Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Greetings in the name of the Prince of Peace from the students, faculty and staff of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.  We give thanks for you and pray for God’s blessing in your life.  Now for some GOOD NEWS:

The Lord has been good to the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela!  He has blessed this ministry in Venezuela with abundant fruit.  Students and pastors enrolled in the Seminary reached thousands of people with the Gospel this year.  They learned how to effectively make disciples, study the Bible, do practical effective evangelism, raise children God’s way, start new missions and preaching stations, and provide ministries of healing, help and hope.  And they are doing it!  God is doing a great work through the ministry we share together.

The Lord has been good to the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela!  This was our first year on our own campus, holding our first class here in January, 2009.  This meant we had to successfully negotiate the purchase price, work out a suitable purchase agreement (not an easy thing) and move the purchase through the legal morass that exists in an ever changing legal environment.  We also had to have the money, about $350,000 US equivalent, to purchase the property.  God provided the funds through giving and a $170,000 mortgage provided by a generous US supporter of the Seminary.  God also provided another $50,000 (US) for the vast improvements needed on the property.  Further, God provided US mission teams and labor from the indigenous pastors and churches to make the improvements.

The Lord has been good to the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela!  Security is a major concern in Venezuela.  This year we hosted 6 weeks of classes, children’s retreats, annual conferences, men’s retreats, women’s retreats, marriage enrichment retreats, couples retreats, engagement parties, church planning retreats, several US mission teams and more.  We did so without a single incident of violence or breach of security.  We have been erecting high security walls, electronic gates and video security monitoring devices, but the Lord is our refuge and strength!

The Lord has been good to the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela!  As you may recall, last December, the Board of the Seminary met and decided we could not have the January class due to lack of funds.  We decided to put out a fleece before the Lord and ask for $15,000 in 30 days.  The God of all grace used many of you to provide the $15,000 and $10,000 more!  Of course, improvements necessary to have class on the property cost more than estimated and the extra $10,000 was needed to host that first and all subsequent classes.  God knew what we did not know and was “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think.”  We finished the December class with just enough money to pay all our operating bills.  While we still need physical improvements, we are trusting the Lord to provide those resources.  We just give thanks for being able to close the year in the black, a feat not known this year in many non-profits.
The Lord has been good to the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela!  We have an annual mortgage payment due each Dec. 31 in the amount of $30,000.  One month ago we only had half that amount.  Today, with what has been given and pledged, we will be able to make that payment on time and in full!  Praise His Holy Name.

The Lord has been good to the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela!  Due to the generosity of the US church, David and Carol have been able to give excellent leadership to the Seminary, mentoring pastors and hosting mission teams.  They bring great Christian devotion, absolute Christian morals and ethics, great experience on several mission fields and a generous spirit to the work.  Unfortunately, one church just recently cut their support due to that church’s financial constraints.  We do not know where this money will come from, but it is critical for them to remain in Venezuela. Therefore, we unexpectedly must raise an additional sum this year which we did not have to raise last year. 
Therefore, I am asking you for a year-end gift to provide the resources for them to stay with the work in Venezuela. You can send a check simply marked: “DEAN” and mail it to the US address:  Venezuela Now, Inc.  PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA  30096.  You can also invite them  to come to your Sunday school class or church to share what God is dong in Venezuela.  Simply contact them through the comment section. 
The Lord has been good to the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela!  He has given you as a friend of this work.  We are thankful for the Lord’s goodness! We pray you will have a very blessed Christmas and a Christ-filled New Year.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela

The Wesleyan Seminary of Venezuela began its ministry in 2002 offering an accessible, affordable undergraduate theological education to pastors and lay leaders. This is a six-year degree program requiring a minimum participation of 5 weeks per year.  Most pastors in Venezuela are bi-vocational and attending seminary is a very costly endeavor.  Through the efforts of Venezuelans and folks in the US the cost is kept at a bare minimum.  Typically 50 students attend each class on our newly aquired campus outside Barquisemeto, the ground transportation hub of Venezuela.  The cost per student for this excellent Christian education within the best of the Wesleyan tradition is approximately $2400 per year.  Students pay only a small part of this cost and the rest is paid through the generosity of Christians in the US.  Please pray for this work and help us with a generous gift.  Mail to:  Venezuela Now, Inc. , PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA  30096.

