Saturday, November 19, 2011

Routine, But So Necessary

Often the work of the Seminary is so spiritual the presence of the Holy Spirit is almost tangible and the transformation is obvious as lives are eternally changed.  Classes erupt in genuine and heartfelt repentance and confession, renewal and praise.  Those times are beyond description.

However, most of the time, the work is just plain hard and ordinary.  Here is an example.  We are having to augment the water containment system by adding two very large new cisterns.  These cisterns will hold over 10,000 liters of fresh water.  The requirement is due to the intermittent water supply provided by the city.

In order to install the cisterns we have to remove a junk tree and dig a footing to pour a 12 inch thick steel reenforced concrete pad.  The pictures here of the beginning of that work to prepare for the construction of the pad and the installation of the water cisterns.

Unfortunately, one of the constants of life in Venezuela is ants - giant biting ants.  The digging of the footing exposed a huge colony of these indigenous residents of the Seminary property.  They require removal.

That process has been completed and now the footings are being dug in preparation for the pouring of the concrete pad.  Why is this news?  Because this improvement allows the Seminary to successfully host classes and church groups in excess of 100 persons.  This will multiply the ministry of the Seminary while solving one of the most pressing physical plant problems: Water.  Abundant Water.  While we may take that for granted in the US, it is not the case in the cities of Venezuela.  So, this improvement greatly enhances the campus in its ministry to the students and churches of Venezuela.


Giant Venezuelan Ants
Thank you for your help in this ministry.  Your gifts make this possible.  You may make a gift by sending a check to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096

May God richly bless the alumni, students, faculty and staff of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela as they reach the lost of their nation, Latin America and North America. And may God bless you for your prayers and giving to this ministry.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

New Uniited Methodist Congregation in Upata, Venezuela

A quick update and celebration.  To the right you can see the welcoming banner for the newest United Methodist Church of the UMC of Venezuela.  Pastor Elinor, a student in the Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela and a friend for many years, has established this new work.

 In Venezuela, like most of Latin America, pastors plant churches wherever they discover a need. They usually do this without any outside financial support and often with little or no denominational support.  They understand the necessity of planting new congregations if they are to ever reach their generation for Christ.

No only do most founding pastors have little or no financial support or denominational support, most have little or no training in Church Planting, Pastoral Leadership, Biblical Interpretation or Theology. They have a Bible and a passion to reach others who do not know Jesus, and often some very ineffective models of ministry, and sometimes even heretical theology..

Pastora Elinor, however, has many more resources than most.  While there is no financial support, she does have denominational support from fellow United Methodist pastors and congregations in the eastern part of Venezuela and the support of the Conference and Bishop.  She also is a student in the Seminary which makes an excellent theological education affordable and accessible to her, even though her commute to the Seminary is over 20 hours by bus.

Pastora Elinor is one of the shining examples of the impact the Seminary is having on the Kingdom in Venezuela.  Local staff and faculty as well as missionaries and some of the finest professors from all across the Western Hemisphere combine to make this a unique and decidedly effective school. More and more Venezuelan leadership is emerging in both the UMC de Venezuela and the Seminary.  Our goal is to eventually have the Seminary operation fully in the hands of Venezuelans. 

Of course, because of the economic situation in Venezuela it continues to be necessary to provide some financial support from the US. We work at raising this support so the work of the Seminary continues uninterrupted.  As we anticipate celebrating our 10th anniversary next year, we face the requirement to finish this year with all bills paid. This necessitates raising about $15,000 by year end.  Would you please help?  Send your check to Venezuela Now, Inc. PO Box 1655, Duluth, GA  30096

Friday, October 21, 2011

October Exciting News From The Seminary


UPDATE FROM
Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela
Last week Dan D and Chris W have just completed teaching Personal Evangelism on the campus of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  This is a wonderful course which gives a lot of very sound theological truth to the students as well as several practical models teaching them how to do personal evangelism. As you read this, Dan is teaching an intensive inductive study of the Gospel of Mark. These Inductive Bible Study Courses have been life-shaping for the students in the Seminary and their congregations. They effectively equip the church to guard against the many theological distortions present in the church in Latin America.

