Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Someone asked today why we began to be interested in the work of the Methodist Church in Venezuela. The short answer is that in 1994 God sent Carlos and Carol Gonzales to the church we were serving, Mount Pisgah UMC in Alpharetta. They were natives of Venezuela and came to the US to learn to be a pastor. We fell in love with them. Then in April of 1996 Carlos returned to Venezuela for our first mission trip to that country. Traveling with him were Roger and Dana Lane and our son, Ray Lathem, III. They are pictured below at the LaMarita church in Tachira State (Ray is the one with the beard). Tragically, they were all killed in the ValuJet crash in Miami on May 11, 1996. Of course, we were broken hearted. But God is faithful. We were invited to help start the work of the Methodist Church through the leadership of Bishop Luis Paloma of Costa Rica. Initially moved out of grief and the need to make something positive grow out of tragedy, God eventually broke our hearts for the people of Venezuela. Our first trip was in 1998. Not all the work has gone smoothly and there have been some starts and stops, joys and disappointments, but God has been faithful. We have found the people of Venezuela to be among the most loving, gracious and generous we have ever met anywhere in the world. So, what began as a memorial proceeds as a hope and joy. Our primary desire in Venezuela is to help the United Methodist Church of Venezuela reach the lost for Christ. Of course, as is so typical of our gracious God, our son, Jared, met his wife, Lim, through our work with the church in Venezuela (see the earliest posting for their picture). We serve a God who turns tragedy into joy. Praise his name!

Warren and Jane Lathem

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