I had the opportunity this past week to travel once again to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala for another round of leadership training conferences with pastors and leaders in that western region of the country. My colleague, Verlyn Bergen, and I each led 2 sessions (with me translating for Verlyn in his two), and then we combined for a question and answer time in the final session. We usually have a lot of dialogue and give and take in these conferences, but this was the first time we deliberately planned into the schedule one entire session for responding to questions and addressing concerns that the leaders raised.
For clarification, we spent a few minutes in the initial session asking them to suggest themes or issues that they wanted us to cover in that final session, so we had at least a few waking hours to think about those concerns before covering them in our final session together.
Altogether, we had 75 pastors and leaders from 27 different churches and missions represented. That's about the same total number of participants as usual, but a larger number of congregations present. As always, the fellowship and camaraderie shared was wonderful. Many of these men and women have attended every conference for the past 6 years or so. It's great as well to see new leaders emerging who are attending these conferences. They are eager learners, hanging on every word and soaking up the content like sponges. Verlyn talked about 8 characteristics of healthy churches and teaching for results, while I led two sessions talking about the missional church--seeking to define it somewhat and describing the practices of missional churches. I borrowed heavily from a great book by Milfred Minatrea entitled Shaped by God's Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches. It's a great resource from Leadership Network that identifies 9 practices of growing missional churches based on research of a number of churches in the U.S.
We returned home on Friday afternoon, fairly exhausted from the travel schedule, but very content with the conference and the opportunity as well to visit the Tabitha Ministry again in Guatemala City that I've spoken of in previous posts. They are having to vacate the building they currently occupy by the end of February, but it looks like they will be able to secure a house just a short distance away to continue the ministry of providing 2 meals and early childhood education to around 90 children. In addition, some 50 women who are mainly the mothers of these youngsters are meeting weekly for Bible study.
All in all, it was another blessed and productive week in Guatemala. I appreciate the prayers of those who lifted us up to the Lord as we went.