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.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Due West Mission a Great Success

The Due West United Methodist Church of Marietta, GA sent a large mission team to Venezuela to support the work of United Methodists of Venezuela. They worked on the Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela, worked on an Orphanage at Lugar Altissimo UMC, preached, testified, loved and learned.

They were hosted by David and Carol and served by our Ministry Assistant Samuel, assisted by Yoey and Willie. Their work at the seminary included building a Security Wall, helping erect a large entrance gate, electrical work, painting, finishing tables and more.

Their work at the Orphanage included building the roof, building walls, finishing walls, vacation Bible School activities and worship services. Pastor Yolanda hosted them each day for lunch and helped with the construction (pictures to come later).

The work at the Seminary was a great partnership between the staff of the Seminary, the Due West Team and local United Methodists. Additonally, a team came from Upata, Venezuela (over 20 hours away by bus) and built the gate and worked alongside the Due West Team. Pastors Julio and Maritza are 2008 graduates of the seminary and took a week off from work to assist with this project. Julio is an accomplished welder and contactor in addition to his pastoral work.

This team had a great week and demonstrated the wonderful opportunity for churches in the US to partner with the work in Venezuela. They testify to having had a life changing experience on this mission trip. For this and all they contributed, we are most thankful to God. What a privilege to work with the wonderful Methodist leaders in Venezuela and partner with a wonderful church like Due West.

God has taken what each one has given and blessed it to be a blessing to the nation and the nations of the world. Bless his holy name!