Friday, July 30, 2010

ILI National Conference in Full Swing

Thirty national church leaders have been meeting this week on the campus of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela for the 6 day National International Leadership Institute conference.  Pictured to the left is Dr. Warren Lathem, President of the Seminary, and translator and Seminary student, Pastor Chris Cisneros as Lathem teaches on the importance of mentoring in the work of raising up the next generation of leadership for the mission of the church.

Several of the Conference participants are students in the Seminary, but many are not currently enrolled and this was their first exposure to the work of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezela.  Many of them expressed to Lathem their appreciation for the opportunity to attend the Conference at the Seminary Campus.  The work of ILI in Venezuela was birthed in the Seminary and is completely in the hands of the national church leaders.

For more on the work and ministry of ILI be sure to visit their website.  Founders Wes and Joy Griffin have provided a critical ministry to the church where people want to share the Good News of the Gospel of Christ,  We are honored to be a partner in this work.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ILI at the Seminary

International Leadership Institute - Venezuela

Over 25 pastors are gathered at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela for an intensive week of training trough the International Leadership Institute (  This leadership training is being conducted almost exclusively by Venezuelans who have been sponsored by the Seminary to receive their own training in ILI at other South and Central American countries. The first Venezuelans to receive this training were Carlos Pirona (the leader of this training event), Victor Ramirez and (now) Bishop Juvenal Perez.

One of the great benefits and multiplied impact of the Seminary is the operation of the Campus during times when the Seminary is not in session.  During its "off" weeks, the Seminary hosts events like this weeklong training for Venezuelan pastoral leaders from various denominations, Marriage Renewal Retreats, Vacation Bible Schools, Bible Camps, Youth Retreats, Retreats for inner city kids, Men's and Women's retreats, Local Church Council Retreats, etc.

Through its Conference and Retreats ministry the Seminary provides a resource for indigenous leaders that was previously unavailable in the central part of the country.  Barquisimeto is the ground transportation hub of Venezuela (similar to Atlanta as the air transportation hub in the US) and as such provides an easily accessible location for nationwide events.  But it is also a city of increasing importance to the entire country and within which is a rapidly growing evangelical Christian community.  The Seminary Campus offers an accessible, comfortable, affordable site for local and national events, a site not otherwise available in the area.

I look forward to being an instructor in the Leadership Institute on Friday and visiting with old friends and making new ones in the evangelical community of Venezuela. Then next Friday the Seminary Campus will host the 4th Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela.  I have been honored to be invited to preach at this conference.  The UMC of Venezuela was organized primarily as a result of the ministry of the Seminary and has had a great part in reaching this nation for Christ.

Please pray for these two national conferences meeting on the Campus of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela and for the August Seminary Class and Graduation which will meet immediately after the Annual Conference.  Send your financial gifts for this ministry to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Celebrating True Freedom

"The one that the Son makes free is free indeed."

July 5 is Independence Day in Venezuela.  It is normally a celebration of that country's independence from Colonial Spain and has the same significance in Venezuela as July 4 in the US. However, this July 5 was a day of even greater celebration for the congregation of the Ondas de Paz UMC in Cabudare, Venezuela.  25 new followers of Jesus celebrated their deliverance from sin and freedom in Christ by taking the vows of Baptism and receiving the holy sacrament.  

This congregation was founded by Efrain and Bethsaida Morales (seen here with daughter, Lim), graduates of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela (now pastors at the Snellville UMC in Georgia). It met in their home in Cabudare until recently when the growth of the congregation required them to relocate to a rented facility for weekly worship. 

Pastors Alexander and Amaryllis Comacho were converted in this congregation and when the Morales' moved to the US, they were given responsibility for the congregation.  What wonderful leadership they have given!  The church is known for its ministry to children and their families. They have a strong missional orientation that causes them to reach out to the community.  This was almost unknown before the Seminary began teaching the necessity of becoming a Mission Church.  They have learned the lesson well and are applying it in culturally appropriate ways and the result is remarkable growth of the Kingdom.

