Monday, December 31, 2007

Year End

This has been a great year for the work of Venezuela Now, Inc. in Venezuela! We have supported the work of two families who assist the United Methodist Church of Venezuela and lead in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela in partnership with the Mount Pisgah UMC. We have supported 6 weeks of seminary classes with an average enrollment of 50 in each class. We have supported the work of the Institute of Church Planting as David Cosby has instructed church planters in Barquisimeto and Puerto Ordaz on numerous occasions. We have supported the International Leadership Institute in partnership with the McEachern UMC. We have supported the work of several US church mission teams as they have partnered with the churches in Venezuela. We have employed Samuel Rojas as our ministry assistant to give support to all of the above. The greatest highlight of the year was the official organizing conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela, the adoption of a Book of Discipline of the UMC of Venezuela and the election of their first bishop: Bishop Juvenal Perez. (See previous posts for more details.)

As we reflect over the last year we are amazed at all God has done. The academic program of the Seminary is excellent even though except for the dean all the faculty are volunteers. The UMC continues to grow and multiply as an indigenous church bringing the Gospel to hundreds and thousands of Venezuelans. The number of US churches desiring to partner with the church in Venezuela is growing. It has been a blessed year.

When we look at 2008 we wonder what God will do. Whatever it is we will give glory and honor to our Lord Jesus and praise his name. We are praying for our first Seminary site. The Seminary needs its own location and facilities. The UMC of Venezula needs the ministry this facility will make possible in the weeks seminary is not in session.

Please join us in prayer about the site for the seminary. We need at least $150,000 as soon as possible to acquire the proper site and create some usable facilities. We trust God for this provision.

May God bless you as you pray and give for the work in Venezuela. Just send a check to the address in the masthead of this blog and we will be faithful in using it for th cause of Christ in Venezuela.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pray for the Vote in Venezuela

This Sunday millions of Venezuelans will vote on the Constitutional Reforms proposed by the Presidency of Hugo Chavez. This is a critical vote having great impact on the future of the entire nation and probably the entire region. Please pray for a large voter turnout and a safe and secure environment. Also, please pray that all the food shortages will not cause parties to resort to violence.

Friday, November 09, 2007

International Leadership Institute in Venezuela

The Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela will host the first historic International Leadership Institute in Venezuela. This wonderful ministry was started by Drs. Wes and Joy Griffin after they had already founded the Theological Seminary in Estonia. The International Leadership Institute has trained local Christian leaders all across the world.

This session is being made possible by the sponsorship of the McEachern United Methodist Church. One of their senior staff members, Alan Richburg, will be one of the primary resource persons sent by ILI to make this a significant experience in the life of the Church in Venezuela.

Our Seminary Dean will host the event at the Assembly of God Bible Institute in Barquisimeto. This is the facility where we have had seminary for the last 5 years. While the space is inadequate for both the students and the team, it is adequate for the students and the class sessions. The team will be required to stay at a nearby hotel. This is unfortunate as the students will miss the interaction with the faculty during the down time each night. However, until the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela gets its own home, we will have to continue with this kind of situation.

This ILI event is a follow up to the two pastors we sponsored to the ILI Leaders Training event in July in Paraguay. Rev. Jose Gomez and Rev. Carlos Perona pictured here with Rev. Victor Ramirez (center) greatly benefited from the training and will be instrumental in the training event in Venezuela. (Unfortunately Victor was not able to attend the seminar in Paraguay due to some family responsibilities.) All three of these pastors serve very faithfully and take advantage of every training event we are able to sponsor as well as attending every session of the seminary. These are remarkable men and indicative of the leadership God is raising up for the United Methodist Church and other Protestant churches in Venezuela through Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.

  • Please keep the seminar in your prayers for the week of November 12 -16.
  • Pray for the Leaders to be fully dependent on the Holy Spirit as they teach.
  • Pray for the students/pastors to be fully focused and open to the move of the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray for the safety of all as the situation in Venezuela continues to be a challenge.

  • Pray for McEachern UMC in Marietta to be extremely blessed for their mission heart.
  • Pray for a home for the Seminary.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Othopaedist to Venezuela

As I write this a good friend and Christian doctor is heading to Venezuela. He will land at the Caracas airport tonight about 10:00 being met by the Dean of the Seminary, David Cosby. They will stay tonight at a Mision Guest House before flying to San Cristobal tomorrow.

This medical doctor desires to take a full Orthopaedic Surgical Mission Team to Venezuela. He has been on such a trip to other Latin American countries. This is not going to be easy to do given the state of affairs in Venezuela. However, we know God is greater than any obstacles we face.


The Doctor, our Dean and his wife, Samuel Rojas, our Venezuela Now Ministry Assistant, and Raul and Teolinda Lavinz (Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of San Cristobal and his wife is a pharmacist) will be meeting with other doctors and visiting medical facilities to determine the feasibility of the mission and to work out many of the logistical issues required. This is a significantly complicated project and will require tremendous commitment from this medical team.

Please pray for the Doctor (name withheld for security), our team in Venezuela and for this entire effort. Especially pray for safety for all involved.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Follow the Dunns


Dan and Nancy Dunn, partners in the work in Venezuela where Dan is Dean of Students and a professor for the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela, have a new blog. You can access it at: http://missiondunns.blogspot.com. I hope you will visit their site to keep up with all they are doing. Here is a quote from Dan and Nancy:
Dan and Nancy are cross-cultural ministers who live in the United States and partner with Christians to help serve God's Kingdom in America, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. They focus on leadership training, prayer and healing ministries, and supporting ministries who focus on reaching children.
Dan has been instrumental in the work in Venezuela. His first foreign mission trip was to Venezuela in 2002 and it completely changed the direction and focus of his ministry. For the last two years Dan and Nancy have been living in Wilmore, KY where Dan is pursuing a PhD. in Evangelism. His ministgy goal is to train effective leaders for the church both in the US and Latin America. With Dan's remarkable intellect he has rapidly learned Spanish is has become quite fluent greatly enhancing his ministry in Venezuela and Costa Rica.

Additionally Dan and Nancy are Board Members of Venezuela Now, Inc. In that capacity Dan was also a co-founder of the Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela.

