Friday, February 27, 2015

Churchnet's E-Magazine Features Guatemala Partnership

My buddy and colleague, Brian Kaylor, has put together an outstanding presentation in this month's Churchnet E-magazine about our Guatemala partnership.  Take a look at it here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Barrio Infanta Construction

In our first term as missionaries with the IMB (still the FMB actually at that time), we served in the city of Mendoza, Argentina.  I directed a leadership training institute for church leaders sponsored by the Baptist association of Mendoza and also pastored the Guaymallen Baptist Church.  We also launched a new church across town in the neighborhood where the widow of the former pastor of the Guaymallen Church lived.  He had been instrumental in helping many neighbors build their homes in his neighborhood (called Barrio Infanta).  As a result, the municipality did something unprecedented and bequeathed a large lot to the Baptist church with the stipulation that the church had to build upon it within 5 years and offer something back to the community.

With the pastor's death in a tragic accident, together with his son who served as the church's music director, the vision of building on that lot lay dormant and the deadline for building something was quickly approaching.  When I began serving as the Guaymallen church's pastor, his widow, Doña Laura, shared with us about the property in their neighborhood.  We began to meet on Sunday mornings there in a small caretaker's hut (not more than about 10' x 15' total) and soon outgrew it.  We requested and received permission from the adjacent public elementary school to meet under their covered patio while we pursued plans to build.  To make a very long story a wee bit shorter, we encountered public opposition from one prominent individual in the neighborhood who didn't want to see an evangelical church built next to the public school.  He was a devout Roman Catholic and presumably viewed us as a threat.  We eventually got permission from the municipal government to build, but the process dragged out for an entire year.  That was a period of great economic instability in Argentina and building materials rose in price 800% that year due to hyper-inflation.

The result was that we were unable to build what had been drawn up and approved by the city and we had to scale back and construct just what was originally designed to be an entryway foyer downstairs with classrooms upstairs.  We left the walls undone so as to provide a meeting space for our growing congregation.  We dedicated that building and called a national pastor to assume leadership of the church on our final Sunday before returning to the US on our first furlough.  Here's a picture of that original building.


Just this week I received pictures of the interior of the new sanctuary which has been constructed behind this original building--pretty much along the lines of what was originally envisioned.  It's been more than 20 years since this work was begun, but it's a source of tremendous joy to see this church that we helped plant continue to flourish and grow after more than 2 decades.  Here's a picture of the interior of the new sanctuary.  I think the wooden ceiling is absolutely beautiful.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Tabitha Ministry Featured in Ethics Daily

I am a bit slow in getting around to posting this on my blog, but I had linked to it earlier on my Facebook account.  Brian Kaylor, my Churchnet colleague, has followed up his earlier piece this week in Ethics Daily about our recent training trip with another article (which appeared on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Ethics Daily) that features the Tabitha Ministry.  This is a ministry that is near and dear to my heart after having visited it on each of the many trips I've taken to Guatemala in the past 9 years or so.

Here's the link to the article.

I've also translated it into Spanish and posted it on a new Spanish blog that I've recently begun.  It can be found here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ethics Daily Article on Guatemala Training Trip

Brian Kaylor, my Churchnet colleague who accompanied me and shared the teaching responsibilities during our most recent trip to Guatemala, has an informative article in Ethics Daily this morning about that trip and the work of Guatemalan Baptists.  At the end of an article is a further link to photos that Brian took during the trip.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wrapping up a Great Week in Guatemala

My Churchnet colleague, Brian Kaylor, and I will be returning to Missouri tomorrow morning after spending the week in Guatemala.  We had a shift in our travel plans last Monday morning when a defective motor that controlled the flaps off one of the wings of our plane in Kansas City forced us to return to the gate, unload, and board another plane.  By the time all of that process was completed and we took off for Houston, we were late enough that we missed our connecting flight.  Rather than arriving by noon that day, we were re-booked on a flight not scheduled to arrive until 10:00 p.m. that night.  After doing some inquiring and pleading, we were rerouted on a different United flight to Mexico City and from there on an Aeromexico flight to Guatemala City.  We arrived by about 6:20, some 40 minutes before our rescheduled flight would have even departed from Houston.  

We stopped to eat dinner in Guatemala City before heading westward to Quetzaltenango after seeing that the traffic was basically at a standstill.  The meal was delicious and the traffic had cleared out enough by the time we finished that we were able to arrive in Quetzaltenango in just a little under 3 hours--good time for the winding roads and some dense fog we encountered in a couple of stretches of the highway.

Brian and I led 5 different training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday for a group of 80 pastors and leaders from across western Guatemala.  He focused on the area of communication--speaking of communication as the foundation for how we relate to our world and to God, later speaking on sermon delivery, and finally wrapping up his presentations with one on the use of social media in ministry.  I led two sessions on how to share our faith with Roman Catholic friends.  The sessions were well received and there was good feedback and interaction following each one during a time of Q&A.  

Today (Thursday) we started the day with a visit to the Tabitha Ministry in Guatemala City before spending just a few hours in Antigua this afternoon, doing some sightseeing since this was Brian's first trip here.  I'm including a few pictures of the children whom the Tabitha Ministry cares for by providing a safe, loving environment for their care, feeding them, and providing early childhood education up through the 3rd grade.


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Thaw in Relationships with Cuba

I was excited to hear President Obama's speech in which he outlined a new policy toward relationships with Cuba.  I was asked to comment on the new policy by Bob Allen of Baptist News Global in light of my recent visit in October to Cuba along with a delegation of eleven other Baptists.  I responded with a three or four paragraph email to him about my thoughts on these developments.  An article appeared today in Baptist News Global and I'm quoted a couple of times in it.  Also quoted is my Churchnet colleague, Brian Kaylor, who handles communications for our organization as well as writing for other entities including Ethics Daily.  Coincidentally, Brian's newest book entitled Sacramental Politics is also reviewed in a separate article in Baptist News Global today.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jesus the African Refugee

Today on Ethics Daily, Elijah Brown had an interesting article about Jesus' early life as an African refugee.  I had the opportunity to meet Elijah in April of this year in Philadelphia at the meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship.  He's an associate professor of missions at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, TX and is a very sharp young man and a gifted communicator.

Elijah challenges all of us to consider the plight of the millions in our world who have been forced to abandon their country of origin due to a variety of factors--war, persecution, natural disasters, hunger, etc.  While in our Christmas reflections and celebrations we seldom include mention of the flight of Jesus' family to Egypt to escape the horrific infanticide carried out by Herod in Bethlehem, the fact remains that Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus were refugees.  The good news of Jesus' birth offers hope even for those who've lost everything and have fled to what often seems a strange and foreign setting because Jesus began His own life as an African refugee.  He understands what it means to be without a home, without wealth, or even without a country.