Ondas de Paz United Methodist Church Baptizes New Believers

Pastor Alexander and Pastora Amarylis Comacho, Ondas de Paz United Methodist Church (Cabudare, Venezuela) and students in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela, celebrate the sacrament of Christian Baptism with new believers led to Christ through the ministry of his church.

The founding pastor and pastora of Ondas de Paz, Efrain and Bethsaida Morales, are graduates of the Seminary and mentored pastors Alexander and Amarylis and got them to enroll in the Seminary. Between their influence and the teaching of the Seminary these pastors have led their church to become a very dynamic, growing congregation.

These pictures are from a recent service of Baptism held in the local river.  The candidates are all new believers.  Praise God for this ministry.  Praise God for the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela and its partnership in ministry with this congregation.  Praise God for the Tucker UMC, Tucker GA and their partnership with the church.  Prasie God for Venezuela Now, Inc. a US nonprofit which has helped make this possible.

You can help reach the lost of Venezuela by giving a gift to Venezuela Now, Inc.  Please see the address in the sidebar and mail a check today!

Seminary Class Next Week

The faculty and staff of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela are hard at work preparing for next week's class.  It is not easy!  Gasoline shortages, some food shortages, banking failures and complex banking difficulties combined with an annual inflation rate of about 40% make the preparations more and more difficult. Yet they labor on in faithful obedience to God's call on their lives.

Additionally, students will travel from all across the nation to the seminary near Barquisimeto experiencing long bus rides (some over 20 hours) and bearing great expense to take advantage of the week of classes.  What will they be studying?  One course will be an inductive study of the Book of Acts. The other course be Educating Children God's Way.

Please pray for the students, the faculty and staff as classes begin Monday morning.  Please consider making a gift before year end.  We really need your help.  May God richly bless you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Valle Dorado UMC Gets Started!

Valle Dorado United Methodist Church is one of the 'daughter' churches begun by Carlos and Maria Pirona's church: Iglesia Methodista Restauracion. Pastors Carlos and Maria are both graduates of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. Smith Useche is the pastor of the ministry in this area. Smith attends classes at the Seminary when he can. He also has another job to provide a living for his family. Currently Smith meets on Tuesday and Thursday nights in homes in the area. They call these 'cell groups' (celulas). On Saturday night they have their worship service, meeting outside, under the stars. Usually they have about 50 in attendance. The people in this area would have to take two buses to attend Iglesia Methodista Restauracion and are grateful to have this church beginning in their area of the city which has no other Protestant or Evangelical church..

The area of the city, or you might say the neighborhood, is called Valle Dorado (Valley of Gold). There are four other neighborhoods surrounding it, with a possibility to reach thousands of people. When the city developed this area they set aside land for a catholic church (this is common in Latin America - that the government would set aside a piece of property in a development for the catholic church) but those who were moving into the area demanded that there also be property set aside for an evangelical church (non-catholic). So when you drive into the area off of the main highway you first pass the catholic church, our property is farther in the development, really in the middle of the homes, ie; closer to the people.

The church property is 97.5 feet by 81 feet (30X25 meters). Currently there is a storage room on the property, about 12 feet by 8 feet. It has a toilet in it and is where they store chairs. There is electricity on the property. There is an area of tin supported by poles that provides some shelter. Carlos already has architect plans for the property. A security wall surrounds the property, a must before any other construction could begin. A mission team from the US is already scheduled to go and help build the church as well as conduct Vacation Bible School each evening. More teams are needed. Contact us for more information.

Long Term Mission Partnerships

Often US churches spread their mission dollars to dozens of worthy projects.  The impact of their giving and service is minimal since it is unfocused.  Churches with effective mission impact focus their financial and human resources on long-term partnerships with indigenous ministries.  Such has been the case with the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela and the churches which have supported this work.  The result is a shared partnership in ministry that outlives the short-term team visit or the few dollars invested.

