Monday, December 29, 2008

Venezuelan Church in Mission

During the years we have been in ministry in Venezuela we have been privileged to work alongside some wonderful pastors and lay people. They have taught us much about being in ministry in the community.

This Christmas, one of the Methodist churches, Ondas de Paz, reached out to those in need in the hills outside Barquisimeto.

They drove up to an area where there are people in great need.
Inflation is so great in Venezuela that the poor are suffering even more. Finding jobs is difficult and so money is very scarce and hunger abounds.

They were able to bring much appreciated relief. Here is the pastor's wife, Amarylis, giving food to this family.

"As you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me"

A grateful family.

Amarylis and young people from the church with a bag for food for the needy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishing You a Blessed Christmas

All of us at Venezuela Now, Inc. and the Wesley Seminary of Venezuela wish you a very blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. We are most grateful for all the support you have given to the work in Venezuela. We are privileged to be able to know some of the most devout Christians in the world through our work in Venezuela and the US.

We also give thanks for the faithfulness of God to this work. As of this writing, we are over 2/3's of the way to receiving the $15,000 needed for the January seminary class. Gifts and pledges now total over $11,300US. We continue to pray for God to provide the remainder of the required funds for the beds, mattresses, kitchen appliances, pots and pans, tables and chairs, etc. Please continue to pray with us and consider being a part of what God is doing in Venezuela.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Critical Decision

The Directors of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela met Saturday to discuss the future of the Seminary and the necessary funding. The good news is that gifts and loans have made it possible for us to pay off the purchase of the seminary in February. We will have a debt of about $150,000, but that is great considering the purchase cost was about $350,000. Also, we have made significant progress in getting the property ready for January seminary: water system, electrical, boys and girls dorm improvements, etc. However, we have simply run out of funds.

Additionally, one of our primary donors has had to cut our support by 55% due to economic conditions in their church.
Now we are faced with a critical decision. We must have $15,000 to be able to have seminary in January. Tnis money is necessary to purchase required mattresses and bunk beds, kitchen appliances, plates, silverware, pots and pans, tables, chairs, etc. We simply do not have the money.

So after much prayer, discussion and discernment, we decided to put a "fleece" before the Lord. We are aking God to provide the $15,000 by January 5, 2009. If the money comes in, we will be able to go ahead with semin
ary. If not, we will have to postpone classes until March, assuming the money is raised by then.

If God speaks to your heart as you read this post and you want to be a part of this vital ministry, please send your gift to Venezuela Now, Inc. at PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096.

May God richly bless you as we celebrate the Christ Child who has brought us salvation and calls us to share this Good News with the world!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Restoration UMC, Cerritos Blancos, Venezuela

Rev. Carlos Perona (pictured here with Warren Lathem) is the pastor of the Restoration United Methodist Church. He and his wife, Maria, serve this vital ministry in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Maria is a pediatrician as well as a full partner in the pastoral ministry. They have 3 little boys and are among the finest leaders of the evangelical church in Venezuela. They both earned their Seminary degree at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.

Below are pictures of the new facility currently under construction in the neighborhood of White Hills (Cerritos Blancos). This community has a population of 120,000. The facility has been under construction since 2002 when Venezuela Now sent a work team to help with the work. Obviously, it has taken a long time to advance the work.

However, the ministry has advanced greatly. Here are Carlos' words: "We have two services in our present location each Sunday morning. Combined we have between 280 to 300 adults and 75 to 85 children. Right now we only have 260 chairs.

"The new sanctuary we are building is on the second floor and will have a capacity of 350 to 400 chairs comfortably. Later we will build a balcony for 200 more chairs for a total of 550 - 600. The children's sanctuary will be built on the first floor. At this moment we are raising the funds for the roof of the sanctuary, it is on the second floor. We hope to have this done by the middle of January."

In additon to this work, Carlos and Maria minister in three other locations, building new mission congregations in those locations. These include a new shopping mall, a Chinese congregation across town and another public facility.

Recently, Resto
ration UMC held a Women's retreat and then a Men's retreat on the campus of the Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela. This is one of the critical ministries the seminary facility will provide to the young United Methodist Church of Venezuela. It is another critical reason we are raising funds to pay off the debt on the property while at the same time raising funds to rennovate the buildings.

