Thursday, December 20, 2012

Exciting Year End Celebration

P. O. Box 1655
Duluth. GA  30096

Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela

Our Mission is to reach the lost of Venezuela. 

Venezuela Now, Inc and the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela were birthed out of the passion for mission at the Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek, GA.  The work in Venezuela began in 1996 and the Seminary was founded in 2002. Eventually, due to circumstances at Mount Pisgah, the Non-Profit and the Seminary had to seek sustenance from other sources, even though many individuals associated or formerly associated with the mission have continued to  
encourage and support the work. Currently many churches support this ministry.

We fulfill our mission primarily through equipping and training pastors, evangelists, teachers, doctors, etc. to reach their nation for Christ. We believe the ROI for the US mission dollar is far better when the actual ministry is done by indigenous leaders, not foreigners.  We desire to develop long term partnerships between congregations in the US and the church in Venezuela. However, the best investment is for the churches here to partner with the Seminary rather than simply build a house or a church. The leaders we train can do those things far more efficiently and more cost effectively than can US mission teams.  We are investing in the future, training pastors and ministers, some of which will continue to provide ROI for 50 years or more.  And if one applies the principle of multiplication that exists in the Book of Acts, the impact is exponential growth.

However, our impact is not only solely in Venezuela.  We also spend a great deal of time teaching and modeling missional service on a global scale, making an impact for Christ across states, nations and continents.  Hence, our students and graduates are actively serving in a variety of capacities in Europe, Columbia, Peru, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and the US.  

One of the by-products of this mission was the formation of the United Methodist Church of Venezuela, organized in August, 2007 and birthed out of the association of pastors attending the Seminary. 

Our goal is to deliver to the Methodist Church in Venezuela a Campus which is fully developed and paid for, and a Seminary which is self-sustaining, led by Venezuelans. In 2008 we purchased our current campus after renting space for the first 6 years of operation.  We bought the abandoned Christian Literature Campus in La Piedad Norte, a suburb of Cabudare, Venezuela close to the state capital city of Barquisimeto. The purchase price was approximately $350,000 US equivalent.  We currently have a mortgage of $80,000 ($20,000 due by December 31, 2012).  We will then have a remaining mortgage of $60,000 left on the original $180,000 interest free loan (as long as the annual $30,000  payment is paid by the end of the year by Venezuela Now, Inc. So far we have been able to make each annual payment). The campus now has a value of well over $500,000 and one local real estate specialist has set the value at just over $1million.

While we have no specific time-line to make the complete transfer, we are making progress. We now have 6 Venezuelan professors (all graduates) and will develop more each year.  We have a Venezuelan administrative team in place and working.  We have a team of Venezuelan advisors (students and graduates) who serve as an unofficial board helping us design a program that is effective in their cultural setting.  We have a Master’s Admission Committee made up solely of students and graduates of the Seminary. They have determined the admission requirements into the Master’s Degree program and will determine which applications to accept and what an applicant will need to do in some prerequisite Wesleyan Seminary Undergraduate courses before admission. (Such as all must have taken the Inductive Bible Study Method only taught in our Seminary in Venezuela, The Mission of the Church course, and others. The maintenance and construction on the campus, including the new Medical Clinic, is all under the direction of Venezuelans.  The Retreat Ministry is also completely in the control of Venezuelans.

The Seminary is the highest quality and most effective theological training currently available in Venezuela. There are many reasons for the effectiveness and high quality of the education in the Seminary.

We offer most of our courses in week-long settings.  Students are often serving as full-time pastors or are bi-vocational.  They are able to devote individual weeks or two weeks at the time to take courses.

We also offer the finest theological faculty in the nation of Venezuela.  Since each course lasts a week, we are able bring in the finest professors and practitioners in the world to teach for a week or two. No professors (foreign or Venezuelan) are paid a salary or honorarium. Most pay their own travel expenses. They understand this is a mission and they gladly give their time and often their money to the seminary to be able to teach.  Therefore, we have faculty regularly coming to Venezuela from the US, Columbia, Mexico and Costa Rica, Ireland, etc.

Since no professor, foreign or indigenous, receives compensation, we are able to provide a very inexpensive education.  The students pay a portion of the room and board and the materials costs and a small tuition cost.  Even this is a real hardship in the Venezuelan economy (the cumulative inflation rate for the last four years in Venezuela is 389%!). Yet if this were a traditional seminary, most of our students could not attend due to cost, time commitment and time away from their ministry. Our undergraduate degree takes at least 6 years to complete and the Masters takes 2 years, minimum.  And our students are already asking when we will start a Phd. Program.  We have no plans to do that, but this is indicative of the value they place on what they call the finest theological education in Venezuela.

YTD Financial Summary

Our 2012 Fiscal Year is not yet complete, but this is the data as of January 1, 2012-December 15, 2012.

Funds received for Operations

Sustaining                      $65,000
Other                                 18,000
Capital                                6,000

Sub total                          $89,000

Special Projects given in 2012

Motor for Ministry Car      $7,000
Urban Farming Project         5,000
Medical Clinic                    80,500
Radio, Puerto Ordaz                500
Bishop's Car                       11,500

Subtotal                           $104,500

Total given YTD 2012:      $193,500

Projected Designated Cash Balances to be carried into 2013
Clinic                                $55,000
Urban Farm Project              5,000
Sustaining                             5,000

Mortgage Due 12/31/12   $20.000   - Currently not in hand, but in prayer

Venezuelan Income:

Additionally, in 2012 we received income in Venezuelan Bolivares at the Seminary which was used for local operations, in addition to our US contributed dollars in the following amounts (USD exchange rates vary, but averages 10/$1 in 2012)
Tuition, Room and Board, Materials, etc.:
 77,618Bs or approximately                                  $7,762.00
Rental Income;
85,357Bs or approximately                                     $8,536.00
Total Received in Venezuela                                 $16,298.00
Enrollment Data

The Seminary currently enrolls approximately 100 students during any given year. Our individual classes on the main campus average an  attendance of 30 and our extension program in Nirgua averages 12 students per class.

