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!

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