You can give to advance the work of the seminary by sending a check to Venezuela Now, Inc. PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Construction at Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela

Work is moving forward on the renovation of the buildings on the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela in La Piedad, a suburb of Barquisimeto, Venezuela. The photos attached here show the work on the Men's Dormitory, including new electrical, plumbing, ceiling, paint and other improvements. Much of this work is being done by members of the United Methodist Churches in the area as well as other denominational churches whose pastors attend the seminary.

This work is in preparation of the first classes being held on the property in January, 2009. Academic Dean David is directing this work from here in the US as he is recovering from knee replacement surgery and shoulder surgery. He and his wife hope to return to Venezuela in January.

The rest of us are doing our best to raise the $250,000US needed to pay the remaining 2/3 of the purchase price of the property. This is due at the end of February, 2009. Please join us in praying for God to provide these resources and for us to use them in a way that will greatly advance the cause of the Kingdom in Venzuela and all of Latin America.

You can send your gift for this project to Venezuela Now, Inc., PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096. God will bless your generosity and sacrificial giving for this worthy and strategic effort.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Venezuelans Vote

As Americans finish a political race, Venezuela enters one. This Sunday Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect governors and mayors all across Venezuela. As you prayed for the elections in the US, I would simply invite you to pray for Venezuelans as they make significant decisions for the future of their country. I would also encourage you to do some research in secular news sources to better understand the issues voters face in Venezuela.

It is the policy of Venezuela Now, Inc. to completely abstain from political comment or take a position on the political issues in Venezuela. We believe the work we are doing is too important to be compromised by political opinion or activism by non-Venezuelans. While we each have our own personal opinions, we will not use this vehicle to advance those opinions.

Again, please pray for a peaceful electoral process in Venezuela and for God's will to be done through the will of the people of Venezuela.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Immediate Need for Seminary Funds

The final payment for the VZ Seminary property is due in February, and funds are still needed. Additionally, the exchange rate is currently favorable, so we need to take advantage of this brief window of opportunity before the exchange goes back down again. We invite you to give generously to this vital ministry. The Seminary is equipping Christian leaders in Venezuela to have a missional mindset and lead their congregations in focusing outside themselves in order to reach their communities with holistic ministries. It is making an enormous difference. In addition to giving generously, please pray specifically that God would raise up many believers to support this effort. To give, make your check payable to VNI, write "Seminary property" on the memo line, and mail to VNI, PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096. If you have any questions or want more information, please contact us.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Lugar Altisimo

We received an update from our friends at Lugar Altisimo this week. Some of our Lugar brothers and sisters were freshly motivated during the August Seminary class on Church Growth, and they are enjoying renewed participation in God's work to reach non-Christians in their area. For example, they have reactivated a Friday evening event for young people that had fallen by the wayside, and they are averaging 50-60 teenagers each week. Teens come from the Lugar area, but also from surrounding communities, and the Spirit is drawing people closer to Christ, including non-Christians. They have also begun a Thursday evening Bible study group that focuses on helping non-Christians explore what the Bible teaches about a life of following Jesus. Please pray for Pastor Yolanda and all those who serve in that area. Some of them are pictured here as they share a Bible story with children in a nearby community.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pray for Pastors Thoby and Elizabeth

During your prayer times this week we encourage you to pray for Thoby and Elizabeth Ramirez. They planted a new church in Puerto Ordaz four years ago, and have partnered with Pastor Jose and Pastor Mario to plant another new church in Ciudad Felix. Please pray that God would guide their efforts to reach Venezuelans with the amazing good news of Christ, in both Word and Deed. Thoby and Elizabeth are pictured here with Dan and Nancy Dunn and other Venezuelans as they celebrated their congregation's anniversary. .


Check out this link. This is an historic Mission Event in the United Methodist Church.

Beyond These Walls -

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

And All The People Gave A Great Shout

The First Graduation Festivities of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela culminated with the shouts of United Methodists praising the Lord. It was a weekend those present will never forget due to the tangible presence of God.