An example of this is the partnership evidenced by the repairs to the small house on the Seminary property seen in these photos.  The roof was ruined and had to be replaced.  US mission dollars provided the materials and the congregation of a student's church provided the labor.  The Venezuelan students and graduates are taking a greater and greater "ownership" of the seminary.  Through their participation in the educational process of the Seminary they discover the great value of this affordable accessible Theological Education. They see how this education is greatly enhancing their ability to reach others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, make disciples and plant new churches and preaching places.

We welcome your church as a partner in this ministry.  What a difference you can make!  Contact me at warrenlathem@gmail.com for more information.  We need your help.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Miracle on Miracle

Last December the Board of Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela met and recognized the harsh reality that we simply did not have the funds to hold seminary classes in January. We had to have $15,000 in order to go forward. So we put out a "fleece" before the Lord and basically asked for the $15,000 to come in in less than 30 days. If we received the money, class would go ahead. If not, we would wait until we had enough money to hold classes.

God so abundantly provided and gave us more than we could ask or think. We received the required $15,000 and over $10,000 more! Classes could go ahead as scheduled. Renovations on the newly purchased seminary property.

Of course, the work required for renovations far exceeded our first appraisals, just like renovating a home. For example, the bunk beds in the dorms were not of a standard size, so the mattresses would not fit. Therefore, we had to buy all new beds. The water pipes in the ground proved to be full of holes and over half had to be replaced. The more we uncovered, the more we had to do.

Again, God supplied. It is an amazing story of God's provision and grace. Look at the list Carol sent listing SOME of the work done on the campus this year:

"The restoration of the campus has been a huge job. I couldn't list on the statement all the things that have been done but they include (and I'm sure I'm forgetting something):
partial construction of security wall; construction and installation of security gate on side street (this gate is tall enough to allow buses to enter the property); installation of automatic gate entry for front gate; tiling of men's bathrooms; install toilet stall doors; install four sinks and mirrors in men's bathroom; air conditioners purchased and installed in main classroom; replace part of roof on smaller house on campus; install a kitchen in larger house (using the least expensive method - poured concrete shelves and counter top); build closets in two rooms of larger house (again, using poured concrete); replace plumbing pipes in men's bathrooms; replace exterior pipes on half of campus; purchase and install two water pumps and pressure tank; built pump house; replaced all electric plugs in dining hall; replaced many ceiling tiles in dining hall and men's dorm rooms; added light fixtures in main classroom, men's dorm rooms, dining hall; purchased for kitchen - 6 burner stove, industrial size refrigerator, freezer, blender; replaced motor in refrigerator and freezer caused by faulty wiring; purchased bunk beds, mattresses, pillows, mattress pads, chairs. When we could not find tables to purchase so we bought doors, a group from the States varnished them, we had metal bases built and made our own tables."

Wow! as we look at all this work and the abundant provision of God, we are encouraged and hopeful. Yes, we are almost completely out of funds. And we have to have additional resources to pay for the December classes, and prepare for the January sessions as well as continue to make required improvements on Campus, and pay our $30,000 mortgage payment due at year end. We are overwhelmed by the need. However we are also overwhelmed by God's supply.

Where will the funds come from? God only knows. We certainly do not. But our years of following Christ have caused us know God is faithful. He will supply. We pray those reading this blog will be sources of that supply. Please, please give a gift for this ministry before the end of the year.

Remember, for over 7 years students of this Seminary have been receiving excellent theological education in the best of the Wesleyan tradition. Because of this, hundreds and hundreds have been reached with the Gospel, dozens and dozens of churches and preaching places have been started, the sick are healed, the hungry fed, the imprisoned are visited, the poor are provided for by the church in Venezuela through pastors and lay leaders being trained by Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.

This is worthy of your support. Again, please send us a gift for this ministry by the end of the year. Remember, no one receives a salary from these funds except for employees in Venezuela. All Americans affiliated with this ministry rely on other sources of income and are paid nothing by the Seminary.