Please keep the Dunns in your prayers as they sacrifice for the ministry during this time of preparation and as they serve our Lord in the US, Costa Rica and especially Venezuela. Here is a report of their most recent work regarding Venezuela. Read more on their blog.

"Last Wednesday night Nancy and I had the joy of speaking with a group of about 20 Asbury students about the work God is doing in Venezuela, and ways they could pray and think about partnering with God in that work. Through God's amazing grace, 5-7 men and women are seriously considering an exploratory trip to Venezuela in January to begin discerning whether and/or how God might want to use them to reach lost people there. God's continued provision that allows us to be used as small instruments in His hands to link people with the work in Venezuela and Costa Rica truly is incredible. It has been an enormous blessing to actually see what we envisioned as part of our ministry coming to fruition. Please pray for these students as they continue in their discernment process."

Friday, October 26, 2007

October Seminary a Success






In one intensive week of seminary over 50 Venezuelan and two Columbian students and pastors completed the classroom work of three courses. Rev. Donna Goff taught the two credit hour Minor Prophets. The Dean of the Seminary taught the two hour course, Holiness in the New Testament. I (Warren Lathem) taught a 6 credit hour Practicum on Community Ministries. This practicum is part of the Practice of Ministry curriculum and a requirement for graduation. It requires extensive work in a local church over the next seven months and the proper reporting required for course credit.

Again, the Holy Spirit descended on the class in a way that defies human orchestration. On Wednesday afternoon after a harrowing experience by a couple of our team, the class gathered to celebrate God's protection and provision during the afternoon worship time. And God moved with power and glory. It was a time of great intimacy with the Holy One.

Please pray for these students and pastors. We were blessed to have a number of first time students including an attorney from Puerto Ordaz. They all remarked on how impressed they were with the quality of education being provided by the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. For their recognition of this reality and for God's continued provision, we are most grateful.

On Wednesday night the United Methodists gathered at Pastor Carlos Perona's church, Restoracion, for a great worship service. Bishop Juvenal Perez preached a powerfully evangelistic sermon to the 250-300 gathered. All of the United Methodist seminary students were in attendance as well as 5 North Americans. God's spirit was poured out on the service and several persons made a profession of faith in Christ.

On Sunday we were blessed to attend worship at Lugar Altissimo. This is the church we were privileged to build in memory of our son, Ray W. Lathem, III and in honor of Jared Lathem. One of the young lay leaders, Wilmer, preached. He and his wife Juni have a beautiful baby boy named Wilmer, Jr. We, the Americans, were all touched by the outpouring of God's Spirit in the service. After a wonderful meal at a local restaurant, we made the drive to Caracas and flew home on Monday, ending a great week of magnificent blessings.

Friday, October 12, 2007

October Seminary Offers 3 Courses


The October Seminary week begins Monday, October 15, 2007 at 2:00 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Rev. Donna Goff will teach a 2 credit hour course on the Minor Prophets. Our Academic Dean will teach a 2 credit hour course on Holiness in the New Testament. President Warren Lathem will give the classroom instruction for a 6 credit hour Practice of Ministry Course: Community Ministries. This course requires a very intensive application within the local parish.

This is Rev. Goff's second teaching foray in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. However, she is a veteran of the work in Venezuela. Serving in her capacity as Minister of Missions at the McEachern UMC in Marietta, GA, Rev. Goff has led her church in its historic partnership with the Rey de Reys UMC in Punto Fijo, Venezuela. The pastor,Juvenal Perez, of this Venezuelan church was elected to be the first Bishop of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. Bishop Perez and his wife, Nohely have been faithful students in the seminary since its inception.

The Academic Dean on October 12 finished a week of a special seminary class on Inductive Bible Study. At last report 18-20 students had enrolled in this course. This course in the Inductive Method is a prerequisite for all Bible courses. It has been offered twice before in the last 6 years. However, as we continue to attract new students, we must offer the prerequisite courses more often than indicated in the plan of the regular curriculum.

President Lathem's Practice of Ministry course, Community Ministries, is designed to lead the student/pastors to develop effective ministries beyond the normal worship/study routine so prevalent in Venezuela. This is in the best Wesleyan tradition of holiness of heart and life or living our our faith in specific tangible ways that offer healing, help and hope to people beyond the local congregation.

The Dean has just finished another week of instruction in the Church Planting Institute in Puerto Ordaz. This is the second week of this training offered both in Puerto Ordaz and Barquisimeto. The third courses will be taught in Barquisimeto in November and in Puerto Ordaz in December.

In November the Dean will also welcome a Georgia Orthopedic Surgeon for a week of exploration and fact-finding that is the prelude to a potential medical mission to San Cristobal, Venezuela. Also in December, the seminary will host the International Leadership Institute in Barquisimeto. This event is sponsored by the McEachern UMC.

Please pray for this week of seminary and for safe travel. Pray for the Institute of Church Planting. Pray for the Doctor and the potential medical mission. Pray for the Leadership Institute. Also pray for more partners to join the work of this important mission to Venezuela and Latin America.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bishop and Mrs. Davis Make Huge Commitment to Venezuela



Yesterday Bishop G. Lindsey Davis, Episcopal Leader of the North Georgia Conference of the UMC, announced his commitment to designate a major 2008 Conference offering to missions, half of which will be designated for Venezuela. The announcement was made at the North Georgia Conference United Methodist Women's Annual Meeting at Marietta First UMC. This offering will be the result of a love offering the Conference will receive to thank and honor the Davis's for their 12 years of exemplary service to the North Georgia Conference. At the end of this Conference year, they will be reassigned to a new conference where they are likely to serve until they retire.

This beloved couple has given exceptional leadership to this Conference in our investment in Mission. Mrs. Davis (Jennifer) has poured her life in sending youth on mission trips through Honduras Outreach, a ministry established by some faithful North Georgia Methodists. Bishop Davis has made two trips to Venezuela. The first was when he took the entire North Georgia Conference Cabinet on a mission trip to Venezuela in 2005. This was the first time a Conference Cabinet had traveled to another country for a mission trip. Bishop Davis returned to Venezuela in January, 2007 to teach in the Seminario Wesleyan de Venezuela.

