Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brief Update from Venezuela

Just yesterday a pastoral couple who are students in the Seminary said everything they have learned about effective ministry, they have learned in the Seminary. They are reaching the lost in remarkable ways. 

Today, we are working on administrative details related to our Seminary program, current Bachelor's degree, possible 2013 Master's program, property issues, financial management issues, planning for the next 18 months, trying to negotiate the ever changing financial realities of this country, pursuing some legal issues, etc. Additionally, waiting on revised plans from the architect for the construction of a Medical Clinic on the campus. 

Why do we do this!?! Lives are being transformed by the grace of Jesus.  

Now students and graduates are clambering for an additional Master's program. We are working on curriculum and scheduling details. 

Of course, the more we expand the program of the Seminary, the greater becomes the financial requirements.  We are focusing on two lanes of increasing income for this ministry here in Venezuela.  One is moving the tuition and room and board costs closer to the actual costs and still be able to provide an affordable, excellent, accessible education in the best of our Wesleyan theological tradition.  The other is evaluating our Retreat Ministry on the Campus, which consumes about 33% of our expenses for the property and provides some income.  We expect to increase this income stream in 2012 and 2013 to cover more of that cost.

In the US, where most of the money is raised for the Seminary, we are looking at several fundraising opportunities already scheduled and also booking several more this year.  We really have to raise more money for this expanding ministry.  However, we are convinced God has the resources needed for this mission and will provide them as we are able to use them for the purpose of his mission.

We are also looking for more partners to help us in this task. We need churches to take the Seminary as one of its primary mission foci.  This would involve focused prayer support, short term mission teams and significant financial support.  

Specific additional needs:  we need a missionary or missionary family on site in Venezuela to help with the campus, hosting the retreat ministry, seminary classes, and property maintenance and construction.  We need a Dean of the Bachelor's Degree Program who will partner with us and learn to take ownership of that program as Dr. Dan Dunn is now doing, freeing him to focus more time on the future Master's Degree Program.

Most importantly, we need prayer partners.  These are prayer warriors who will intercede for this ministry at least some time every day. The Battle belongs to the Lord, but there is still a battle. We covet your prayer support.

Now for Thanksgiving:
  • God has given to the Seminary a Venezuelan staff who serve very effectively and unselfishly.
  • God has given us some Venezuelan faculty members and is raising up additional additional Venezuelan professors who are graduates of the Seminary, and they teach with no remuneration.
  • God has provided a remarkable team of faculty and staff from around the world to teach and administer this critical program in Venezuela - all with no remuneration from the Charitable Giving to the Seminary.
  • God has provided an excellent campus which is located in the city of the primary Bus Terminal for the country resulting in 70% of the population being no more than 5 hours away.
  • God has opened a door for additional support at Mount Pisgah and Due West UMC's as well as several other churches.  This is in partnership with the Disciples in Song concerts.  What a joy it is to work with these men for this ministry.
  • God has provided a gracious invitation from Bishop Lindsey Davis for me to preach at the Kentucky Annual Conference Mission Service and 1/2 of the Conference Mission Offering will be given to construct an Medical Clinic on Campus.
  • God has opened a door for the Extension Ministry in Nirgua and after 5 weekends of classes, we are beginning to grasp both how better to do this ministry and the significance of the same.
  • God has provided the very best Bachelor's Level Seminary program in all of Venezuela via the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela.  We hear this repeatedly from students and alumni, many of whom have various bachelor's and graduate degrees in this country.  
  • God is opening the door for a new Master's Degree Program in response to the repeated requests of the students and alumni.
  • God has used the ministry of the Seminary to equip pastors and lay leaders all across Venezuela to reach the lost of this country, design and implement various ministries of healing, help and hope for many people in Venezuela, plant multiple churches, preaching places and ministry groups all across the country.
  • God has provided a forum for the teaching of Orthodox Wesleyan Theology which is shaping the theology and practice of the Methodist Church of Venezuela, but also many of the other Protestant denominations and churches in this country.
  • And the list goes on...

Now, Pray, please.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From Venezuela

Dear Friends and Prayer Warriors:
I just wanted to give you a quick update from here in Venezuela.  Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Campus is an exciting place as the students take advantage of having Dr. Al Coppedge, retired professor of theology at Asbury Theological Seminary, teach Wesleyan Theology and Professor Wilmer Perez teaching at night the first course in Inductive Bible Study. Wilmer founded his church as a result of his experience in the Seminary and is one of our first Venezuelan faculty members.  He is also the President of the Assemblies of God Bethel Bible College which reaches all across Venezuela.  His experience as one of our first graduates gave him the credentials to do this for his denomination.

This weekend, I will be teaching Preaching for a Response, I, our core homiletics course. This will be at our Extension Campus in Nirgua.  Additionally, Dr. Dan Dunn and I are exploring the possibility of adding a Master's level degree. This is in response to the request of our alumni and students who will graduate this August. Please pray with us about this.

As you may know, this year we will celebrate our 10th anniversary of ministry in the Seminary. Along with graduation and anniversary festivities in August we hope to break ground on the construction of a new Medical Clinic on the main campus of the Seminary, as God provides the resources. 
With the input of several doctors here we have revised the plans for the Clinic and the revisions are in the hands of the architect who is producing revised drawings.  The doctors here had some excellent advice which included adding some room and building with the capacity of later adding a second floor for a lab and dental office. 

Also, we are making making significant improvements to existing buildings on the campus. We also increased our water storage capacity by 15,000 liters, an absolute necessity for both the Seminary and the Church Retreat Ministry we host when Seminary is not in session.

Please pray for and bring your friends to the Disciples in Song Benefit Concert at Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek, GA, April 14 at 7pm.  This is a very strategic event in support of the Seminary and will result, hopefully, in significant new resources as we celebrate our 10 year anniversary!

Prayer Concerns:  For an outpouring on the classes meeting this week and this weekend in the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela; For Financial Resources for the every growing demands of this ministry, especially the offering at Mount Pisgah; For safety for the travel of the faculty, staff and students; For direction regarding a major decision facing the ministry,one that has long range impact.  I may share more about that later, but now just request prayers.

Of course, we need your financial support. This ministry would not be possible without the generous support of so many in the US.  You can give on-line through Pal Pal.

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