Report on Visit to Latin America, July and August 2006
Douglas Clawson, the Associate General Secretary of the Committee of Foreign Missions of the OPC and I traveled early in the morning on July 23 to El Salvador. That same day, we met in the morning with men from the OPC of El Salvador: Eliseo Martinez, the pastor, and his pastoral team, Francisco Lozano, Jaime Olmedo, and Miguel Rivera (during the evening meeting we also met the other member of the pastoral team, Trinidad Duran). They explained what they had done so far in establishing the one congregation existing in the capital, San Salvador. They are presently meeting in a large room (where we met later in the day), but would like to secure a centrally located meeting place in the city. They explained their plans for the future, both in terms of planting further congregations and also for training leaders. At present, pastor Martinez does not preach, but has each member of the pastoral team preach in turns on the Lord’s Day. It is hoped that these men will be trained to assume leadership in the future of further mission works in the country.
In the afternoon, we visited with students and faculty at the Modular Bible Institute, a small institution where pastor Martinez is the director, and we presented the work of our church. In the evening, we attended a dinner where members of the church and family members of the pastoral team had an opportunity to talk with us.
They asked for financial assistance of $200 per month to secure a meeting place for the central church. They have set up a website for their local congregation in San Salvador, http://www.renacersv.org/.
Douglas Clawson and I traveled to Colombia on Wednesday, but did not arrive in Barranquilla until Thursday morning, due to confusion on our part about the time zones (we missed a flight!). We met that same day with the Presbytery of Gran Colombia of the OPC of Colombia. Present were Marlon Uparela, pastor of Community of Grace OPC in Cartagena and of the mission in Sincelejo; Carlos Mario Marin, pastor of San Pablo OPC in Medellín; Ener Sanjuan, pastor of La Paz OPC and of the mission in Fundacion de Magdalena; Jose Antonio Rios, licentiate, missionary of Emanuel OPC in Barranquilla and rector of San Agustin Seminary in Barranquilla, Mauricio Jimenez, seminarian and missionary to the OPC mission in Cali; Juan Carlos Gutierrez, a ruling elder from the La Paz OPC of Barranquilla; Mario David, a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, Reformed Synod, from Medellin, who was received at this meeting as a member of the OPC; Juan Pablo Mejía, from Manizales, a former Roman Catholic and Anglican priest, who was received as a seminarian under care at this meeting; Luis Cabrasco, from Sincelejo, a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia; and Gabriel de la Rosa, from Sincelejo, a Roman Catholic priest, the latter two interested in joining the OPC but present only as observers. Not present was Hugo Alberto Martinez, a seminarian under care of the Presbytery and missionary to Bogota.
The docket of the meeting was as follows:
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
July 27-28, 2006
1.Bible reading and prayer. 2.Roll call. 3.Reading of minutes of the previous meeting. 4.Business derived from the previous meeting. 5.Reports:
a. La Paz church.
b. Emanuel church. c. Community of Grace church. d. San Pablo church. e. Fundacion mission. f. Sincelejo mission. g. Steve Larson. h. San Agustin Seminary. i. Bogota mission.
6. New Business
a. Request for 2 missionaries to help the Seminary as teachers. b. Organization of the Seminary. c. Mauricio Jimenez and his studies. d. Interviews: - Juan Pablo Mejia Granada - Mario David Higuita - Gabriel de la Rosa Martinez - Luis Cabrasco - Presbyterian pastor for Barranquilla e. Installation service of Pastor Marlon 7.Date and place of the next meeting. 8. Prayer and closing.
The meeting continued through Friday and closed in the afternoon.
Particular matters of note are that the Presbytery examined and voted to receive Mario David as a minister, and Juan Pablo Mejia as a seminarian under care, and interviewed Gabriel de la Rosa and Luis Cabrasco, but instead of receiving them gave them a program of study in the hope that they might be received at a future meeting. I was asked about the procedure for calling a pastor for Emanuel, and was informed that the La Paz church intended to call Jose Rios as a missionary pastor to the Emanuel church. We both spoke to the Presbytery, and Douglas Clawson explained the actions of the General Assembly with respect to their petition to be received as a Presbytery of the OPC.
Those present and others were there on Saturday when we went to the installation of Marlon Uparela as pastor of the Community of Grace OPC in Cartagena. In addition to the members of the Presbytery and the guests, there were the members of the church and visitors, primarily from the Cartagena church.
On the Lord’s Day, July 30, we attended the worship service at Emanuel in Barranquilla, where Jose Antonio Rios preached. Later in the day we went to Fundacion de Magdalena, where we attended a meeting of the members of the mission and were presented to the group there, and were told about the work they had done so far and hoped to do in the future.
On Monday, July 31, we traveled to Venezuela, and arrived in Caracas that evening. We had intended to meet with Wollmer Uzcategui, who was to come from Calabozo in the state of Guarico, some distance from Caracas. He did not meet us at the airport as planned, and so eventually we e-mailed him, and he responded the next morning, telling us that he had not come, due to the death of his father, and so, we were unable to meet with him.