Send your gifts to Venezuela Now, Inc. PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096. Thank you and God bless you!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Nothing is easy in this ministry

Carol, wife of our Academic Dean David, shared with me the single task of obtaining the food and preparing the meal for a week of seminary. In the US, we would simply make a list of items needed, call Sysco or some other company, and wait for it to be delivered. Not possible for this ministry. Here is her account of the process:

The Saturday before class I went with Marcia, G'ma Ana, Siloth and Amanda to buy the food for seminary week. (I hadn't done this before and wanted to see what they were doing.) We went to the open-air market held in Cabudare on Saturdays. It was dirty, exhausting, and took about 2 hours to find everything on the list. At least it had rained earlier that morning and wasn't very hot. Marcia gets G'ma Ana to decide on a menu for the week. Marcia and Ana figure out how much food that will be (10 Kilos of potatoes, 8 kilos of carrots, etc.) While we shop Marcia has the list, writing down how much we paid for each item. There are boys in the market with 'dollys' who will haul your stuff from food stand to food stand and then to your car. We didn't find one of the boys until we were all carrying huge bags of produce. G'ma Ana and Marcia are VERY careful with the seminary funds. If they don't like the price they move on to another vender. Marcia will negotiate with a vender for a better price since we are buying more than the average shopper. These ladies really put alot of work into providing meals for the students! After the open-air market we went to a local grocery store to get the things not found in the market, flour, butter, salt, etc. It all gets loaded into the Blazer, with Siloth sitting up inside and Samuel handing her things so that it will all fit. We then headed for the seminary where it was all unloaded, again with Siloth sitting up inside handing things out to us. They are very organized and I just tried to stay out of their way. They worked all the rest of Saturday prepping for meals for seminary week. On Samuel's urging they posted a menu in the classroom. The students really liked this. The love offering we give them doesn't begin to cover the work they put into this. Marcia washes all the dishes in a little concrete sink in the kitchen. There aren't any cabinets to put anything in. We couldn't do what they do where they are doing it.

First, we thank God for the faithful servants. Secondly, we pray for God's blessing on them as they give so significantly for the sake of the seminary students. Thirdly, we pray for more giving to the seminary so we can adequately pay our staff and provide for the classes. Please pray about what you can do. Send your gifts to Venezuela Now, Inc. at the address in the sidebar.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Report from Seminary Class

Carol reports from seminary:

"In September the students were made aware that Chef Ana ministers to the students by cooking out of the goodness of her heart, she does not make a 'salary' for this, though we do give her a love offering. The students decided to collect a food box to give to her at the end of the September class. This week they have collected food to give to Anna, our custodial services director. They will present this to her tomorrow at the end of class. This was orgainzed by Alex and Ama, pastors of the local UM church. Besides Alex and Ama there are 3 or more lay people attending seminary class from their church. Their ministry at the church includes 5 cell groups for children, the weekly average is over 100 children. Most of these children do not attend the church yet but are being touched with the love of Christ through these groups."

Thank God for these dedicated servants!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Seminary Remains Faithful

Academic Dean David continues to teach the essentials of the Christian faith to eager students at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. Between 30 and 40 students are taking this current class. David is teaching 8 hours a day, consulting and counseling with students and reading assignments. Pray for his strength. This is a grueling week.

However, the students are so appreciative and responsive to the excellent instruction they are receiving from the Seminary. Remember, this is the only accessible, affordable excellent undergraduate seminary education available in Venezuela. The students know this and are so grateful for the ministry of the Seminary.

You can help. Send a financial gift to the Seminary at Venezuela Now, Inc., PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096. Your gift has eternal consequences. Give generously.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Next Week's Seminary Session

Academic Dean David will be teaching the full week next week as 40-60 students gather from across Venezuela for this next session of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. We are continually humbled at how dedicated these students are in getting to the campus in La Piedad (a suburb of Barquisimeto) and spending the week in serious study, learning and growing in their relationship with Jesus. Some travel over 20 hours by bus. Most are bi-vocational and give up a week's earnings to attend class. Many come as couples, securing childcare while they are away.

These students serve in a variety of types of ministries including pastors, Christian educators, youth ministers, lay leaders, church planters, social justice ministries, medical m
inistries and many more. Some of them have terminal degrees such as engineers, educators and medical doctors. Some do not have a high school diploma. Yet all work together in the exciting process of learning new and Biblically sound ways of doing effective ministry and thinking theologically. They also learn the very best of the Wesleyan Theological tradition, the theology of the largest Christian movement in the world.