Friday night the graduates, families and faculty gathered for a celebratory dinner. It was a festive occasion
catered by one of the students in the Seminary. The room was beautifully decorated in a Chinese motiff and the menu was an excellent variety of wonderful Chinese food. The highlight of the evening was the sermon by Pastor Wilmer Perez, Valedictorian of the first graduating class. Good fun, food, music, and excellent preaching made the night most memorable.

We thought the weekend may have peaked too soon since graduation was to be the last event on Saturaday morning at 10:00. Were we wrong! As the graduates processed into the building an electricity seemed to fill the air. Again, singing as only Venezuelans can, raised the temperature of the crowd. Awards were given and the students presented special thanks and gifts to the Academic Dean, the Dean of Students, the President and their wives.

As President of the Seminary I delivered the first Commencement Sermon (it was not an address). Diplomas were presented to each of the twelve graduates, prayer was offered and the people began to
shout for joy, the shout of the redeemed! What a glorious experience it was. It was in the best tradition of Shouting Methodists and our biblical foundation:

Ezra 3:11

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD : "He is good; his love to Israel endures forever." And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Thanks to all who have given and served in the cause of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. What it a joy it is to realized this dream and see it become a reality. You can help by giving to Venezuela Now, Inc for the seminary. Send you gift to the address above in the masthead.

Here is a list of of the graduates: Maria Mogollon de Pirona
Nohely Josefina Hurtado de Perez
Bethsaida P. Villarroel de Morales
Betty Yolanda Caicedo de Rivero
Maritza de Carmen Solis de Lopez
Eugenio Ramon Vargas
Jose Ignaciao Gomez Martiniz
Efrain S. Morales J.
Julio Cesar Lopez Suarez
Carlos Jose Pirona Aranguibel
Wilmer Antonio Perez L.
Juvenal Enrique Perez Ramones (Bishop)

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Dedidication of the New Home of the Seminary

The only way to describe the experience of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela yesterday is to say we caught a glimpse of Heaven. What a day of celebration as the students, faculty, staff and friends gathered on the new property in La Piedad, Venezuela to dedicate what Pastora Yolanda Caceida described in her prayer as the "first home of United Methodism in Venezuela!"

Buses transported the students across town from the current rented facility to our new location. A quick tour was given of the 5 existing buildings on the property. Also explanations were given as to how we envision using these buildings and what immediate improvements need to be made in the near future.

We then gathered in the most modern building, what will eventually be the Library (top floor) and Girls Dorm (lower floor), for a great service of Dedication led by our Academic Dean, David. He and his wife, Carol, have worked tirelessly to make a dream become a reality. The event on Thursday was a great victory due in large part to their dedicated work. The United Methodist Churches of Venezuela and North America owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Dean of Students, Dan, introduced the mission teams from North Georgia sharing in the celebration. Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek, Georgia sent a team to work on a Children's Home during the first part of the week, then share in the weekend celebrations of the Seminary as we celebrated buying the property and the gr
aduation of our first seminary graduates (more on that later). Mount Pisgah has provided the annual sustaining budget for the seminary for the last 6 years and by doing so has had a huge impact on the United Methodist Church of Venezuela, the rest of the Evangelical Churches of Venezuela and the even the world as these churches send missionaries to other lands.

Dan also introduced these two young ladies from McEachern UMC in Powder Springs, GA. They have been working with the children of the seminary (this is vacation month in Venezuela, so parents must take their children with them seminary). McEachern has been very supportive of the church in Punto Fijo and the seminary.

Bishop Juvenal Perez preached a dynamic sermon based on Joseph's dreams and shared his dream for the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. He reminded us that as great as is this stop along the journey (the purchase of the seminary and first graduating class) that it is still a journey and the dream continues. He spoke of dreaming of a day when the United Methodist Church of Venezuela will not just have a Theological Seminary, but a University and a Children's Home and a Home for un-wed mothers and a home of alcoholics and other ministries to change the very fabric of the most secular culture in Latin America. What a great episcopal leader and preacher the Lord has provided in the first Bishop of the UMC of Venezuela!

