Monday Update: Cali

Writing from the plane this morning as we make a short flight from Cali to Bogota. Both Avianca flights thus far have been on brand new equipment. Flying on a A320 today. Last Monday’s flight was on a very nice turbo prop. Seats are very comfortable and roomy. And, I’m a very nice guy this morning, flying in the middle seat between Em and Jason. After a quick layover in Bogota, we’ll fly up to Baranquilla.

It was just a wonderful weekend in Cali. The Quintero family was very gracious in their hospitality. The women went out of their way to provide food, plenty of juice and coffee, and other accommodations. Yesterday afternoon, was very special. We had time to relax with the Quintero, Rameriz, and other families from the Cali church. Orlando grilled steaks for lunch, along with plantain and potatoes. (No yucca this time. Yea!) For several hours, Carlos Julio took Emilea, Natalia, his daughter Laura, and Leigha to the top of Cali where there is a park with a large statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. Em got some really great pictures. The girls have had such a great time together.

Our morning service was excellent. I started things off with a lesson specially requested by Carlos Julio. It was the one I preached last Monday night in Niera and is based on Ephesians 4. The lesson emphasizes how leaders equip and saints serve. It fits in nicely with our overall purpose of the trip – teaching on the need for Biblical leaders, etc. During worship, Jason delivered remarks for the Lord’s Supper, and Mac spoke on shepherds from Psalm 23. After the service concluded, a lady from the community, Blanca, came forward to be baptized. She has been listening to the radio broadcast that Carlos Julio does every Monday and Friday. She came to services for the first time Saturday evening. After a brief study, she wanted to be baptized. That happened after Sunday’s worship service. It was a joy to our hearts to see the happiness on her face as she was born again. She hugged us all, and told us how much she appreciated what we taught. Like everyone, as you taught, you could really see how much she was participating in the service. Listening, taking notes, etc.

Last night Mac led a great discussion with Orlando and Carlos Julio and their wives on the importance of leaders setting an example in the activities they engage in. Because of the position they hope to occupy in any possible future eldership, there will be some liberties they’ll have to forego. Influence and not being a stumbling block to young sheep is of vital importance for spiritual leaders. I bet it was at least an hour of talk going back and forth, all in good humor. Both Carlos Julio and Orlando were sure to let us know how much they appreciated this discussion.

Brethren, I just can’t tell you enough how good of a work this is. They are great people. They go out of their way to make us feel comfortable. Everytime we leave, there are 10 minutes of hugs to go around and they are always sure to tell you how much they love you and are thankful for your teaching and care for them. For me, it’s totally humbling. I feel inadequate at times. But, I trust God, pray for the right words to say, and depend on Jason and Mac, who have been such great companions along the way.

We’ve just landed in Bogota, so I must close for now. Thanks again for all your prayers. It was good to see/talk to Rich last night over FaceTime. We love you all.

More on Tuesday.

Sunday Update: Cali

Good morning from Cali! We made it here safely yesterday afternoon after a 4 + hour drive from Manizales. We’ve receive a good night’s rest in the home of Orlando Quintero & family. We just continue to be blown away by the hospitality of our brethren. They are going out of their way to make us feel welcome and even though we don’t speak the same language, the communication is obvious.

Yesterday was mostly a travel day. It’s quite an operation when you’re moving 7 people around with luggage. Carlos Julio drove one car, with the girls, and Jaime drove the other, with Jason, Mac, and me. On the way, for lunch we stopped at a roadside restuarant that Jaime says offers the best meat around. When we got there, the meat was being cooked over a flame and the guy sliced off samples for us. We asked Jaime what kind of meat it was. His reply: “Don’t ask.” So… anyway… it was really good. Mac seems to think we ate a Tapir. Before we got to Cali, Jaime took us to the city of Palmira. This is where his uncle and dad operated a dairy for many years. Jaime was working here in 1984 making $12/month. It was at this time he wrote Royce Chandler looking for support, and Kettering stepped up with $200 per month. This start enabled him to move back to Manizales and begin the work of preaching. Anyway, Jaime’s uncle and father have passed away, so Jaime’s cousins operate the dairy now. As part of their business, they sell these yogurt like drinks called “Super Kumi’s.” The family treated each of us with one of our favorite flavor.