Wives and husbands separate for the week as the women are housed in one dormitory while the men are housed in another. We simply do not ha
ve married accommodations at this time. However, the accommodations are so much better than where they stayed at previously rented facilities. They are comfortable, large, and perhaps most important, clean. New beds and mattresses, freshly laundered linens, clean bathrooms and fresh flowers welcome them to seminary.

The classroo
m where they will spend 32 hours together next week is a very spacious, beautiful room. It has air conditioning, comfortable chairs, large work tables, clean restrooms and great second story views! It is an ideal room for teaching and learning.

The students will be served three meals a day as well as given refreshments at mid morning and mid afternoon. Ana is the chef and provides some of the most wonderful food to be found in Venezuela. She does this as a volunteer since she is retired. It is a labor of love
and such an improvement over the food at our previous location. Her husband has been a student in the seminary for the last several years even though he is a lay person and a retired educator. By the way, pray for Senor Luis as he has developed some very serious heart problems for which there is no medical cure.

Every morning and afternoon session begins with worship. It may be a full service or just a devotional. It always includes singing and corporate prayer. These worship times are some of the most meaningful spiritual experiences of this author's life. Corporate dynamic worship that touches the very soul and which connects the worshipper with the imminent presence of the living Christ is rare in many churches in the US, but not in Seminary classes at the Wesleyan Seminary of Venezuela.

After the week is over, the students will return to their places of service and increase their effectiveness in reaching the lost of Venezuela. They will preach the word, heal the sick, vi
sit the imprisoned, love the unloved, embrace the lost and bring people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, making disciples of Jesus all across Venezuela.

You can help! Be a part of this great ministry. Send your gift to Venezuela Now, Inc. at the address in the sidebar. Call me, Warren, at 770 889 6423 to discuss ways you or your church can become more involved in this life-changing ministry. God is at work in Venezuela, especially through the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezue
la! Praise His Name!

Monday, October 19, 2009

October Seminary Next Week

Our Academic Dean, David, will be teaching this next's week of seminary classes. He was supposed to have help for half the time, but US UM Bureaucracy intervened and prevented the other party from going to Venezuela at this time. So David will teach the full 32 hours.

Thirty two hours of teaching may not seem like much to many people, but those are the ones who have never done it. It is physically exhausting, mentally draining and psychologically depleting, David will do this while still recovering from an invasion of parasites. He and Carol continue to fight the good fight.

Pray for David and Carol and the staff of the seminary.
Pray for the students who are traveling great distances.
Pray for funding. We need help.

The biggest opportunity facing us is the $30,000 annual mortgage payment due in two and one half months. We do not have the money. God will have to provide this. We are trusting in His grace and asking you to pray about being one of the ones he uses to meet this need.

How I miss being in Seminary. Maybe soon in 2010!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Back in the Saddle

God is faithful. Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela continues to educate pastors and Christian workers in the only affordable and accessible under graduate full seminary experience in all of Venezuela. Our Dean recently taught over 40 students the "Inductive Bible Study Method," a prerequisite for all our Bible courses. In a couple of weeks, Kelly Falany Brumbeloe will teach a course in the lesser epistles and the Dean will continue with the regular curriculum.

As the primary writer of this Blog and acting President of the Seminary, I have been AWOL for quite some time. Last September I had emergency surgery. Subsequently I developed MRSA Staph infection. I was on an antibiotic IV for three months and heavy oral meds for a couple more months. God gave grace to defeat the Staph, Praise his name. Then on June tenth I underwent Gastric Bypass Surgery. The surgery went great. However, I developed several serious orthopedic and neurological problems. When I got home, I was totally immobile from the waist down. But again God is faithful. While I still have to get around in a wheelchair, I am SO MUCH better and I give glory the the Great Physician. Still not able to travel to Venezuela, but maybe soon...

In the meantime, we need to raise operating capital for November and December and we have a $30,000 debt service payment due on December 31. We are almost without any funds. So we need your prayers and major financial gifts. Please send a check to Venezuela Now at the address indicated above.