As you may recall from our last letter, Jane and I were scheduled to be in Venezuela teaching and preaching at this time.  However, due to my Mother’s declining health she was placed in Hospice Care and we prayerfully decided our first obligation was to be with her during what the doctors believe to be her last days. 
While we regret not going to Venezuela, we still plan to go down to teach in January and February. In the meantime, the work of the Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela will continue to have its remarkable impact on the leaders of the church in Venezuela.

In addition to the Evangelism Course Dan and Chris  taught this month, alumnus Dr. Alberto M taught students how to Lead or Teach Self-Confrontation.  They have already spent three courses learning and experiencing the material. This course teaches them how to take this excellent material back to their own churches and use it with their own congregations. This kind of experience has not been readily available to the church in Venezuela in the past.

As you know, this ministry only exists because people like you have heard God’s voice and have responded generously on behalf of this ministry. We are constantly amazed at God’s provision.  Just when we think we are at the end of our means, God supplies. God does this through you.

Therefore, I want to thank you for the great impact your prayers and giving are having in Venezuela.  Lives are being transformed by the grace of Jesus and a nation is being impacted for Christ.

For example, one ministry born out of the seminary occurs every Saturday evening through the Ondas de Paz UMC. Pastors and members take food and beverages to the main hospital in Barquisimeto. The medical experience in Venezuela is very different from what we experience here.  Families gather at the hospital and provide much of the care received by the patient.  It is a time of great stress and financial difficulty.  The church takes the food and distributes to the waiting families and often to the patients. They also share the Gospel of Jesus as the opportunity arises.  Many have come to faith in Christ and have joined the church through this one ministry.  It is one of dozens born out of the educational experience of the pastors in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.

Your giving makes that life changing experience possible. However the Seminary continues to require your support.  Not only do we provide the faculty, staff, books and materials for the students at a very small cost to them, we provide a campus which houses the Seminary. And when the Seminary is not in session the campus hosts a retreat ministry for the churches in Venezuela.  Many have come to Christ on the Seminary Campus through this ministry. This has become a vital part of our ministry to the United Methodist Church of Venezuela as well as dozens of other churches. In the next few weeks we will be announcing an exciting ministry addition to the work of the Seminary.  God has already confirmed this direction in many tangible ways and we are almost ready to tell you about it…but not quite.  Please pray with us regarding this new thing God is doing.

What are our specific needs?  First, we need your prayers.  This is critical. There is an enemy which is trying at every turn to stop the ministries of the Seminary. For example, on Monday of the last session several students were prevented from getting to the Seminary due to streets being blocked by demonstrators.  Some might see that as coincidental, but not if they have worked in Latin America. There is a spiritual warfare being waged and the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela is on the front lines. Also please pray for Dan and Nancy  as they not only deal with the Seminary and the day to day challenges of living in Venezuela, but also as Dan continues to write and edit the final version of his PhD. dissertation and prepares to defend it before the faculty of Asbury Theological Seminary.

Secondly we need your gifts.  We just had to add two new water tanks (cisterns) to the campus at considerable cost due to the unreliable supply of water from the city.  In just two months we have to make our annual mortgage payment.  We have a modest loan, interest free as long as we pay the principal on time.  Each year we have to pay $30,000. This year’s payment will mean we have almost cut the original loan amount in half.  We desperately need your help to pay this mortgage. 

You may send your gift to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.  PO Box 1655  Duluth, GA  30096
Or you can give through PayPal.