In the first 10 years of operation the Seminary has provided 128 individual classes for course credit.

In 2013 the Seminary will provide 24 courses for credit in both the Bachelor and Master Degree programs.

As we add the Masters degree program in  February, 2013,  We expect 20 students to enroll in the Masters of Pastoral Leadership degree.

What is the story of the ministry of our students and graduates? 

Here follows some statistical data.  The story is one only Heaven fully knows because of the scope of their ministry is beyond the ability to capture in statistical data.

This falls into four categories:

Churches served by graduates

We have had 42 graduates.  38 are serving as lead pastors or staff.  They are serving approximately 75 churches, 110 missions and innumerable preaching places such as small groups.

Churches served by existing students

Of the 100 existing students, 60 are serving churches, some multiple churches and missions.

Churches planted by graduates
50 churches

Churches planted by existing students
35 Churches

Missions and Preaching Places Started and Served by Existing Students
75 missions or preaching places

Missional Focus of the Seminary

One of the emphases of the Seminary is to offer effective and practical training to pastors and mission leaders.  We do this in several missional areas:

Church Planting – this is a major emphasis of the program and the expectation is that every pastor plant additional churches. For example one pastor has planted 10 churches. The Bishop not only leads the denomination, but is also a pastor and has personally planted and oversees three congregations.

Discipleship Groups/Cell Ministry – Some of the churches have started as many as 20 small groups or more.  Many of these will eventually become churches. These groups generally meet in homes in surrounding communities, often as far as 20 miles away.

Serving/Justice ministries – in the past, the evangelical church in Venezuela had very little involvement in our Wesleyan tradition of inward and outward holiness, holiness of heart and life. Therefore, they did little to reach out to the community in service.  Now Seminary students and graduates regularly create service ministries such as, Ministry in the prisons (horrible conditions in Venezuelan prisons).  

For example: One student recently did Discipleship Training in a Men’s Prison and 134 inmates were won to Christ, completed the program and received their first Bible. Another example is ministry with families waiting at the local hospital.  A student does this and on one Saturday recently led 150 people to Christ. Students and graduates have started orphanages, ministries with unwed mothers, food ministries, children’s ministries in the poorest communities, medical ministries, educational ministries (For example two of our students who are not Methodist lead their denomination’s Bible training program in three states with over 100 students.   Their material comes right out of their education in the Seminary.)

Specifics on giving opportunities to the Seminary

You can sponsor a student: $1,200 per Year
A week of class: $7,000
Food for a week of Seminary: $500
Provide books for a seminary class: $500
We have 24 classes scheduled next year.
Give to pay off the existing Mortgage: $80,000
Endow an Academic Chair:  $100,000 (this amount designated in our Endowment fund for a specific Academic Chair such as Evangelism, Church Planting, Missions, etc. would provide the expenses for a professor to teach in the designated subject area each year.)

Additionally, we are constantly having to raise money for special projects, like the medical clinic, Ministry Vehicles, Capital improvements like adding classrooms, dorms, furnishings, Security wall construction, Water Plant, etc.

We have just this month (December) formally organized an Endowment Fund and have our first commitments to that fund.  We hope it will provide ongoing funding.  Several donors are looking at “end of life” giving or estate giving. We expect this to help secure the future of this ministry.

Historic Ties to Mount Pisgah

The connection to Venezuela began in 1994 when Mount Pisgah began its Hispanic Ministry under the leadership of Carlos Gonzalez, a Venezuelan native. After conversations with the North Georgia Presiding Bishop, Lloyd Knox, and subsequently with Bishop Paulo Lockman of Brazil, Carlos was recruited to finish his theological education in Atlanta and then return to Venezuela to formally start the work of the UMC in Venezuela.  He traveled there in May, 1996 to make the first exploratory contacts with evangelical Christian leaders in Venezuela. His purpose was to explore possible partnerships for the work.  Traveling with him were Ray Lathem, son of Warren and Jane Lathem, and Roger and Dana Lane.  Ray was preparing for ministry and serving in the Hispanic Worship Service at Mount Pisgah.  Roger and Dana were teachers who felt called to give at least a year to teaching in Venezuela.  They were all killed on May 11, 1996 in the ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades.  The mission and all the contact information died with them. Or so we all at Mount Pisgah thought.

However, the next year, Bishop Palomo of Costa Rica made contact in Venezuela with some of the same Christian leaders the Mount Pisgah team had met. He asked Dr. Lathem if Mount Pisgah would fund a Venezuelan missionary he wanted to send to Venezuela to start the Methodist work there.  Mount Pisgah did fund that individual for a number of years.  However, it became clear the most productive way to advance the mission was in training pastors in Venezuela and the focus shifted to the Seminary.

The Seminary was founded in 2002 by Bishop Luis Palomo, Dr. Warren Lathem, current President, and Dr. Dan Dunn, current Academic Dean, and Dr. David Cosby, Dean of Students. 

The North Georgia Conference, the Kentucky Conference and the Red Bird Missionary Conference have been significant in their support of the work in Venezuela.  Additionally many United Methodist Churches and individuals have given ongoing support to the work.

Our provision has been by the grace of God. Our trust remains sure.