This is a wonderful development for Venezuela Now, Inc. due to at least three reasons. First, this will be a significant source of funding. Secondly, this raises the visibility of the work in Venezuela. Thirdly, it provides a legitimacy to this ministry that we more than welcome and need.

Additionally, Bishop Davis has invited Venezuelan Bishop Juvenal Perez to attend the next session of annual conference in Athens, GA in June of 2008. We are praying for Bishop Perez to be successful in obtaining a visa to be able to attend.

Please begin praying for Bishop Perez' visa application to be successful and pray for a very generous offering at Annual Conference.

Pictured here is Bishop and Mrs. Perez (he is in front in the yellow) and a recent Seminary Class.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Rev. Bryce Norton at Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela


Today, the Rev. Bryce Norton, Minister of Missions at Mount Pisgah UMC in Alpharetta Georgia, begins teaching "The Life of Christ" at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Mount Pisgah has been the primary sponsor of the Seminary for the last 5 years and has already committed to another year of support. Rev. Norton has been supportive of our work as we continue to provide quality, accessible, affordable theological training at the undergraduate level.

This is the finest program of its kind in all of the nation of Venezuela. Formal theological training for Protestant students is not readily available in most of South America. Until recently, all of our students were from Venezuela. However we recently admitted our first international student, a Colombian.

Please pray for the week of classes. Also, pray for our Academic Dean. He just finished a week of teaching in the Church Planting Institute in Puerto Ordaz following a week of teaching in the Institute in Barquisimeto. These weeks are an extension ministry of the seminary and take the ministry focus of starting new congregations to those for whom attending seminary is not currently a possibility. Following this week of seminary classes, He and his wife, will have a short break before hosting the week of Seminary in October 15-20 when he and Rev. Donna Goff (McEachern UMC) will be teaching two courses. Additionally, Warren Lathem will be teaching a Practicum on Establishing Community Ministries on Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday Morning.

Looking further ahead, in November Dr. Wes Griffin and the International Leadership Institute will lead a week-long Leaders Training in cooperation with the Seminary in Barquisimeto. Pray for this great event sponsored by the McEachern UMC. Also, in November and December David will be teaching the next sessions in the Church Planting Institute in both Barquisimeto and Puerto Ordaz.

Then January 28-February 1, Dr. Steve Wood, Senior Minister of Mount Pisgah UMC will teach Expository Preaching and Warren Lathem will teach Rites and Sacraments with the assistance of Dr. Jim Cantrell, DS of the Atlanta Decatur District, and Rev. Michael Cavin, DS of the Northwest District, North Georgia Conference. This will be Steve's first trip to Venezuela and Jim and Mike's second.

Please pray for the students, staff and faculty, and for the resources to be provided for each of these important ministries. Pray for some large donors to underwrite the expansion of the seminary program, the acquisition of facilities, and more "Friends of Venezuela" who will share the burden for this country. Also, pray for the physical safety of all associated with the seminary.

If you would like more information about Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela, please contact Warren Lathem at wlathem@aslangroup.com.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It is Done! The United Methodist Church of Venezuela is Born!

Newly Elected and Consecrated Bishop Juvenal Perez

What began as a conversation between two United Methodist Bishops, a Venezuela pastor attending school in the US and a United Methodist pastor over 12 years ago became reality on Friday, August 17, 2007 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. The first conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela was called to order, Dr. Warren Lathem, presiding. In the absence of a bishop present and with the full knowledge of his bishop, Warren called the meeting to order.

The Conference began in the chapel of the Assembly of God Bible Institute with a worship service marked by singing led by Alfonso Riveria, a young adult leader of the Lugar Altissimo United Church and student in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. Dr. Lathem preached on the “Required Attributes of a Bishop” citing the 13 requirements outlined by Paul in his first letter to Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 1-7. He then stated an additional 13 attributes needed in the first Bishop of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela.

Following the worship service and a short break, the conference reconvened and Dr. Lathem explained the process that would be followed in the election of their bishop. Forty-two lay and clergy delegates were pre-qualified to vote. While many guests observed, an orderly and peaceful process began. The first Ballot was taken and declared invalid as many of the ballots contained only the first name. Three subsequent ballots were taken and tallied, the third resulting in the election of a Bishop.


Juvenal Perez, pastor of the Rey de Reys (King of Kings) United Methodist Church in Punto Fijo was elected. On the announcement of his election, the congregation erupted in applause and Bishop-elect Perez bowed his head as the weight of the episcopacy descended on him.

Dr. Lathem called Bishop-elect Perez to the front where he was joined by his loving wife and co-pastor, Nohely. The Bishop-elect and Nohely knelt and the pastors, then the lay delegates, then the guests gathered around them for a time of commissioning prayer. In the absence of a bishop, the conference consecrated its own Episcopal leader.

Bishop and Mrs. Perez were then joined by their three wonderful sons as he gave his first remarks as the leader of this new conference. His words were marked by gratitude and true humility at the confidence placed in him by his fellow United Methodists as well as his willingness to execute the duties of the office of the Bishop.

The Conference adjourned for the dinner break and pictures of the new Bishop and his family. An hour later Bishop Perez called the Conference back into session and began the work of perfecting the external Discipline. This document had been before the United Methodist Leaders on at least three other occasions and had been over a year in composition and editing. After some nominal perfections to the document were approved, the document was adopted to be sent to the Venezuelan government for legal organization of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. The Conference adjourned for the evening about 9:00 to reconvene at 8:30 on Saturday morning.

Bishop Perez called the conference to order at approximately 8:40 on Saturday morning. Dr. Leroy Lindsey gave the opening sermon of the day from the Book of Ephesians and great time of worship and celebration was experienced. There was a contagious joy that spread throughout the room.

Following worship, Bishop Perez led the conference in the election of the officers required by the External Discipline adopted the previous evening. They are:

Vice President Jeremias Lopez

Secretary Jose Codero

Treasurer Yolanda Caicedo

Pastor Representative Victor Ramirez

Lay Representative Rafael Baez

Lay Representative Eliana Morales.

These leaders come from five different cities of the country of Venezuela. They represent the remarkable leadership being given to the work of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. Bishop Perez led the conference in a prayer of dedication of these leaders.