We got to Cali just in time to change clothes for service, where Mac and Jason preached last night. There were 40-50 people present. After the service ended, all the teens gathered up together in a circle and spent time visiting with Emilea & Leigha. You could tell they were really having fun. While this was going on, Mac, Jason, and I were having a discussion with one of the brothers who attended the first day of our leadership conference. He had some questions regarding what we taught. I think we were able to clear up some of his thinking on a few matters. While we were talking, Carlos Julio was in another part of the room talking with a contact, who had attended the service after she heard about it on his radio program. They talked together for over 30 minutes. Jason and I sat down toward the end of the conversation, and found out that the lady desires to be baptized today. We’re excited! Jason led a prayer for her, we all embraced, and departed.

Looking forward to the rest of today. Excited to get to visit with Orlando and his family. Looking forward to encouraging him, as well as the others.

More on Monday! Must go for now. About to eat breakfast, which includes mandarins Mac picked out of Orlando’s back yard earlier this morning.

matt

Saturday Update: Manizales

Good morning from Manizales. We’re all packed up this morning and ready to travel to Cali today. It’s a four hour + drive. We’ll have our luggage crammed in two cars. Carlos Julio will drive one & Jaime the other. I did this trip (Cali-Manizales) two years ago on a bus. Everyone should have that experience at least once in their life.

Friday was another great day. We met back at the meeting place in the morning and spent the first 45 min or so watching a video recorded by four of our former elders at Kettering. All the preachers who gathered watched intently, and from their reaction afterwards, you know it had a positive impact on them. After this, we spent the next few hours listening to each of the preachers give a brief report on their work. You would just not believe some of the sacrifices these men make to preach, and how hard they work. Their humility is evident and their dedication is real. Some of the work is in dangerous parts of the country (places where Jason & I can’t go due to security reasons, guerrilla activity, etc.). Some travel 3-4 hours away to serve one-two families who live in remote areas. Travel here is both difficult and dangerous. Some of the men also detailed their work in neighboring parts of South America. It was great to learn of these efforts in other places.

We spent the remainder of Friday relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Jaime has gone out of his way to make us feel comfortable and has been so hospitable. Yesterday was Celina’s birthday. So as we ate together, we celebrated her birthday with her. These guys all love to laugh and have fun together. I wish you were here to experience it. She was a very gracious host yesterday, working hard to prepare meals for 18-20 people … on her birthday!

During the evening last night, Jason and I took time to meet with four (Jaime Restrepo, Carlos Julio Rameriz, Rafael Amaya, and Wilson Valbuena) of the men Kettering supports here in Colombia. We thanked them for what they do, and let them know their reports are read and that they are prayed for all the time. In turn, they let us know of their appreciation for us and want each of the Kettering saints to know what an impact you have had on their life. Let me tell you how wonderful it is to know these men personally, see the look in their eyes, and feel their humble heart. They are good men. Not only are they making sacrifices, but their families as well.

We’re excited to move into the next phase of the trip, but I’m a little sad to leave Manizales. It is my favorite city in this country. We’ll spend the next two days in Cali, before flying to Baranquilla on Monday. This weekend, we’ll be staying in the home of Orlando Quintera. I’m excited to see his family again. They have been such gracious hosts in the past. Services begin at 6 tonight, with Mac, Jason, and I all scheduled to speak.

Have a great Saturday. As always, thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement.

matt

Friday Update: Manizales

Good morning from the mountains of Colombia. Thursday was just a great, great day. We wrapped up our leadership conference yesterday afternoon. In the morning, Jason spoke on the role of deacons. He spoke for around 30 minutes, and the next 90 were filled with questions from the audience. They asked probing questions on “faithful children,” “expectations for wives,” and what it means for a deacon to have “proven himself” before being asked to serve, etc.

After lunch, we walked back to our hotel in the local market and ran into one of the brothers from the Manizales church. He immediately recognized Mac and ran over calling, “Mac, Mac!” He is a street vendor and sells wooden flutes that he makes. He played a couple of songs for us and then gave us all one. That’s just one example of the gratitude our brothers and sisters have for us coming. They so appreciate it and want to do something to let us know what it means for them for us to be here.

At 3.30, we met for our final session of the day. This lesson is more general in that it covers some important communication principles, not just for elders, but for all who lead in the church. Toward the end of the session, I led the group in an activity that further emphasized the essentiality of these five concepts. We watched a 10 minute movie clip and discussed how the characters in the movie applied these communication techniques to accomplish something that needed to be done. They really got into it and our discussion was great!