God continues to bless the nation of Venezuela through the seminary and the many ministries of our graduates and current students. Pray for the seminary and pray of the funds.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seminary Students Reaching Out

Franklin and Hilde Peroza are students in the Wesleyan Seminary of Venezuela who serve as leaders in the married couples ministry of their local church in Barquisimeto. They have recently reported that this summer their church sponsored a special ministry utilizing the Fireproof film. The film was shown in their congregation, with a strong emphasis on inviting unchurched friends and family members. Following the film viewing, they entered a 40-day period of focusing on ways to fireproof their marriages. This 40-day period was concluded with a special event at the church that included Christian counselor and pyschologists being on hand for a long and very helpful question-and-answer period. Thanks to God's grace, 1200 people attend that event, many of whom were unchurched non-believers. We are thankful for the wide vision and strong faith that we see in so many of the Venezuelan congregations, and for the small role that we get to play as we partner with the Holy Spirit to provide training, encouragement, and support.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Report of June Seminary

Dan Dunn just completed a week of teaching Theology of Evangelism at the Wesleyan Seminary of Venezuela. 41 students participated in this intensive week of training, and they brought with them a strong passion for reaching non-Christians with the love and salvation of Jesus Christ.

The entire week went very well, as the students covered a wide range of topics related to evangelism. What is the gospel? What is the goal of evangelism? What are some possible ways to phrase an invitation for someone to become a Christian? How can we educate and motivate all Christians to participate with the Holy Spirit in evangelism? Is evangelism a specialized ministry or something all Christians have a role in? Especially exciting for Dan was hearing from one of the students who took a Church Growth course last August and told him this week that the Church Growth course invited she and her husband to get involved in a new church plant that is now ministering to 262 couples. This is a prime example of why we feel so strongly called to this work in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan Christians have strong faith and deep passion. With just a little guidance in the Seminary, they become empowered and motivated to do amazing things in cooperation with the Lord to help bring other people into the embrace of God's love.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

June Seminary Fast Approaching

Over 50 students and pastors will gather June 22-26 at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela in LaPiedad, Lara to learn from one of the leading authorities on Evangelism in the United Methodist Church in the US. He is none other than our own Dean of Students, Dan Dunn.

For years Dan has been a practicioner of effective evangelistic ministry, a student of the art of evangelism and a regular teacher of evangelism. His love for the sugject has resulted in the completion of 3 years of academic study leading to a PhD. in Evangelism. He has completed the classes and is now turning his attention to the dissertation.

Dan Dunn will help the students develop an in-depth Biblical perspective on The Theology of Evangelism. They will focus on learning how to make direct connections between Biblical insights and the daily life of witness that all Christians are called to.

For example, the Bible portrays God the Father as compassionate and proactive in His attempts to reach out to lost people and restore/reconcile them to Himself. Christians, therefore, must be proactive and compassionate as they share and the good news of reconciliation with non-Christians in their relational network.

The Bible portrays God the Son as the Incarnate One, the One who was willing to come to earth and live among us in order to make God's love real to us. Christians, therefore, are invited to share the good news of Christ in a fully embodied way, digging deep into people's lives and becoming relationally invested with them. These and many other Biblical insights will be studied, plus the class will focus on daily prayer for God to use each student in His process of drawing lost persons to a fully redeemed relationship with Him.

What an exciting course propectus. The students love Dan and will be most responsive to his teaching.

Unfortunately, our Academic Dean, David, will not be able to be at the June Seminary session. He has had 4 orthopedic surgeries in the last 7 months, two knee replacements and two shoulder surgeries. The most recent shoulder surgery requires him to stay in the States longer than he had expected due to the severity of the injury, surgery and recovery.

However, Dan will handle everything very well along with our regular team in Venezuela. Please pray for this event.

Also, we still need money and work teams. If you are interested in helping, sent your checks made out to Venezuela Now, Inc. at the indicated address on the side of this post. If you would lke to take a team to Venezuela to work on the Seminary, let us know by posting a comment on this blog.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Hunger in Venezuela

As many readers will know, Dan Dunn, our Dean of Students of Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela is finishing his classes in the pursuit of earning a PhD. in Evangelism to enhance his teaching ministry, especially in Latin America and with Latinos in the US. One of the many books he has read recently is: CONSIDERING THE GREAT COMMISSION: EVANGELISM AND MISSION IN THE WESLEYAN SPIRIT edited by W. Stephen Gunter and Elaine Robinson. Dr. Gunter is a good friend who teaches at Duke Divinity School.