Please prayerfully consider making a very sacrificial gift for this work.  Jesus is be glorified through your sacrifice and eternal lives and destinies are transformed.
Thank you for your generous gift for this ministry.  I am touched by your love and generosity.
In Christ,
Warren Lathem

PS  No US citizen receives any compensation from the gifts you give for the Seminary. We do pay the salaries of our staff in Venezuela, but the North Americans have to raise their support in addition to what you give for the Seminary.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

October Classes at the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela

This October we are offering more courses than ever before in a single month.  When we began we offered one week of classes about 5 or 6 times a year. As you can see below, this month we are offering 4 week long classes.  This is in response to the great demand for these classes by the pastors and students in Venezuela.
By offering the classes in one or two week intensives we are able to make an excellent Wesleyan theological education available in a format that is accessible and affordable to most Venezuelans. The traditional seminary model would be both cost prohibitive and inaccessible to the students attending the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  

Of course, these expansions of the course offerings come with a cost.  We have to be more diligent to invite new and generous partners to help us be able to continue to offer the quality undergraduate theological education so appreciated by the church in Venezuela.  You can help by sending a gift to the address at the bottom of this post.  We look forward to hearing from you.
 
OCTOBER CLASSES:
October 7-9, The Mission of the Church Ia,  Dr. Warren Lathem in a first-time extension course in Nirgua.  We expect at least 20 new students to attend. 

October 10-14,  Personal Evangelism, Professors Chris Walker and Dan Dunn, on the main campus.

October 10 -13 and 24-27, Self-Confrontation IV, Dr. Alberto Mendoza, on the main campus.

October 14-16, The Mission of the Church Ib, Dr. Warren Lathem, extension in Nirgua.

October 24-28, Transformational Worship I and II, Dr. Warren Lathem, main campus.

Send your financial gifts to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096
USA
For more information: warrenlathem@gmail.com

English and Spanish Books available here

www.lulu.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August Classes Complete - Now To Get To October

August Seminary Classes got off to a great start with worship at the center of all we do. Every day begins with worship and it is not uncommon for worship to erupt during class through a spontaneous move of the Holy Spirit. The students and faculty are almost always sensitive to the working of the Holy Spirit.  Repentance is a key part of vital worship and we have seen some memorable moments of repentance and growth in grace. 

It seems all Venezuelans sing and worship always involves fully participatory, harmonious spontaneous singing. Prayer is also a vital part of worship in the Seminary. Usually the class all prays at the same time, each praying out loud and each praying with abandon.  Even when someone is leading the prayer, unity is is evident in every uttered, "Amen," and "Por Favor, El Senor."  There is a sense in which the whole room is assaulting the gates of hell with prayers of intercession, praise, healing, provision, surrender and deliverance. I have never experienced more vital worship than in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  Praise God.

 But Seminary is not just wonderful worship. It is also hard work, hard academic work.  In August we hosted Dr.'s Leroy and Kay Lindsey.  Kay taught Christian Education for Youth and Adults.  Leroy taught Old Testament Survey.  The Lindsey's are career Missionaries and Educators and are perennial favorites of the students.

Academic Dean Dan Dunn reported: "God is doing amazing things here - they (the students) are thirsty for solid, biblically-based teaching - they WANT to learn.  Altogether (in August) we have welcomed 23 new students to the Seminar's ministry...a total of 51 different students will have participated in the two weeks of classes."

In October we are going offer more classes than we have ever attempted before.  As recently as about a year ago we only offered one week of class each period.  But God has blessed the ministry and it is expanding greatly.  Look at the October class schedule below:

October 7-9, The Mission of the Church I,  Dr. Warren Lathem in a first-time extension course in Nirgua.  We expect at least 20 new students to attend. 

October 10-14,  Personal Evangelism, Professors Chris Walker and Dan Dunn, on the main campus.

October 10 -13 and 24-27, Self-Confrontation IV, Dr. Alberto Mendoza, on the main campus.

October 14-16, The Mission of the Church II, Dr. Warren Lathem, extension in Nirgua.

October 24-28, Transformational Worship I and II, Dr. Warren Lathem, main campus.


