumenicity Committee) for permission to send an observer to the upcoming meeting. The meting of the Presbytery concluded on Tuesday evening, when we attended a service at La Paz where pastor Ener Sanjuán preached, and an infant member of the church was baptized, all in accord with the standards of the OPC.
After many difficulties, I arrived in La Azulita, Venezuela, on Thursday evening. I met with José Darío LaCruz, and his extended family. He is committed to the reformed faith, and was instrumental in beginning another church in his town, but it was independent, and the pastor they called pulled it into pentecostalism. We discussed the nature of the reformed faith and government, going over the usual distinctives (see Costa Rica above), and he is in full agreement with all except some concerns about infant baptism. We discussed that at length, and will continue our discussions. Darío has written to me since my departure and is very desirous of beginning an OPC in Venezuela, and I will earnestly pursue the possibility with him.
I arrived in Uruguay on Saturday, Jan. 13, and went to Rivera. I met with pastor Gustavo Mello Guimaraes on Sunday, and went to the main worship service in the Central Rivera church, where I preached from Philippians 2:1-11. On Monday, pastors Mario Cezar da Conceiçao Fagundes, Pastor Mello, and I traveled about two hours to the northwest, and went to the two churches in the vicinity of Artigas. We went first to the isolated country church in Pintadito, where we attended a service, attended by about twenty five people, where I preached from Philippians 2:12-18. We met outdoors on the site of the place where they intend to build their church building. We then went to the city church in Artigas, in the neighborhood of Piedra Pintada, where we attended another service, which began at 10 in the evening. Pastor Mario was a little disappointed at the attendance, about 25 people, which he said was due to meeting on a different day of the week. We met in the rented building which is dedicated to the church use, but they are looking for a larger facility. I preached from 1 John 3:1-10, and taught a Scripture song from 1 John 3:1. On Tuesday, we went to the church in Palomas, Brasil, and I preached from 1 John 1:8-2:5, with pastor Mello translating into Portuguese. I greeted the people in Portuguese, but my Portuguese has not advanced to the point where I can preach freely in it. There were about 20 people present (about 20% of the local population), with about 8 men, which surprised and pleased me. Afterwards, we went to the new work in Tabatinga, Brazil, but only visited with the people. In the evening, I met with the Presbytery, and we had discussions about the future, and especially the visits from Mark Bube and Douglas Clawson.
There is presently a land blockade between Uruguay and Argentina, so I crossed the Rio Platte and arrived in Buenos Aires late Wednesday evening, Jan. 17. On Thursday, Jan. 18, I met at length with pastor José Luis Podestá, who came by bus from Venado Tuerto to meet with me (at his brother’s home). He informed me that the work in Venado Tuerto is continuing with 5 or 6 regular attenders, and in Resistencia with 3 attenders, and in Corrientes, with 2. He is continuing his contacts with Everett DeVries from Tres Arroyos, who is interested in seeing an opc started in his town, and is conducting a Bible study. He is giving pre-seminary training to two students, Diego Funes, from Venado Tuerto, and Fabian Maldonado, from Resistencia (see Appendix 4 below). I also arranged for Eduardo Kim Soo to receive the books that I had brought for him (he is a minister of the KAPC and serves a Spanish-speaking church in Buenos Aires)
The Presbyterian Center for Family Rebirth
The Presbyterian Center for Family Rebirth is a group of families, discipling families in obedience to Matthew 28:19-20, (Acts 1:8).
Disciple families in the fundamental reformed faith in the confession of Faith of Westminster. With emphasis in:
•Biblical Worship, Acts 2:41-47 •Fellowship (communion) •Prayer •Service and social action, acts 6:1-7 •Home and transcultural missions, Acts 1:8
•Form a leadership that is both capable and able to train •Make of our services true acts of worship •Establish good interactions •Put emphasis on prayer •Serve the family in an integrated way •Pray, offer, and send in home and transcultural missions
Agenda of the Meeting of the Presbytery of Gran Colombia
Place: Emanuel Church, Barranquilla, Colombia
Date: Jan. 8, 2007.
Time: 4:00 p.m.
ORDER OF THE DAY
1. Scripture reading and prayer.
2. Roll Call.
3. Reading of the previous minutes.
4. Matters relating to the previous minutes.
B. La Paz Church, Barranquilla.
C. Mission in Fundacion de Magdalena.
D. Oversight of brother Mauricio in Cali.
E. San Pablo Church in Medellin.
F. Bogota Mission.
G. Supervision of brother Juan Pablo Mejia in Manzinales.
H. Community of Grace Church, Cartagena.
I. Sincelejo Mission.
J. Emanuel Church, Barranquilla.
K. San Agustin Theological Seminary.
L. Brother Stephen Larson
6. Business matters
A. Study and adoption of the Book of Church Order of the OPC.
B. Analysis of the terms of moderators.
C. Petition to receive brother Jose Antonio Rios to the holy ministry.
D. Mission plan of the Presbytery for each congregation.
E. Agenda for the work of San Agustin Theological Seminary.
F. Time and place of the next meeting.
Presbyterian Works, established and in progress in Uruguay and Brazil
1. Central Rivera, Uruguay. Presbyter (teacher) Gustavo Mello Guimaraes
A. Coordinator of Missions and Evangelism
B. Teacher of San Agustin Theological Seminary
C. Instructor of Reformed Doctrine to Leaders
D. President of the Civil Association [corporation] before the Ministry of Education and Culture
2. Palomas, Brazil. Presbyter (evangelist) Mario Cézar, Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m.
3. Tabatinga, Brazil. Presbyter Mario Cézar, Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m.
4. Piedra Pintada, Artigas, Uruguay. Presbyter Mario Cézar, Thursdays at 8:00 p.m.
5. Pintadito, Uruguay. Presbyter Mario Cézar, Fridays, 8:00 p.m.
6. Quaraí, Brazil. Presbyter Mario Cézar. Saturdays.
7. Mandubí I, Rivera, Uruguay. Ruling Elder Henry Vega. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.
8. Mandubí II, Rivera, Uruguay. Ruling Elder Henry Vega. Sunday School, 10:00 a.m.
9. Barrio Magistral, Rivera, Uruguay. Deacon Marcos Lara, Sundays, 9:00 a.m. Youth meeting Saturdays, 8:00 p.m.
10. Lagos del Norte, Rivera, Uruguay. Deacon Bento Sandin, Sundays, 10:30 a.m.
11. Women’s meeting, leader Magaly Pereyra, Saturdays, 4:00 p.m.
Pastoral Training Institute
Introduction to the Bible
Introduction to Theology I
History of the Church, I
Introduction to the Westminster Confession of Faith
Introduction to Philosophy
General Introduction to the Old Testament
General Introduction to the New Testament
Introduction to Theology II
History of the Church II
Introduction to Pastoral Counseling
Introduction to Pastoral Health
Introduction to Theology III
History of Christian Doctrines
History of Christian Thinking
Introduction to Theology, IV