One of the most poignant quotes from the book is:

"In new Christian areas, there is a desperate need for religious instruction and for ethical reflection on the relationship between the gospel message and sociopolitical struggles. People may have joined the church, but their understanding of the gospel is limited by their lack of formation in Christian beliefs and practices. The hunger for basic teaching on the meaning of the Bible and the meaning of the Christian faith is overwhelming." (page 38)

This has certainly been our experience in Venezuela. The students and pastors in the Seminary evidence a hunger for basic teaching. This hunger is unlike anything we in the US have known in at least the last 50 years. This is not only true of the pastors enrolled in the Seminary, but seen vividly in conferences and seminars taught by this author in a variety of settings in Venezuela.

Since our faculty is primarily from places other than Venezuela they are often shocked by the intensity of this hunger. They have not observed this in their teaching experiences in the US or in many other countries. Often they say things like, "They are so open; They are so hungry for the teaching; They are so receptive; Etc."

One of the important tasks (perhaps the most important) in the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18) is to discover where God is working and become a partner with what God is doing.

God is at work in remarkable ways in the pastors and students associated with the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. We are so blessed to be involved in this partnership. We are also blessed by those who support this work.

Given the current economic environment in Venezuela and the US the cost of a year of seminary education for one student at this institution averages about $2,000. That is the actual hard cost of travel, tuition, room and board and books. The soft costs include the facilities, administration, and equipment. Those soft costs are running an additional $2000 per student per year.

Therefore, we invite you to join with us in feeding the spiritual hunger of this very precious group of Disciples who give so much in service of the Master. You can send a check to Venezuela Now, Inc. at PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096. Help us feed these hungry so they can feed the hungry of the nation!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pray for This

One of the needs of the Seminary is for a dependable, ethical Christian family to move into one of the houses on the campus and provide security and maintenance for the property. With the great housing shortage in Venezuela one would think this would be an easy problem to solve. That has not been the case. While we could easily find many to live there, this is not so easy using the above criteria. However, we know God has someone in mind. We just need to let Him lead us to that person.

So we ask for your prayers. This is very important for the life and function of the seminary. We are anxious to get this done. Please pray.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ministry at Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela

Work continues at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela facility in La Piedad, Venezuela. This work benefits the church in Venezuela in many ways.

While the Seminary property in LaPiedad, Venezuela is used for seminary classes several weeks every year, the facility is being used more and more for a variety of ministries. This past weekend we hosted a local church retreat for over 80 people. Men's retreats, women's retreats, youth retreats have already taken advantage of the tremendous ministry resource.

Currently, Bishop Juvenal Perez is planning the June, 09 Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela. It will be held on the Seminary property. He is also planning a country-wide youth retreat to be held at the seminary.

Seminary, church planting courses, local church retreats, national conferences and national youth retreats require an adequate and comfortable facility. Work continues on improving the facilities for these purposes.

We are so grateful to our many minstry partners in the US who have made it possible for the Seminary to have its own home and provide a location for the seminary as well as these additional ministries. Your generosity is making a difference for Christ in one of the most important places in the Southern Hemisphere.

We also really need to raise $50,000 this year to make the currently needed property improvements. You can help by sending a gift to Venezuela Now, Inc., PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA 30096. The church in Venezuela needs your help and the Lord will reward your generosity.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dinner for the Seminary a Great Event

Friday Night, March 20, 2009 over 200 people gathered at Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek, GA for a dinner for the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. The purpose of the dinner was to inform the supporters of the seminary of the excellent work of the seminary and to enlist new supporters. We asked for prayer, financial assistance and mission teams to support the work of the Seminary.

We are most thankful to Mount Pisgah Senior Minister Steve Wood, Mission Pastor Bryce Norton and Facilities Director Leigha Jager for their support and hospitality for this event. Dr. Wood made some very gracious comments about the Seminary during worship services at Mount Pisgah on the two Sundays prior to the dinner. Rev. Norton gave his full support and led the Mission team at Mount Pisgah to pay for the custodial overtime and provided table cloths for the event. Both of them are on the faculty of the Seminary.