We simply ask for your prayers and financial support for this great ministry.  Specifically, we need you to pray for:
The students to have the heart and the resources to be able to attend these classes.  Pray that these classes will have a transformational impact on the church in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America.
The faculty and staff to be protected from the attacks of the enemy and to serve with the holy love of Jesus, revealing their deepest intimate relationship with Christ.
The resources to be able to do all the above and continue to expand the ministry.  This ministry is funded primnarily by relatively small gifts. None is too small.  We get monthly gifts of $5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Perhaps you could include us in your monthly giving? 

Please prayerfully consider sending a gift to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096




Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Brief Current Testimony



My recent post included a testimony of the work of Franklin and Hilde in planting the new La Red (The Network) UMC in Barquisimeto targeting the Sunday vendors in the Central Market. They continue to do construction on the site of this new congregation. Here is what we just heard from them through Dan yesterday:

“Jairo (a student in the Seminary and General Contractor for the church construction) brought a new worker to the job site for Franklin and Hilde's church construction project.  Franklin asked the new worker his name and whether he knew the Lord.  The man said he used to know the Lord but had strayed.  Then the man began to cry and couldn't stop.  Frank led him in a prayer of re-commitment, and asked all the other workers there to pray for the man.  They had church!  God is good.”

“Later today two ladies came to visit the construction site because some of the workers had told them it was going to be a church.  One of the ladies told Franklin that some time ago she had been praying and God revealed to her that that precise house would one day be a house of prayer.  She went to the house and anointed it with oil and asked God to make it so.  This was very encouraging to Frank and Hilde because it confirmed that they are in the right place at the right time and that what they sensed God telling them concerning the direction of their ministry, their target audience, when they were praying in your (Warren’s) January Seminary class, was indeed from the Lord.”

I just wanted to share this good news and let you rejoice with us concerning some of the ways the Lord is moving in the  work of the church in Venezuela. Your prayers and service and giving are having a huge and eternal impact for Christ in Venezuela.  Thank you.
Warren
You can give on-line through PayPal by clicking on the following link:  

Or you can mail a check today to:
Venezuela Now, Inc.
PO Box 1655
Duluth, GA  30096



Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Birth of a New UMC in Venezuela

Franklin and Hilde are people of great faith and obedience. They are both teaching assistants at the Seminaro Wesleyano de Venezuela and will be great leaders in the UM movement in Venezuela. Another seminary student, Jairo, is the contractor for the work that has been done on this site. They hauled almost a dozen trucks full of debris from the site before they could start the reconstruction.

Franklin, Hilde, Emily and me at the site of a new UM congregation forming in the center of Barquisimeto. Fraklin and Hilde are students in the Seminary and became Methodists through this relationship. Through their course work they were called to start a cell group ministry, then to target the Sunday vendors in the central market. Then the Lord led them to purchase this over 100 year old house and remodel for the congregation. The walls and floor are about done. Worship will begin there soon. As resources come in they will put on a roof and tile on the floor, etc. Maybe your church would like to partner with this new UMC congregation to help with this project - this would be a great Mission Team destination. These are sharp Christian leaders!

Baptims of New Believers in Venezuela


Baptisms are a common event in the UMC of Venezuela especially among youth and young adults. There is a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit among the young in VZ. Pastors Alex and Ama (students in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela) are doing a great job reaching the lost, discipling new believers and reaching out in loving compassionate ministry to the community. Join in with this movement. Go where God is at work
Pastors Alex and Ama preaching at the Baptism. This was after two weeks of intensive Seminary classes. They are remarkable servants of Christ. Pray about taking a mission to Venezuela. God is moving in a mighty way there and you need to be a part of that move of the Spirit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exciting Developments with the Seminary

Nurys, Dr. Alberto, Professor Wilmer and Dean Dan
We arrived in Barquisimeto late Tuesday.  Wednesday morning Dan received a call from Dr. Alberto Mendoza.. He and Professor Wilmer Perez are teaching an extension class of the Seminary in Nirgua, with 10 students taking Inductive Bible Study I. Inductive Bible Study is the prerequisite course for all the Bible courses taught in the Seminary. Seven of the students are new students and have to have this course to be able to attend future courses in the Seminary.. They needed manuals, Bibles and other materials, which we gladly transported to them. 