Bishop Perez then called all the pastors to come forward and the conference prayed for them as Seminary Dean David Cosby, Professor Dan Dunn, and President Warren Lathem laid hands on each of them and consecrated them to the task of pastoral ministry. Orders of Ministry are still be established in the Internal Discipline, but these pastors, all of whom are currently enrolled in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela, were commissioned to the work of pastoral ministry.

A motion was made putting the rest of the business before the conference into the hands of the newly elected Bishop and executive committee to be brought back at a later conference to approve the Internal Discipline and other items of business. Bishop Perez adjourned the conference at noon on Saturday, August, 18, 2007.

This author cannot express the joy that accompanied the privilege of having a hand in leading the work in Venezuela to this historical step. I now look forward to supporting the Venezuelan leadership as they lead their country to faith in Jesus Christ, building on the work of Wesley and reaching out to the world. Praise God for all His bountiful blessings! Please pray for this new United Methodist expression in Venezuela and newly elected Bishop Perez and his family.

(Editor’s Note: The requirement of the “External and Internal Disciplines” is a state requirement peculiar to Venezuela. The two documents combined would constitute the Discipline of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. However, they must remain separate due to church and state laws in this country.)

A Memorable Week of Seminary at Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela

Seminary began on Monday afternoon, August 13, 2007 at the rented facilities of the Assembly of God Bible Institute in Barquisimeto, Venezuela with Dr. Leroy Lindsey, Professor. Dr. Lindsey is the Dean of the OMS Biblical Seminary of Mexico (SemBiMex). A lifelong missionary, he speaks perfect Spanish. He also has a great heart for the work in Venezuela having been here on previous occasions. He is loved by the students and always makes a great impact on them.

About half of the 55 students attending these classes were United Methodists and the rest were from a variety of denominations, the Assembly of God being prominent due to his long history in Venezuela. Fortunately the United Methodist movement in Venezuela has been able to establish a very close working relationship with the AOG. Several of our professors have spoken in their chapel classes and taught in their classrooms. This has been a tremendous blessing since our Seminary still does not have its own location.

In the morning classes, Dr. Lindsey taught the Inductive Study of the Book of Hebrews. In the afternoon classes, he taught Wesleyan Holiness. The two subjects complimented one another perfectly. His passion for teaching and ministry through teaching was evident in all he did.

On Wednesday afternoon, as he was speaking of the purity of heart that God desires of his children and the holiness of life expected of those who follow Christ, one of the students stood up, interrupted the lecture and declared, “I want this now!” A revival in the truest sense of the word exploded in the classroom. Dozens of pastors and students began to weep and confess their sin and their need of the “holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Some stood, some knelt and some sprawled on the floor as the power of the Holy Spirit descended on that upper room. A transformational work of the Spirit was experienced in many lives. It was as if the years of teaching these most receptive students erupted in one afternoon of transformational glory. This experience of the Spirit of Christ will bear fruit for many years in the work of the Christian church in Venezuela.

This also set the stage for a most remarkable experience on the weekend as the United Methodist Church of Venezuela was officially born. Praise God for his mercy and grace in Jesus Christ!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The United Methodist Church of Venezuela - A Story of the Miracle of Grace



In 1995 Bishops Paulo Lockman of Brazil and Lloyd Knox of North Georgia met with Warren Lathem, then pastor of Mount Pisgah UMC in Alpharetta, GA and Carlos Gonzalez, Hispanic Pastor at Mount Pisgah and a native of Venezuela, to discuss our starting the United Methodist work in Venezuela. In April, 1996, Carlos Gonzalez, Ray Lathem, Roger and Dana Lane left Atlanta for our first venture into Venezuela. They traveled around the country, worked with a mission team from Norcross UMC building a church in La Marita, VZ and contacted pastors and entities who might be interested in becoming United Methodist and begin the organization of the ministry.

Unfortunately, these mission pioneers were killed in the ValuJet Crash in Miami on May 11, 1996 while returning from Venezeula. All of their records and contacts died with them. At least that is what we thought since no records were recovered from the crash scene.

However, by the grace of God, we received pictures from the Norcross team showing them at the work site in La Marita. These are the last pictures we have of these selfless servants and martyrs for the faith.

We had no names to pursue the relationship and our grief blinded us to so obvious options that were available to us. But God was still at work.

In 1997, Bishop Luis Palomo, Bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Venezuela, contacted Warren Lathem telling him he had received inquiries from some pastors in Venezuela asking if he would help them get the Methodist work organized in their country. He said he would visit the pastors and then share with Warren his findings.

What he discovered was the pastors did not understand why there had been no follow up after the initial contact made in April and May of the previous year. They had not known the fate of those who had come to them from the US. As a result of this meeting, Bishop Palomo asked Warren if Mount Pisgah UMC would sponsor a Venezuelan national missionary living in the US. He would move his family to Venezuela and start the Evangelical Methodist Church of Venezuela. As a result of this request, Mount Pisgah provided all the cost for this pastor to move back to Venezuela, provided him with a car, a house and expenses.

At the missionary's invitation, Warren Lathem traveled to Venezuela for the first time in 1998. He was invited to preach an evangelistic crusade in Arcarigua, VZ, the city where the missionary lived. He was accompanied by Rev. Miguel Torres, a native of Maricaibo, VZ and the new Hispanic Minister at Mount Pisgah. While the crusade was effective in leading many people to faith in Christ, it was transformational for Warren Lathem. Additionally, Warren met Tito Santiago, dear friend and colleague in ministry now in Georgia. God broke Warren's heart for the people of Venezuela. In the early morning hours of solitude and prayer in Arcarigua at the mom and pop Posada (Bed and Breakfast), God birthed the vision of a training program for the pastors of Venezuela. This soon became the dream of starting what became the Seminario Wesleyan de Venezuela.

The next year Warren was invited to return to Arcarigua to conduct another evangelistic crusade. He was accompanied by his wife, Jane , Dan and Nancy Dunn, and lay members from Mount Pisgah, along with Rev. Miguel Torres. In was on this trip that God broke Dan Dunn's heart for missions, especially in Venezuela. This began a pilgrimage for the Dunn's that led to Dan being the co-founder of the Seminary and his own journey back to Seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY where he is pursuing a PhD. in Evangelism to enable him to teach in theological schools in Latin America and serve as Dean of Students at Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.