We are also most grateful to Tom and Ellen Youngblood and their team for the food preparation. We are also greatly indebted to Steven and Kelly Brumbeloe and a host of volunteers from the Due West UMC in Marietta for set-up, hosting, serving and clean-up following the dinner. We could not have done this without all of the above persons and we are most grateful for their help.

After a evening of good food and good infomation about the Seminary, we invited those present to commit to supporting the work. About 100 individuals or families made a committment to give or gave to the work of the Seminary for the first time. They gave or committed to over $50,000 over the next two years. We are most grateful for their response and look forward to a long and meaningful partnership in ministry.

The financial need we presented to them is as follows:
$110,000 needed each year for operating the seminary. This is about $2000 per student per year. What a bargain!
$50,000 a year for Capital improvements. Any new buildings would be in addition to this amount.
$170,000 debt on the Seminary Property or $30,000 a year debt service until paid in full. The property is debt free in Venezuela, but Venezuela Now, Inc. (a Georgia non-profit Corporation) did borrow $170,000 from a US citizen in order to pay off the debt in Venezuela. Venezuela Now, Inc. has agreed to an annual debt service of $30,000 and is liable for the full $170,000 in unsecured debt (securing a debt with property in Venezuela is just not practical). We paid 1,100,000 Bolivares Fuerte (the Venezuelan currency) for the property. The official exchange rate is 2.15 BsF/$1US dollar. More favorable exchange rates cut the cost of the property significantly. Therefore we bought a property valued at over $500,000US (offficial exchange rate) and only owe $170,000US for the property. We thank the Lord for his provision.

So as we celebrate the successful dinner, we continue to pray for additional support for the Seminary and continue to work to that end. Please pray for success in this matter. Perhaps the Lord will impress upon you the need to also be a partner with us in this ministry. We welcome you to the team! Checks can be sent to Venezuela Now, Inc at the address above (in the masthead).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Seminary by the Numbers

Dean David surveyed the 56 students attending class this week asking some specific statistical questions. We all know that statistics only tell part of the story. As accountants say, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." We know much of the story of the benefit of the seminary cannot be captured in statistics. However, those that can give us a significant insight into the importance of the ministry of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela in the nation of Venezuela.

Look at what Dean David learned surveying the pastors in seminary. These are 2008 numbers:

270 Conversions through personal ministry of seminary students

1114 Conversions at churches pastored by seminary students
529 Baptisms
849 Number enrolled in discipleship in churches

585 Number in leadership training within the churches

3134 Church membership

12 New churches founded

117 Preaching points

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Seminary

March Seminary classes are underway with 54 students taking the Church Planting course being taught by Academic Dean David. Four of the students are new and four have not attended in a while due to difficulties of life in Venezuela. Carol has been consumed with hosting the class and making sure they have food, good water, clean sheets, comfortable beds and safe accommodations. None of this is easy in Venezuela! Ministry Assistant Samuel has been a life saver in assistance to them.

Why is a Church Planting course so important in Venezuela? First of all, 40% of the communities of Venezuela have no church of any kind. Secondly, planting new churches is one of the most effective ways to reach new people with the Gospel. This method was the method of the Apostle Paul, has been the primary vehicle of effective Christian movements in Africa, India, etc, and was the primary way the Methodists grew so rapidly in the US in the 19th century. Thirdly, and most importantly, people need the Lord! Venezuela is the most secular country in Latin America. It is one of the most politically troubled countries in the world. The Roman Catholic church in Venezuela is not advancing into the areas which do not currently have a Christian presence. Caracas has become the murder capital of the world. Again, people need the Lord!

Have our previous courses in Church Planting and Mission been effective? Take a look at the ministry of Pastor Carlos Perona who has since planted seven other churches and missions in and around Barquisimeto including a Chinese congregation. Consider Bishop Juvenal Perez of Punto Fijo who has started two other congregations in addition to the one he founded and pastors. Think of Pastor Yolanda Caicedo and the good folks at Lugar Altissimo who not only have the congregation there, but send mission teams into three surrounding communities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The work of the seminary is essential to the anvancement of the Kingdom in Venezuela. Is it working? The hungry are fed. The sick are healed. The lost are found. The imprisoned are visited. The homeless are sheltered. Jesus is glorified. 'Nuff said.