The trip to Guatemala went extremely well this past week. We had a total of 70 pastors and leaders who attended the training sessions and their response and participation was very encouraging. They were very pleased with the COSECHA materials that Guy Muse and his team are using in Guayaquil. I spent 3 sessions--about 4.5 hours total giving them an introduction to and an overview of the materials. My colleague, Owen Taylor, took about three hours and shared some basic church planting principles with them, including many personal stories and illustrations from his 3.5 year old church plant in St. Louis.
In addition, we had some good times of worship and then fellowship together, both after the sessions and around the tables during our mealtimes. I was able to sit down with the three pastors from the city of Cantel where our church is sending a team next month and finalize some of the plans for our trip. As it's only about 10 minutes from the hotel where we've been hosting these previous pastoral training conferences, our church team will be staying in the same hotel. Our partnership liaison has gotten some very good rates for us from the hotel management and the accomodations and food are very adequate.
We'll be speaking in three different public schools in the mornings, doing a combined VBS for the three churches in the afternoons, and then conducting a leadership conference for children's workers during the evenings. It promises to be a full schedule. I'm accompanying the group as guide and translator this time, but am leaving the teaching responsibilities up to our children's minister and her team.
(Back to this past week's activities...) On Friday and Saturday, a fellow from Georgetown, TX led the convention leadership through a strategy planning procedure that enabled them to redefine a little more clearly their vision and mission statements and to focus on three priority areas that they want to give attention to in the next three years. This visioning conference was facilitated by WorldconneX. I think it was a very profitable time. I especially enjoyed getting to know Sergio Ramos a little better. He's a fourth generation Hispanic pastor who works with WorldconneX and comes from a family with something like 24 pastors altogether in the extended clan. He's currently working on a doctorate at Dallas Baptist and we have some mutual friends from Argentina and elsewhere.
There was also a large group of North Americans in the country participating in a series of evangelistic meetings and home visits through International Commission (formerly International Crusades). They had their victory service at the seminary on Saturday evening so I got to hear some of the music (including a Christian mariachi band) and to meet some of the folks. Several were on my flight home on Sunday. There was also a group from Louisville, KY that had been down working with two different projects--a Habitat for Humanity building in the Quetzaltenango area where we've been doing our training, as well as a Living Water group that was installing a water purification system. It seemed like 2/3 of the flight home was composed of Christian volunteers.
I'll probably share a few more observations in the coming days, but wanted to get this initial post up to inform those who were aware of my trip and especially to thank those who prayed for our efforts. I'm convinced that the Lord heard and answered those prayers. Thanks for being prayer partners in the effort.