Subsequently, successive trips led to an Evangelistic Crusade in Barquisimeto with 10,000 in attendance, the beginning of construction of the Lugar Altissimo Church in memory of Ray Lathem and honor of Jared Lathem, and the inaugural session of the Seminary with Bishop Palomo and another professor teaching. (Never try to do that much in one week!)

The Seminary began its first session in rented space at the Assembly of God Bible Institute in Barquisimeto where it continues to meet even though it has outgrown the space available. In subsequent years, many mission teams from Mount Pisgah returned to build relationships and churches. Many people were involved in these early stages, too many to mention.

Then trouble began to dawn. It became apparent to Dan and Warren that the relationship with the Missionary Mount Pisgah had been sponsoring was untenable. However, they did not want to injure the work of the pastors or seminary and did not know how to proceed. In the grace of God, some of the Methodist pastors asked to meet with Dan and Warren without the presence of the Missionary. At that meeting, they informed us that they could no longer work with this persons due to serious problems, especially related to integrity and leadership. As this was resolved, the relationship with the missionary was terminated, most of the pastors and churches pulled out of the fledgling organization and began to work to form an new association. Warren and Dan traveled to Costa Rica to discuss this decision with Bishop Palomo and discovered he had independently reached the same conclusion.

Virgil and Jo Almond, members of Mount Pisgah, became our first US missionaries spending 3 months in Venezuela securing a house in Cabudare and looking for a potential permanent location for the seminary. After their time, they came back to the US, moved to Suches, GA and discovered their pastor was planning to go to a Latin American country as a missionary. The door closed for them and Virgil shared this with Warren. Warren invited them to consider Venezuela and they became the first long term United Methodist Missionaries to live in Venezuela. They serve there in a partnership between Venezuela Now, Inc. and The Mission Society.

They were soon followed by the second United Methodist missionary family who works primarily with the seminary. Both of these families live in the greater Barquisimeto area and work very closely with the pastor and churches, the seminary and US Mission Teams.

Then in August of 2005, the Bishop and Cabinet of the North Georgia Conference made an historic mission trip to Venezuela. This is the first time an entire US Cabinet has traveled to a foreign country on a mission trip. This was followed in January 2007 by Bishop Lindsey returning to Venezuela to teach in the Seminary.

During the intervening years, several other United Methodist Churches began to work in Venezuela. The first one after Mount Pisgah was McEachern UMC in Marietta. Their long-term partnership with the congregation in Punto Fijo is a model for other churches. Rev. Donna Goff, Minister of Missions at McEachern and veteran missionary of Kenya, led this effort and also teaches in the Seminary.

Work has progressed in drafting a Discipline to form the new United Methodist Church of Venezuela. Many meetings have been held with the pastors interested to being a part of this work. Now we are on the brink of a great next step.

On August 17, 2007 the first Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela will convene in Barquisimeto with Warren Lathem preaching the opening service and presiding until the delegates formally approve the Discipline and elect their first Bishop. Some 50 lay and clergy delegates are expected for this historic event. The exact number is unknown to this author at this time, but it appears there will be about 25-30 churches joining the conference as well as about 20 pastors and their spouses and lay delegates from each church.

We rejoice in Christ for so many things related to Venezuela. The most current is this inaugural conference. However, this is just one of many miracles which have come into our lives through the brothers and sisters in Venezuela. We will be forever grateful to our Gracious Lord Jesus Christ for bringing new life out of death, joy out of tragedy and hope in the face of despair. May our voices ever praise the One who turns darkness into light, who creates something out of nothing, who defeats death with resurrected life! What a joy to be a part of what Jesus is doing in Venezuela. Thank you, Lord!

August Seminary, Finishing Our Fifth Year

August 13, 2007 is the beginning of our August Seminary session with Dr. Leroy Lindsey, Dean of the SeBiMex Theological Seminary in Mexico, City and a favorite visiting professor of Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela students. This class is the last of our first five years of operation. We are still one year away from graduating our first class, meeting the academic requirements for an excellent undergraduate seminary degree.

Please pray for the 50-55 students likely to participate in this week of classes. Also pray for our Dean as he leads the week. And, please pray for Dan Dunn, Professor of Missions and Evangelism and Dean of Students, and Warren Lathem, Professor of Church Ministries and President of the Seminary who will be at the seminary along with the Dean and his wife and Warren's wife, Jane.

While we are in Barquisimeto, we hope to close the final purchase of 10 acres across the street from the Lugar Altissimo Church and future home of the Seminary. We also hope to receive final papers placing the 25 acres surrounding Lugar Altissimo UMC de Venezuela in the name of the Wesley Association of Venezuela, the legal entity that holds the property and assets of our work in Venezuela. Once these properties are legally transfered, we will begin to develop plans for construction of the seminary. We currently have an architect working on our first building and hope to be able to raise funding soon. Please pray for this as well.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Report from McEachern UMC July Trip to Punto Fijo, Venezuela




A short term mission team from McEachern UMC just returned from Punto Fijo, VZ Our week there was focused on ministry to the children in the community, both church members and others in the nearby community. We were able to try something new, an "Upward" styled sports camp each morning. Our presence alone drew many curious children to see what was going on. They joined in the fun playing ultimate frisbee, soccer, American football, and many other games. They even taught us a few of their games. We held VBS each afternoon. The kids did crafts, each with a lesson about Jesus or the Cross. Of course, we had worship service each evening and managed to make some "building improvements" in our spare time.

It was a wonderful experience for everyone, including a guest on our team from Iglesia Metodista de Mayaguez, another of our partner churches in Puerto Rico. We were also able to participate in our own worship service at McEachern on Sunday morning courtesy of a video Skype call and some wi-fi technology.

Unfortunately, Pastor Juvenal was in the hospital the entire time. He had an acute infection in his right leg above the ankle. We were able to visit with him the afternoon we arrived. We anointed him and others in his room with oil and prayed over each. Praise God, Juvenal is now home, recuperating with his family and doing much better.