Dan and I drove the hour to Nirgua and met with Dr. and Mrs.(Nurys) Mendoza and had a wonderful lunch at their house along with Professor Perez. We discussed some exciting possibilities for the Seminary, especially regarding some extension courses. These two effective pastors and professors believe they can have an extension of the Seminary in Nirgua in the future with a minimum of 20 and probably 30 students attending each class.  We discussed location, housing and possible schedule.  While nothing was finally decided, the conversation was a holy one with considerable possibilities for impacting the Kingdom in Venezuela. Of course, greater ministry requires greater resources, but God will provide.  Remember:  God provides what the mission needs as the mission is able to use it for God's purpose.


They told us the "Methodist Seminary" has the reputation now for being the best seminary in all of Venezuela. They attributed this to the excellent quality of the professors, the high academic standards at the Seminary, the quality of the materials,and the theological integrity of the program. That was great to hear from two pastors, alumni and, now, professors.  One reason this is possible is our schedule of teaching courses in modules of 16 hours per credit hour, 2 credits per week.  This makes the classes accessible and affordable to the students.  Perhaps more importantly, it allows us to recruit the very best professors from all of Latin America and the United States, all of who come as volunteers to teach for a week or two in the Seminary, often at their own expense!
The Beginning of the New Church
Part of the large lot in the Center of Nirgua

Then we visited the new site of Dr. Mendoza's 7 year old church and saw his son and another seminary student working on their new church. God has provided them a generous lot in the center of town and they are working on building a new Worship Center that will be 3 or 4 times the size of their current facility which they have outgrown, They are averaging 120 each week. The new church will also house a medical clinic to service the poor of Nirgua.  The United Methodist Bishop, Juvenal Perez, has begun preliminary discussions with Dr. Mendoza about the possibility of starting a United Methodist University on that site as well.  Dr. Mendoza is a medical doctor and used to be the administrator at the local hospital. But God called him to ministry and he left his full-time practice and started seminary and then planted a church. Both his wife, Nurys and his son, Josue, are currently students in the Seminary.

The Stove and Ovens that will feed the hungry!
Then we went to Wilmer's church and saw all the construction underway there. He went there 8 years ago with 20 people, now averaging 200. Since I had last visited them, they had completed the sanctuary, added a two story building behind the sanctuary housing classrooms, a children's assembly area and a beautifully modern kitchen.  They are almost finished with the construction on the additions.  However, they are negotiating to buy an adjoining piece of property. If they can acquire it they will move their sanctuary to the top floor and more than triple their worship space. 

Cooperatively, these two churches led by these Seminary graduates are developing a "meals on wheels" ministry to shut-in non-members and will be feeding 30 homes later this summer. Both churches and their ministry have been greatly impacted by the Seminary. This is resulting in several young pastors being trained and hundreds coming to Christ. None of this was happening 9 years ago before the Seminary began. Now these pastors and churches are evidencing the very best of the Wesleyan spirit and theology in demonstrating both inward and outward holiness. They preach and live a gospel that transforms the soul and life of the individual and thrusts that individual into making a tangible difference in their world. And they learned this for the first tine in the Seminary. And that education is beginning to impact the whole Protestant (Evangelical) Church in Venezuela.

After these meetings we drove home rejoicing in the goodness of God and the joy of being a little part of what God is doing in Venezuela. Oh, we did buy some oranges, tangerines and avocados, all native to Nirgua.That made our wives smile!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Work Continues Even When Seminary Is Not In Session

Almost every weekend a different church is using the Campus of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela for Men's, Women's, Youth, Children's Retreats, Chuch-wide Retreats, Evangelism Retreats, Discipleship Retreats, Marriage Enrichment Retreats, International Leadership Institute programs and more. This enables hundreds to be discipled, scores to be evangelized, Youth and Children to be nurtured in the faith and marriages to be enriched.  We are raising up leadership for the entire Protestant Church in Venezuela.