We left Venezuela on August 2 and arrived in Argentina on August 3. We met with Jose Luis Podesta at the home of his brother Carlos in Buenos Aires. We did not go to the city where Jose Luis ministers, Venado Tuerto, because it is some seven hours by bus from the capital, and we were not able to fit that into our schedule. Jose Luis is a former Roman Catholic priest who came to a saving knowledge of Christ in Rome through reading reformed writers, especially Luther and Calvin. He has been ministering for the past two years seeking to establish the OPC of Argentina, and furthering his studies through Shepherd University, FLET, and San Agustin in Barranquilla. I had previously examined him, and Douglas Clawson also interviewed him, and we proceeded to ordain him to the gospel ministry of the OPC of Argentina, and install him as an evangelist. His work remains small, meeting in homes, and composed mostly of young adults in Venado Tuerto.
Upon our return to Buenos Aires on August 9, after Douglas Clawson left, I met with Eduardo Kim Soo, a seminary graduate of the Korean American Presbyterian Church in Argentina. They minister primarily to Korean-speakers in Argentina, but his particular interest is ministry to the Castillian speaking people. We discussed the efforts of the KAPC of Argentina, of their Shepherd University, and of their efforts to reach out to the Spanish-speaking population.
On that same day, August 3, we traveled to Rivera, Uruguay, arriving there in the early morning of August 4. On Saturday we met informally with the members of the Presbytery. Those present were Gustavo Mello, pastor of the OPC of Rivera, Uruguay; Marcos Lara, deacon of the same church and missionary to Lagos del Norte, a neighborhood of Rivera; Henry Vega, ruling elder, and missionary to Mandubi, another neighborhood of Rivera; Mario Cezar Coceincao, pastor of the churches in Palomas, Brazil, and Piedra Pintada and Pintadito, Artigas, in Uruguay; Bento Sandrin, a lay evangelist assisting in the work at Lagos del North, and Angelo Pesce, an itinerant evangelist under the Presbytery.
At the meeting, we were told of the work that had been done so far, and of their near and mid-term goals. They hope to reach out to the Brazilian side of the border near Artigas, then west to Salto on the Argentine border, and eventually hope to send one of the men to Montevideo, which has more than half the population of Uruguay. They explained that they use the name Reformed Presbyterian Church because Orthodox implies Greek Orthodox in their region, although they are incorporated as the OPC of Uruguay.
That same evening, Saturday, August 5, we went to the dedication of the new building in Mandubi, where they had a worship service. There were some 40 to 50 people present, some of whom were from the neighboring RP churches, and some from Mandubi. Henry Vega preached, but, since he had forgotten his glasses, he was somewhat handicapped in his preaching. He preached from John 3:16. The church building had been built with materials that were bought by the church or donated, and with volunteer labor from the members of the church. The tin roof was paid for by donations from the RP church in Santa Ana ($250!). They finished the roof the night before, and it rained for the first time in weeks during the dedication service.
The next morning, we started the Lord’s Day by attending the Sunday School at Mandubi. It is a very poor community, and children are invited to come to the Sunday School. There were about 45 kids there. We were introduced to them, and I spoke briefly, and taught them Jesus Loves Me in English.
That afternoon we went to the RP church of Palomas, Brazil, where they had their worship service, and celebrated their first anniversary. Marcos Lara preached in Portuguese. There were about 40 people present, with many from the other churches, and about 12 to 15 from Palomas.
That evening, we attended the regular worship service of the central RP in Rivera. There were between 40 and 50 people present. Their worship service was similar in most respects to a typical OP worship service. Douglas Clawson preached through a translator (me!) and was well received. We both spoke with numerous members after the worship service.
On Monday, August 7, we went some two hours to the northwest, to the city of Artigas. In the afternoon we attended a worship service in the country community of Piedra Pintada, where the church met in a private home. There was only a handful of people, and they explained that work and family responsibilities kept others from coming to an afternoon service. Douglas Clawson preached through translation and was well received.
That evening we went to the Pintadito OP church in Artigas, where they met for the first time in their new building, which is rented, but prepared by the members to be used as a church building. There were about 40 to 50 people present, and Douglas Clawson again preached though a translator. One man tried to disrupt the service and pastor Mario Cezar explained to him that if he wished to speak, he needed to speak with the session before doing so.
We left Rivera on August 8, and arrived in Montevideo that evening. The next morning we went to Buenos Aires, where Douglas returned to the U.S., and I met that evening with Eduardo Kim Soo [see above under Argentina].
On Thursday, August 10, I flew to Guatemala. I was met at the airport by pastor Oscar Tenes, and an elder of their church in the capital. We talked briefly that evening, and then met on Friday for longer discussions. He presently has three Bible study groups in the capital, and they are looking for a central meeting place. On Saturday, I met again with him and his wife, and he described their plans for the future of the church. They have been in contact and visited with the brothers in El Salvador. I returned to the U.S. on that same day.
Things seem to be going well in most of the countries mentioned. The strongest church seems to be the one in Colombia, followed by the Uruguay/Brazil churches. San Agustin Seminary is providing education not only for its own ministers, but those in most of the other missions as well. Oftentimes, it seems that what the churches need is a gentle hand of guiding for brethren who just want to know the right way to do things, or to understand why we do what we do and when we do it. I was concerned when Wollmer did not meet with us in Venezuela, and Angelo Pesce in Uruguay concerned me somewhat (he has since indicated that he wishes to leave the Presbytery). The funds that the Santa Ana mission is contributing seem to be well used to support ministers who are preaching the gospel, teaching other ministers, and to help them in their building projects. It would seem desirable to have a missionary based in the north to help with the work there, and other in the south for the same reason, if possible.
Yours in Christ,