In just a short visit, the Spirit of God can be seen moving in this humble church. They have a faithful congregation and devoted leadership. We long to see them grow in their faith and understanding of the Gospel, and to continue to be a beacon of hope to the community.

You can read more about our trip on our blog site, http://mceachernmissions.blogspot.com

Friday, July 13, 2007

Report from ILI Conference in Paraguay




Asuncion International Conference Update
12 July 2007.
Dear Carlos ,

Greetings in Christ's name. It is a joy for me to write you directly from Asuncion, Paraguay. God has blessed with a venue that gives us internet access, so I will be able to send regular updates from the international conference. Please expect to hear from me every few days, as the busy schedule of leading this historic event permits me.

A Warm Start in Cold Weather

The first ILI international conference in Spanish began two days ago with the ILI vision session taught by Dr. Wes Griffin. The group was enthusiastic and seemed to catch the vision through the translation into Spanish.

Though the weather was cold and humid, there was nothing cold about the presence of God or the enthusiasm of the leaders. The weather here in Paraguay "threw a curve" at all of us. Just a couple days ago it was a pleasant 25 degrees celsius, but as our participants began arriving Asuncion, temperatures plunged to about 8 degrees and the pouring rain and cold winds made it feel even colder. It was a surprise for some of our leaders coming from the tropical nations like Colombia and Venezuela who are having a hard time coping with the cold nights.

The temperatures are begining to warm up, but the spiritual climate in the Asuncion Participant Walter Omar Villagraconference room is much higher than that, as you can see by the picture of participant Walter Omar Villagra from Paraguay. Leaders came from nations ranging from Mexico to Argentina. They represent a wide range of denominations. Some are local pastors with great potential to train people locally and nationally, while others are national church leaders with hundreds of thousands of people under their leadership. Some are young and others are older and seasoned men and women of God.


Taking Control

In the first day of the conferece Joy Griffin brought God's challenge to go deep as she taught the first Discussion in Asuncion Conferencesession on Intimacy with God. She reminded all of us again of the need to slow down and let our relationship with God to be priority in our lives. As usual, her teaching was very well received by all. She brought a strong bible study on the real meaning of knowing God. I was translating her and felt God convicting me of often focusing more on knowing about God than knowing Him in an intimate sense.

One of the groups in the final workshop of the session shared their insight about how to deepen their relationship with God. Their words were "We must quit allowing our schedule to be in control of our lives and begin to take control of our schedule."

May that be our prayer even as we continue to serve God faithfully in our ministries around the world.

Today we kicked off the first History Makers Conference right here at the same venue. Please pray for both groups as we go throught he core values of Intimacy, Passion and Vision in the next days. Ask God to bring us closer to God, to break our heart anew for the lost and to begin looking at what means to be a visionary leader for Christ in the world today.
May God continue to bless you, I will be back in a couple days.
Signature
Norival Trindade
Vice President for Training
International Leadership Institute







Friday, June 22, 2007


Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela is partnering with the International Leadership Institute and McEachern United Methodist Church to bring the great resources of the Institute to Venezuela in November. In preparation for that event, we are sending three of our leading pastors to Peru to participate in ILI's Latin America Leadership Conference. Pastors Cheo Gonzalez, Toby Ramirez and Carlos Perona (L to R) will travel to Peru and be key leaders in our November Conference.


Dr. Wes Griffin, the founder of ILI will be with us in this event sponsored by the McEachern UMC of Marietta, GA USA. Both Dr. Griffin and McEachern have a heart for the people of Venezuela and the emerging United Methodist Church there. This is an exciting time for us as we all combine resources in a partnership to reach the lost of Venezuela.



Your prayers for this event will be most appreciated.

Joy and Wes Griffin founded the International Leadership Institute (ILI) in 1998 in response to the heart cry of Christian leaders around the world who want to reach their nations with the life transforming power of the Gospel. Today, ILI trains and mobilizes leaders of leaders around the world through advanced training in leadership, evangelism and multiplication. Joy and Wes have a special gift for impacting leaders.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Good News From Venezuela

Our seminary Dean called from Venezuela this morning to give me some great news. Rev. Carlos and Dr. Maria Perona, pastors in Barquisimeto, have announced that they will be joining the newly forming United Methodist Church of Venezuela when it has its first Conference in August. Both of these pastors are recogined leaders in the Protestant church in Barquisimeto, Lara State. They have been students in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela since its conception. At that time, Carlos was President of the Ministerial Association in Barquisimeto and a well respected leader. His and Maria's enrollment in and endorsement of the seminary was a great step toward the seminary earning legitimacy in Venezuela.

Carlos is a life-long pastor having been converted then serving in the Assembly of God denomination. As with many pastors in Venezuela, he moved to become an independent because of the lack of support within his denomination. As an Independent, he planted several congregations within some of the poorest Barrios in Barquisimeto. He has a global vision of the church which is consistent with the ministry of the seminary and the UMC of Venezuela.

Maria is a pastor alongside Carlos in thier team ministry. This remarkable woman is also a medical doctor, a pediatrician. They have three beautiful children, the youngest of which I was provileged to dedicate when preaching at their church 3 years ago. Their enrollment in the seminary is a testimony to the excellent theological education being provided by the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.

I have learned to trust Carlos and Maria. They are people of great integrity and the kind of leaders this emerging United Methodist Church needs to effectively reach Venezuela with the Gospel of Christ.

Here is a picture of Carlos and me engaged in conversation on Thursday, June 7, 2007 in our hotel restaurant in Barquisimeto. Carlos requested the meeting to discuss the possibility of becoming United Methodist. We left to return to the US with the mutual commitment to prayer for this momentous decision for him, his family, his churches and the UMC of Venezuela. Thank God for answered prayer.

A Few Highlights from June

Jane doing what she does best: loving children in Venezuela. This is Wilmer, Jr. the newest member of Lugar Altissimo United Church near Barquisimeto. This church was built in memory of our son, Ray, and in honor of Jared. It was the site of Jared's marriage to Lim and our spiritual home in Venezuela.






This is the Lugar Altissimo Church, almost finished.














This is the pastor or the Lugar Alitissimo Church, Pastor Yolanda.















Here are Wilmer and Juni and Wilmer, Jr., faithful members of the Lugar Altissimo Church.














Sunday, June 10, 2007

June Report

Below is a report posted by my wife, Jane, on her blog: Cozy Reader. I hope you will read her report of our recent trip to Venezuela. Additionally, I wanted to report that we had a great week of seminary at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. About 55 students attended the classes. The Academic Dean taught "Holiness in the New Testament. I taught "Worship that Transforms." Again we experienced the most responsive students David or I have ever taught. That includes the Dean's experience in multiple Latin American countries and a career of teaching.

Additionally, we had multiple meetings with the United Methodist pastors. They decided to have their organizatoinal annual conference on August 17 and 18, 2007. This historic event will include the formal approval of their External Documents of Incorporation (Discipline) and the election of thier first Bishop and officers. They will also continue work on their Internal Documents (Discipline). Due to the laws common in Latin America, these two functions must remain seperate.

Of course at the Conference, we will engage in the vital worship so intregal to the Venezuelan United Methodist Church. They always lift our spirits when we worship with them.


Anyone who would like to attend this historic event is invited contact me for further information. Also, I want to thank our ministry partners for your support of the work in Venezuela.

We drove from Maiquetia (the location of the airport) to Barquisimeto (about a 5 hour drive) and the scenery is spectacular. The airport is located on the coast and you drive immediately into the hills.

The roads are curvy but it pays off. We made a few stops along the way for snacks and potty breaks and to snap some pictures.






Another shot from the drive through the mountains. The pictures just do NOT do it justice.











Here is one of many flower stands on the streets of Barquisimeto. They grow beautiful flowers of many varieties and they are very inexpensive.









I just had to snap this picture. There is a plastic chair in the tree! We decided it was a Venezuelan "high chair"!!










This is Wilmer and Juni and their precious new baby boy, Wilmer, Jr. They are active members of Lugar Altisimo UMC outside of Barquisimeto, VZ. They are a wonderful young couple.












Little Wilmer is absolutely adorable. He was all smiles and entertained us while we were there. He is three months old.










These are some of the seminary students. Each morning is started with a worship service led by one of the students. The singing is always beautiful. They are all so grateful for the opportunity to attend seminary and be better trained to serve their churches.













Here are three of the students at the seminary. They each have very effective churches. (L-R) Cheo, Thoby and Carlos are all passionate about their ministries and about reaching Venezuela for Christ.




We were able to spend some time with our dear friends, who are missionaries who are also missionaries there. Please be in prayer for these families. There are shortages of many items including eggs, milk, chicken, cooking oil, toilet paper, sugar and butter. They can get these items sometimes but not all the time. The political situation is fragile and they watch things very closely. Pray for their safety and for their ministry with the people of Venezuela.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

June Seminary


Last night I was asked to meet with the Mission Committee of a church that has been very supportive of the work at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. They had questions for me to answer about the work of the seminary and their continuing support.

I struggled to find words adequate to describe the critical work of the Kingdom being done through the Wesley Seminary of Venezuela. Since I am so passionate about this work and so very much in love with the people of Venezuela, I am always amazed that others do not see the value as clearly as I do. However, I must realize that it is like the love for one's own child. Others may love your child, but they will never love him or her as much as you do.

After some time to think about it, here are some of the reasons for the passion we have for the work in Venezuela:

1. The greatest single need of the church in Venezuela is the need for trained and equipped pastors. For example, San Christobal is a city of 600,000 people. The evangelical (protestant) church recently celebrated 100 years in San Christobal. Yet the pastors estimate there are only 5-6,000 evangelical Christians in San Christobal - after 100 years of ministry and dozens of churches. This scenario is repeated all across the nation. The level of training and the models of ministry embraced by the indigenous church have not been as effective as needed in reaching the lost of Venezuela. Pastors need and receive excellent quality education at the Seminary in a fashion that is relevant, affordable and accessible. The 90 students enrolled are getting a practical theological education at the undergraduate level that simply is not available in all of Venezuela.

2. The people of Venezuela are primarily a secular people. While most claim to be Roman Catholic, in fact a very small percentage of the people have any religious life. Secularism is the dominate religion of the population. This is a country that desperately needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is presented in our best Wesleyan tradition. Through the seminary we are making a significant difference in the practice and effectiveness of the ministry of our students and many new congregations and missions have been started as a result of the education received at Wesley Seminary. These new congregations and missions are the very best way to reach the lost of this great country.

3. The United Methodist Church of Venezuela is in its infancy. Wesley Seminary is providing the educational and spiritual foundation needed for the establishment of a strong and effective Conference touching the entire nation and impacting the church in all of Latin America. Venezuela is a strategic country in Latin America for many reasons. We desperately need a strong United Methodist Conference in that country. All the work of writing the Discipline and organizing the Conference has been led by the staff of the Seminary. This is even more critical given the political upheavals in the region.

4. The North American Church needs the enrichment provided by partnering with the church in Venezuela. Pastors here get embittered if local church does not pay a minimum compensation package of about $60,000 (total cost to the church). Many pastors in Venezuela earn less than $4,000 a year. Churches here feel entitled to all the facilities, programming, budget and staff of a well established congregation. Many congregations in Venezuela have bi-vocational pastors, no other staff, minuscule budgets and have to meet in homes or rented garages. Yet they are joyful and thankful for God's blessings and generous with others less fortunate. We need a good dose of that in the US. Taking American professors, pastors and lay leaders to Venezuela to help with seminary allows them to be touched by some of the most dedicated servants of Christ I have ever known.

5. The work of the Seminary is a long-term commitment. Most churches use a shotgun approach to Global Missions investing limited time and money in many different places, resulting in very small long term gains. That is how I learned to do mission work and perpetuated that pattern for many years. However, a long term partnership with an indigenous church in another country resulting in spiritual and theological formation of the leadership of that church for several generations has far greater lasting impact for the sake of the Kingdom. Therefore, the Seminary needs many US partner churches to support and expand this great ministry. We do not need to cut back or lose any of the current support. We need to increase and expand the support for this great work.

One of the ways of looking at the ROI (Return on Investment) of mission dollars focuses on immediate gains of professions of faith or new members or churches. We certainly have those results in Venezuela. However, those are all immediate and measurable results and if they are the only criteria of measurement of effectiveness, we will miss the greater significance of the ministry of the Seminario Wesleyan de Venezuela. That is like measuring the effectiveness of a church solely on Professions of Faith. No District Superintendent in North Georgia has said more about the need for our own churches to be more effective in measurable ways, such as average worship attendance, professions of faith, net new members, etc. However, as a pastor for over 30 years, I know those are only part of the work. They are tangible. The intangible includes the spiritual growth of the pastors, staff and laity of a congregation, the primary outward focus of a local church, the holiness of heart and life of the people of the church, the generosity of the congregation toward others, the sense of divine call evidenced in the life of the laity and lay leaders of the congregation. The raising up of new mature lay and clergy leadership is of critical importance. It is not measurable, except anecdotally. However, it cannot be over-valued.

Finally, please pray for the seminary as we meet in June. David, Dean of the Seminary, will be teaching an Old Testament Course and I will be teaching a worship course, "Worship that Transforms." Also, please prayerfully consider how you can support this critical work.

In Christ,
Warren

Friday, April 06, 2007

Report of March Seminary

Seminary in March!

We had our second week of “seminario intensivo” from March 19 – 23. As always, it was an exciting time for the pastors and church leaders of some 20+ congregations and several denominations to come together to become better prepared to serve their communities and congregations.

Jon Herrin taught one of the courses this time around—“the Synoptic Gospels”—and had a blast. We’re not sure if the students enjoyed the course more or if he did! They learned about where the Gospels came from, who they were written for, and then they dove into them, extracting the precious jewels of God's amazing love for us. The students preached, wrote poems and songs based on the scriptures, and penned prayers. For many, this “inductive” approach to Scripture is something very new…but also very refreshing and exciting.

David Thompson came from N. Georgia to teach a course on “Cults, Sects and False Doctrines.” He was enthusiastically received…this, his third time to be with us. Because we do have a plethora of cults and sects (some of Christian derivation and some of indigenous or other), the pastors, teachers and leaders were very eager to learn the history of the cults and sects we have here…and how to combat their attractive but false doctrines. David gave them wonderful resources to help identify false doctrines, and gave the students great opportunities to discuss the sects and cults they’ve come up against and how they dealt with them.

As we ended our time together, it was once again a time to celebrate the goodness of God and the joy of having a place like the “Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela” where they can come and learn better how to proclaim the truth of God and how to serve their communities. Of course, they’re all looking forward to the June seminary when Warren Lathem (District Superintendent of Atlanta-Marietta District and President of the Seminary) will teach “Worship that Transforms” and our missionary to VE with the Methodist work and Academic Dean of the Seminary will teach “Holiness in the Book of Acts.” Please keep the seminary students and leaders in your prayers throughout the year.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Project Opportunities in Venezuela for 2007

Below are some of the ministry partnership opportunities currently available to churches and individuals desiring to work with the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. If you are interested, contact Jon at jherrin@intercable.net.ve

1) Tumeremo—eastern Venezuela—project: re-roof SS rooms; renovate interior, cut windows, etc. Pastor Cheo and Monica Gomez. Fly from Caracas to Puerto Ordaz; bus from Puerto Ordaz to Tumeremo (3 hours).

2) Puerto Ordaz—eastern Venezuela—project: renovate worship area--replace some roofing, do some simple re-wiring, painting, etc. Pastor Victor and Elizabeth Ramirez. They have a good children's ministry, so a team can be a wonderful part of that. Fly from Caracas to Puerto Ordaz.

3) La Concordia—central Venezuela, outside of Barquisimeto—project: children's home project; heavy to light construction, a zillion kids, and four missions/children s groups for Bible School. Pastora Yolanda Rivero. Fly from Caracas to Barquisimeto; van to Quibor (45 min.)

4) Boca de Garza—southwestern Venezuela—project: light to heavy construction on dorms for future mission teams; finishing work on small sanctuary; dispensing medical supplies; children’s ministries. Pastor Saturnino and Leonor Sanchez. This is a very rural setting. Team members will sleep in hammocks and travel much by river launch…in a beautiful area. Fly from Caracas to Barinas; bus/van from Barinas to Boca de Garza (5 hours +/-)…or fly from Caracas to Sto. Domingo de Táchira; bus/van to El Canton (1.5 hours); boat to Boca (2.5 hours)—this all depends on whether team arrives in rainy season or dry season.

5) Cabudare—central Venezuela, outside of Barquisimeto—project: children’s and youth Bible schools; community outreach through puppet programs. Pastor Jeremias and Elsa Lopez. Fly from Caracas to Barquisimeto; van to hotel (30 min.).

6) Buenos Aires—central Venezuela, outside of Barquisimeto—project: construct SS classroom for children’s ministry; hold children and youth Bible schools. Pastor Alberto and Cecilia Casas. Fly from Caracas to Barquisimeto; van to Quibor (45min).

7) Caracas—capital city—project: Bible schools for children and youth. Pass out evangelical literature and drug/sexual abstinence materials. Pastor Francisco and Elva Lopez. Van/bus from airport in Caracas to work area (1-2 hours).

8) La Concordia/Rodeo/San José de Tintin--central Venezuela, between Barquisimeto and Quibor--project(s): Renovation of day care centers...may include repainting, rewiring, replumbing; provide simple Bible school for children ages 4-6. Pastora Yolanda Rivero. Fly from Caracas to Barquisimeto; van to Quibor (45 min.)

General Project Hopes/Desires:

  • Mime teams that can share the Gospel and encourage the youth to practice sexual and drug abstinence. This team (s) would be used in town squares, high schools, and church settings. These have been especially requested for San Cristóbal, Punto Fijo, Cabudare and Barquisimeto.
  • Music teams to come and sing…both in English and Spanish (hey, if choirs can learn songs in Latin and Italian, they can learn to sing Spanish songs). These teams would probably provide Bible schools as well. Concerts in town squares, high schools and churches. These have been especially requested for Cabudare and Barquisimeto.