The income from the facility fees from these groups allows us to keep Seminary Tuition affordable and creates a resource for ministry that is not otherwise available to them in the Lara state,  Facilities are also maintained and improved though the presence of these groups.,

We just wanted you to know that even during the weeks when Seminary is not meeting, we are still in ministry to many people and making a difference for Christ.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Report From Dan and Nancy

Below are some excerpts of Dan and Nancy's recent report from some of their work with the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela and the UMC of Venezuela as well as several other churches.  God is doing amazing things through the ministry of the students and graduates of the Seminary reminiscent of the Book of Acts and the early Methodist Movement in America.

Dear Friends and Ministry Partners,

·        Since February, over 150 persons have made first-time decisions to follow Jesus through the ministry of the Ondas de Paz UMC, where Alex and Ama serve as pastors
·        On February 27th Dan preached at the Kabod church in Nirgua, and a first-time visitor said “Yes” to Jesus, plus a recent convert made a public profession of faith
·        In January, Dan translated for Warren Lathem’s preaching at Lugar Altisimo, and five young men chose to accept new life in Jesus
·        In March, we learned of a 9th daughter church that is being planted by Restoration UMC, with Ivan Parra as the man chosen to lead this church plant
·        For the past six months, Carlos and Maria Pirona have been making the 6+ hour trip to Caracas at least twice per month, to work with two new cell groups there, one of which includes government employees
·        Three weeks ago a Due West mission team partnered with Pastor Smith Useche to advance the work in the Valle Dorado community, where hundreds of children reside – they are building a combination medical clinic and sanctuary
·        This past week we learned that Pastors Franklin and Hilde Peroza are in the processing of buying a house where their cell group congregation can host monthly worship experiences with all the cell groups combined – this is made possible through the growth of the cell groups and their passionate giving to the cause of Christ

In addition to the transformed lives and recent conversions that these various stories represent, they are also important because each of these churches and/or pastors has a direct connection with the Wesleyan Seminary of Venezuela.  The leaders mentioned above are all currently attending Seminary classes or they are recent graduates of the Seminary.  YOUR support of our ministry here in Venezuela is making a significant impact, and we want to thank you. 

Through your partnership with us we are able to provide leadership, teaching, translation, administrative and financial guidance, and all the other things necessary to sustain the kind of hands-on theological training that the Seminary offers.  Without your partnership, this would not be possible.  Alex, Ama, Ivan, Carlos, Maria, Smith, Franklin, Hilde, and MANY MORE like them are being positively impacted through the Seminary’s ministry, and they in turn are being used by the Spirit to transform people and communities in Venezuela.  We are deeply grateful for the eternal difference that your prayers and your giving make here.

 Please continue praying for us, and please continue giving to make our ministry here possible.

Particular Prayer Concerns for Now Include:
·        Praise for how much we are enjoying our work here
·        Guidance for our future (we continue to pray for discernment concerning our length of time here)
·        Mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical strength for Dan to finish his dissertation
·        Continued nurture and health for our Ethiopian grandchild, yet unknown to us but intimately known and loved by God
·        Financial provision for us personally, that our ministry will continue to be funded
·        Financial provision for the Seminary to finish building the security fence around the Seminary property
·        Financial provision to add increased security measures to our home (razor wire, a front wall with metal bars, etc.)
·        Continued divine protection with legions of angels around us, our home, and the Seminary property

To partner with us financially, make your check payable to Venezuela Now, Inc., and write “Project 3455” on the memo line.  Mail to VNI, P. O. Box 1655, Duluth, GA  30096. "Project 3455" is an account used exclusively to support the ministry of Dan and Nancy.  All un-designated funds go directly to the support of the Seminary in Venezuela and no North American receives any remuneration from those funds for the Seminary.