One of the great surprises for our family was when we were called to the front
during the service and informed that the Board of the Wesley Association of Venezuela (the Venezuelan non-profit entity that owns the seminary and other property) had decided to name the Library in memory of our son, Ray Warren Lathem, III. More will follow on that at a later date. Needless to say, it was an overwhelming experience of gratitude and grace for all my family present and very much appreciated.

At the end of the service the entire crowd moved outside where they each received a vial of oil. (See the first picture.) We each dedicated ourselves to the work of the Lord in reaching the world for Christ and we dedicated the grounds of the seminary by pouring out an offering of oil on the very soil. The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit and we claimed that place for Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Glory to God!

Tonight is the Graduate Dinner and tomorrow at 10 is the graduation. Dio
s es Bueno!

Friday, August 08, 2008


After 35 years in the ministry I have witnessed many worship services where no opportunity for response had been planned or executed effectively. The typical response to the sermon in mainline churches is to "open the doors of the church' or receive the offering.

There is a better way. This book, written by Dan Dunn and me, explores the method and power of preaching for response. When properly applied the principles set forth in this book can transform the church and reach the world with the Gospel of Christ.


To order this book, click here.

The laser sharp focus of "Preaching for a Response" is profound and yet simple. Warren Lathem and Dan Dunn intentionally speak in plain language. They believe hearing is not enough. Authentic transformation mandates that pew persons must also comprehend, understand and respond.

However, this helpful and very practical gem moves far beyond one more fill-the-pew formula. Here is a passionate, articulate apologetic by two seasoned pulpit warriors to cut to the core of fruitful preaching. It is do what Jesus did! Offer the transformational Word and open the door for response. Speak the Gospel with a concerted, clear, intentional opportunity for hearers of the Word to become responders to the Word.

The message in this volume is not about slick. It is about the difference between life and death. The difference is Preach for a Response.

Lathem and Dunn are practical. They maintain the every pastor can learn to preach for a response. Every pastor can begin now. A bonus of six illustrative sermons is included in the bargain.

For sure, this power volume will become required reading for my students.

Dr. William C. Goold

Asbury Theological Seminary

Dwight M. and Lucille S. Beeson Professor of Church Music
William Earle Edwards Professor of Church Music

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Commencement Preparations Frenzy

As the week winds down, the work heats up preparing for the August Seminary and Graduation. Academic Dean David and wife Carol, Ministry Assistant Samuel and others are putting in extra hours each day getting ready for this remarkable and historic event.

While they work so hard, others are moving toward Venezuela to join in the Celebration. First, Dean of Students, Dan Dunn and wife Nancy, are preparing to leave Costa Rica, traveling back through the US arriving in Venezuela on Sunday. They will be living with David and Carol while they are here and Dan will be team teaching next week with Warren an important course for the church in Venezuela: Church Growth. Even now 40% cities and towns of Venezuela have NO protestant ("evangelical" is the word used in Latin America) church.

Also in transit via Bogota are Efrain and Bethsaida Morales from their home in Snellville, GA. They are among the first 12 graduates of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. While they have been in the US for the past year, they have completed the courses via directed studies. They are excellent students and have done superb work. Bethsaida is a retired teacher with a Masters Degree in Venezuela.

Coming into town on Sunday is the Mission Team from Mount Pisgah and McEachern United Methodist Churches of the Atlanta area. They will work at the Lugar Altissimo UMC the first part of the week, then invest the end of the week in the seminary festivities.

We have an extensive schedule for the Seminary Commencement. On Thursday afternoon, we will take the seminary students via bus from our rented facility on the west side of Barquisimeto to our property on the east side. We will have a service of consecration for the property including significant participation by all the students. The service will have worship music led by the Praise Team of the Ondas de Paz Umc, testimonies of some selected students, sermon by Venezuelan United Methodist Bishop Juvenal Perez and the anointing of the land with oil by every student. Warren, President, will close the service with a prayer of consecration.

On Friday, after seminary ends at 12:00 noon, we will have Graduation Rehearsal at the new property. Then at 7:00 we will have a wonderful graduation dinner attended by over 100 people including students and their families and guests as well as the faculty of the seminary. The Valedictorian Sermon will be delivered by our first Valedictorian, Rev. Wilmer Perez, a leading pastor in Nirgua.

