Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Pastors Behind the Numbers

Quechuan pastor in South America

 If you have heard one of our ministry presentations, you have probably heard Laura and I speak about the percentage of remote and isolated pastors that do not return to their homeland if they are sent to far away seminaries or bible colleges to receive pastoral training. The numbers are astounding, 80%-90% of rural and remote pastors do not return to their homeland to pastor churches after receiving training in another country.  The reasons are many and varied. Better quality of life, safety, and security issues are some of the most common reasons why these isolated and remote pastors stay in their new country.  
Pastor in rural Mexico
Guatemalan church
In the many months that Laura and I have been building up our prayer and support team, we have mentioned this statistic more times than we can remember. At some point over the past few months, 80%-90% became just something that ‘was part of our presentation”. This remained true until last week when we met with a pastor who is also an administrator at an all Hispanic bible seminary in the Los Angeles area. The seminary trains and equips Spanish speaking pastor for church leadership. Many of these pastor come from Latin America to receive their pastoral training. After a wonderful conversation with him in his office, we asked the pastor what percent of his 22 seminary students would be going back to Latin America to pastor churches. He paused for a moment and answered....none, 0%. At that moment, 80%-90% became very real to us. 

As we made our presentation, the faces of these future Hispanic church leaders looked back at us, very focused and attentive to what we were sharing about MAF Learning Technologies. We explained how MAF-LT provides equipping and training to remote pastors who have little to no biblical training by taking the training to them in the places where they live and pastor. After the presentation, one student felt so convicted about returning to Latin America that he decided that he needed to ask God what God wanted for him instead of him asking God what he wanted for himself. 
As the night came to an end, the seminary staff fed us a traditional Mexican tostada meal and it gave us an opportunity to speak further with the men. It was a special night for Laura and I because the Lord revealed to us, through this seminary, how great the need is for pastoral training in Latin America. On this night, 80%-90% was no longer just a statistic in our presentation. It represented real pastors behind the numbers. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can I Get A Witness?

Sister Loretta and Tony
A wonderful surprise during this time of deputation has been visiting a wide range of churches. I am blessed to be able to spend this season of my life visiting different congregations and enjoying a myriad of styles of worship on Sunday mornings.

A recent visit to our first African American supporting church made our family feel like we had arrived in heaven. Pastor M.L. Carter Jr. is the senior pastor of Holy Missionary Baptist Church in Pomona, California and his lovely wife, Donnie, along with the rest of the joyful congregation sang with passion and reverence unlike anything I had ever seen. Their love for the Lord was evident as they greeted one another with ample hugs and kisses. Young and old folks clapped and lifted their voices as the organ played old hymns and spirituals. As we took our place in the pew before the 11:00 service began, we unknowingly sat next to Sister Loretta, the spiritual mother of the 41 year old church. Sister Loretta is nearly 80 years old but her ability to confirm the pastor’s message with an “Amen” or “Praise the Lord” could be heard from one end of the pew to another. Reverend Carter’s message from Matthew 28:18-20 challenged the members to boldly share the Gospel because Jesus would never leave them nor forsake them. As the minister sighted the scripture of the last verse of the book of Matthew, he turned to the choir behind him and asked,“Can I get a witness?”  The members of the brightly robed choir all replied, “Oh, yes!” And with that reply, I realized how delightful it was to watch Pastor Carter stand in the pulpit and receive an affirmation to the unrelenting challenge to “Go and make disciples of all nations….”

My prayer that is that I may I learn from the members of Holy Missionary Baptist Church in their demonstrative love for God and for each other.