In the last month the Ondas de Paz UMC and the Lugar Altissimo UMC cooperated together in the best of the Wesleyan connectional spirit and conducted joint Men's retreats (19 in attendance) and Women's Retreats (50). (Shown here: Pastor Yolanda Caceido and husband Mariano at a recent Annual Conference)This cooperative spirit is seen throughout the UMC of Venezuela and a large part of this attitude and conduct is fostered by their experience together at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  The pastors at Ondas de Paz are currently  students in the Seminary and the pastor at Lugar Altissimo UMC is a graduate of the Seminary.

The experience of Seminary is of such great importance the pastors and congregations are taking greater ownership in supporting the work (see previous article). For example, pastor Alexander has given days and days of construction labor to the improvement of the campus.  Additionally, when  we were there in March, while he and his wife and their pre-school age son attended class, each day at the lunch break he was laboring as a volunteer in the kitchen.

You can be a part of this great move of the Spirit in Venezuela and see the fruit of your labor bearing everlasting fruit for the Kingdom of God.  How can you do this?  1. Pray for the pastors and churches of Venezuela.  2.  Pray for the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  3.  Pray for the leaders of the Seminary. 4.  Give for the work of the Seminary (see below). 4. Help with the Hope Store sale in Roswell in December - more details to come  later.

(Warren Lathem teaching and Dan Dunn translating for a recent Seminary class.)

Please send your gifts for the Seminary to:
Venezuela for Christ, Inc,.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096

Thank you for your prayerful and generous support for this work.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

July at Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela

Renovation projects continue (See Previous Post) and new projects commence.  Preparing the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela on Campus in August, a week of Seminary classes and Graduation activities.

In the meantime, the Seminary Campus and staff are not idle. A church group of 60 used the campus on Monday, July 5, National Independence Day in Venezuela.  This weekend Ondas de Paz United Methodist Church is using it for a retreat.  Then there are 2 more retreats scheduled this month before International Leadership Institute and the Seminary jointly host a national conference on the campus for the week of July 24 - 31. Pray for Dr. Wes Griffin, the staff of ILI and this Leadership Training ministry in Venezuela and around the world.  We are grateful for the many years of association with Wes and Joy Griffin and ILI.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Campus Improvements Continue After a Great Week of Class

The Seminario Wesleyano leadership continues to invest resources in improving the campus and its function as the primary Wesleyan Theological Seminary in Venezuela and as a retreat center for church groups, annual conferences, etc.  Below are some of the pictures of the work being done before and after the recent class.  Here is what is reported by the Academic Dean, David, about the student body and their shared commitment to this ministry:

"On Monday several students asked David to come outside to their car.  They presented to him an air conditioner to be installed in one of the men's dorm rooms.  The other dorm room has an a/c that was given by two other students in April. The students continue to give to the seminary which now includes these two a/c, sheets for the dorms, Internet router large enough to cover the campus, labor to lay tile in the men's bathroom, and labor to weld the security gate and build the security wall.  David has been involved in training national leaders for over 30 years and in four countries and has never seen this kind of support by students for the institution."
This report is indicative of the unique ministry being done by the Seminary.  The reason students are so involved in it is they understand better than anyone how very effective and important this work is for the Kingdom and their own country. 
Here is the most recently donated air conditioner.
Here work progresses on replacing some of the roof, the broken, stained and dirty tile and installing a higher, better ceiling in the dining hall.  Due to this construction, June students ate their meals under an outside awning.  But this will be complete in time for the August Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela and the August session of the Seminary.  It will be the location of the Friday night Graduation Dinner in August as well.

Also shown here are the new sinks installed in the kitchen and the old kitchen sink that was moved outside the kitchen for various uses.  Can you imagine washing dishes three times a day for over 50 people in that old sink?  Our volunteers and employees did that and never complained.  Someone from the US saw the situation and said, this has to be fixed, bought the sinks and they are now installed.  This is such an improvement.  Other improvements continue as well such as construction of the security fence on the front and back of the property, new airconditioners for the dining hall and the installation of the new units in the men's dorms and other timely improvements. We just finished improving the large staff house on campus where Samuel lives and on August will live with his new wife, Laura after their wedding on Sunday after graduation.

We continue to need your prayers and support.  We also need your financial help and we need ministry teams to come to the Seminary.  For more information contact Warren Lathem at or send gifts to Venezuela Now, Inc. 
PO Box 1655, 
Norcross, GA  30096