Then Saturday morning at 10:00 we will gather at the new seminary property where we will celebrate the accomplishments of the first 12 graduates of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. This is the culmination of a 6 year journey since our first classes in October of 2002. What a great celebration this will be.

Thank you to all who have been a part of making this a realty, especially the congregation of the Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Alpharetta. This church has provided the sustaining budget for the Seminary since its inception. There would be no Seminario Wesleyano de Seminary without the faithful support of the Mount Pisgah Church. The United Methodist Church of Venezuela and the many other churches of Venezuela are eternally grateful for this sacrificial support.

Please pray for all who have so much to do to get ready for this wonderful event(s). Pray for the safety of all who are traveling to be a part of this great event. Pray about giving a special offering for the seminary in honor of these twelve graduates.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Back

Years ago I learned that it takes twice as long and takes three times as much money to do business in Venezuela as we were originally t0ld. This has proven to be a conservative estimate. Nothing happens quickly.

Yesterday we thought we would sign the purchase agreement for the Seminary Property in La Piedad. However, the agreement arrived from their attorney at 9:30pm the night before. We reviewed it with our attorney and discovered several issues still to be resolved. Our attorney leaves Monday for a few days in Spain, a trip that both parties knew was scheduled. If we had received the agreement a few days before signing, we might have been able to resolve the issues before her departure. Now we will wait.

An example of the huge amount of time it takes to accomplish business here is we have been trying to close on a private house purchase for over 5 months. It will be another month before all this is complete. This is the purchase by a private individual which will provide a home for our American workers here and guest housing for visiting professors.

So we continue to press ahead, know that all will be done in God's time. We are confident that our Lord is Lord of all including business dealings in Venezuela.
In the meantime, we prepare for August Seminary, Graduation and a mission team from Mount Pisgah UMC and McEachern UMC. The difficulties do not make the the work any less rewarding, only more challenging. However, through the training provided by Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela and the work of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela, the church continues to grow, lives are saved and the poor are served. Pray for the work.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Long-term Mission Partnerships Available!

Just above this post is a link to an exciting mission training event in October at McEachern UMC in Powder Springs, GA USA. One of the great lessons to be shared at this event, co-sponsored by Venezuela Now, Inc., is the great value of Long-term Mission Partnerships. They are transformational for the sending and the receiving church.

Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela is a great place for your church or mission group to develop such a Mission Partnership. If all goes as planned, next week we will close on the property pictured here. It is located in La Piedad, Venezuela, a suburb of Barquisimeto. It has five buildings including a two story building which will probably house the Women's Dorm and the Library and a couple of offices; a very large building to house the Men's Dorm, Reception Area, Offices and Two large Classrooms; the Cafeteria and kitchen building; a large home and a small home.

God willing, we will have our first graduation on August 16 in the two-story building. Then the work really begins. What is the need?

Obviously money. You will certainly hear more about this later, but we have six months to raise the $250,000 needed to pay off the property after we pay the $110,000 next week. The Seminary will also need about $100,000 (we think) in additional funds for a commercial kitchen, improvements to existing buildings, and furnishings.

The Seminary also needs Long-Term Mission Partners. These are churches and teams which will come to the Seminary year after year making constant improvements on the facility. Immediately, the need exists for masonry teams, painting teams, landscaping teams (you can grow anything in the tropical paradise), roofing teams, etc.

Please begin now recruiting a team and setting a date to come to Venezuela. You can contact us for more information. We can pick you up at the Caracas airport (or one of the other international airports if you desire), transport you to Cabudare and the Mission house, provide you with transportation, food, housing, and translation in a safe, comfortable and affordable environment. You can work as hard as you please along side some of the finest Venezuelan Christians you will ever meet. You just have to pay your expenses and raise money for construction supplies for the project you want to complete (from a list we can supply).

Also, pray. Everyday. Make the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela a part of your church's prayer list, your Sunday School or Bible Study Prayer list as well as your personal prayer list. The work is difficult here, but the rewards are eternal!

Call or email me at:
Warren Lathem
Venezuela Now, Inc.
text message me at 404-502-5678

Here are some pictures from the seminary site as we visited it today: