Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hot in Colombia! It was 104 degrees in Cartagena so we struggled with the heat but at least had a simple room with AC to sleep. No toilet seats but who cares when you have AC and can get a good night’s sleep! J The people were as warm and hospitable as the weather. One highlight was traveling by bus for the first time to Sincelejo on a road which had been controlled by the FARC guerrillas for years. There we (four Colombian national leaders, Mike Gunderson and I) encouraged the saints and ordained their church planter Guillermo.

Church Planting Advance in Colombia

The first time I tried to go to Colombia, Linda didn't want me to go. Crime and kidnappings were at an all time high. We checked with someone in the country and they said the day we planned to arrive was election day and trouble was expected. We postponed.

A few months later we went and we were restricted to the major cities. The only way to drive from Bogota to Cartagena was in a caravan with military escorts. We went to the cities.

This time (July 09) for the first time we could travel freely outisde the cities. One church plant in Sincelejo had not been visited in years. The plan was to visit, encourage the brothers and sisters and ordain the church planter. Three other goals had been set:
  1. Help them with church planting plans and strategies using lay church planting teams

  2. Encourage and advise all the workers

  3. Introduce Mike my replacement as church planting coach for Latin America
It was so encouraging to find out that our Colombian friends didn’t wait for us to make their CPing plans. They chose three new sites in Monteria, Bogota and Baranquilla and had already discussed who would be interested in planting the churches. Most of the pastors would love to leave their pastoral ministry to evangelize and start a new church. One pastor has already made an exploratory trip to one of the new sites on his own. The real challenge we discussed was raising up new workers and pastors in the churches to replace the pastors who want to go out. Our colleague Omar Rodriguez will be going in a few weeks to launch a new Church Based Training ministry that comes from Spain. We see so clearly how Missions and Leadership Development must go hand in hand. Please pray for Omar’s ministry and the facilitators he will be training from each region.

picture 1: Carlos, Gene, Guillermo, Giovanni, Mike and Jhollman

picture 2: church plant that had 7 people 3 years ago when Guillermo arrived

picture 3: Giovanni the national leader prays for Guillermo

In Bogota
The last 2 ½ days were much cooler - about 65-70 during the day and cold at night. Bogota is a mile high and the people are more reserved and professional. There is less interest in church planting but the pastors we met want to plant a church together. Two of them feel God’s call to be missionaries one day. It is so encouraging to see how God is tugging at the hearts of Latin Americans to reach Post-Christian Europeans and Muslims.

Anoth highlight personally was spending the entire week (including flights) with Mike Gunderson who is replacing me as Latin America Church Planting Coach. He is a joy to work with and an able equipper and coach with 20 years of experience in Brazil. Please pray for Mike as he transitions to this role and builds on what God has already done to raise up church planting leaders and coaches.
Soon after I got home Orlando, one of the pastor who was away during our visit called me on skype. He asked about my new role. I assured him that roles change but friendships remain. Some relationships last for time and eternity. What a joy to work with these fine men.

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Gene is serving as Church Planting Director for ReachGlobal and has been a church planter in Quebec and a church planting coach in Latin America.