From here, we left immediately for a service in Santa Rosa de Cabal. Santa Rosa is a little over an hour S of Manizales. When we got there, many brethren were already assembled. Soon the singing began, and it was just beautiful. And, Emilea and Leigha got to finally teach a kid’s class. (They had one for Tuesday evening, but all the children were sick.) I sat near the door of the room where they were and while Mac was preaching I could hear all the kids in there singing and interacting with each other. I know the girls just loved the experience. Be sure to check my Facebook feed for more pics.

Mac preached on the role of shepherds, based on the passage in John 10. I wrapped things up by speaking on the relationship we have with God through Christ, as presented in Colossians 1.12-14. I just love the patience of the brethren here. Last night’s service went about 90 minutes, with singing, prayer, and two preachers presenting lessons. They paid attention through the translation, and made the type of comments afterward that let you know they connected with what was said. Brother Carlos Henao is the preacher for this church. He was formerly a member at Manizales who moved here several years ago in order to help the church at Santa Rosa.

This has just been such a wonderful experience thus far. The love and appreciation these brethren show will melt your heart. As every evening concludes, many will come to us, give us a hug, and tell us of their appreciation for what we’re doing. They want to serve us and go out of their way to make us feel comfortable. Last night, we got hugs as we left the building, and then hugs again as we left the pizza place we ate at after church. (Yes, two nights in a row having Colombia pizza… it’s really, really good.) Two nights ago I tried some pizza with corn on it. (wasn’t as bad as you think.) Last night, you had the option of adding honey to your pizza. That was an interesting taste.

We’re all doing well. The days have been long. Yesterday was an 18 hour day. When you get back to the hotel, the “concrete” mattress you’re sleeping on doesn’t feel that bad. (It’s not concrete, but it’s not far away from it…. : ) ) The encouragement we’re receiving from each other, and from you, keeps our spirits high. And, then the love we’ve received from the brethren here, just makes the discomfort of being away from home worth it.

We love and appreciate all of you. Thanks again for your prayers and words of encouragement.

matt

Thursday Update: Manizales

It is now the middle of Day 4. We’ve had such a wonderful time thus far. Yesterday’s part of the leadership conference went very well. We spent the morning concentrating on elders and the character traits they should have, based on 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. After Jason spoke, we spent around 90 minutes fielding questions. Just like Tuesday, I thought the questions we received were well thought out and from sincere hearts. After our study, Oscar Arias asked some things regarding the congregation’s viewpoint on elders. I told him that while we had not covered that question in our book, that I did have a lesson on it and would be glad to preach it. I did that last night in Manizales. After the service, Oscar came up to me and said in all his years, he had never heard teaching on Hebrews 13 and 1 Thessalonians 5 in regards to how the congregation honors its elders, etc. He just continually thanked me for delivering the lesson and said it was very good that we’ve come.

On Wednesday afternoon, I conducted a study on 6 principles to be looking for and developing in younger ones who aspire to be elders some day. A person simply does not fall into this role. It is the result of many years of planning and the proper ordering of life. We were asked if we knew of any examples in the US where congregations in existence only for 10 years or less had already appointed elders. (That is the situation here in Colombia). We couldn’t think of an example where this has happened, and used the question to reinforce the idea that the establishment of elders takes time, forethought, and longterm vision of the entire congregation.

We had an evening service at the church in Manizales last night. Jaime translated for Jason and I. Jason spoke on church growth and did a great job. After dinner, we all went out to a local pizza restaurant, which has a distinctly Colombian spin on their main food. It was very good, as has been all the food here.

Jaime told me that this weeks’ work will pay many dividends in the years to come. All the feedback has been very positive thus far. In fact, as I visited with him this morning, he said that after services last night that all the preachers who are staying in his home this week gathered together and talked about what they learned yesterday – for 2 hours! And, from the questions we received after Jason’s lecture this morning, we can see that they earnestly desire to follow the Scripture on these matters.

Let me pause for a moment and brag on my two travel companions. It has just been such a positive experience to be with Jason. He’s done such an excellent job in his presentations. His heart is genuine and I love the way he is interacting with our Colombian brethren. His assistance was invaluable in preparing for this trip, and I don’t know how I would have done this without him while on the ground here. And then there’s Mac. I’ve been waiting 20 years to travel with him on a trip like this. Love him so. His wisdom and experience as an active elder have brought an entirely different dimension to our teaching this week. Jason and I have both thanked him many times for coming with us. I think we make a great team. And, I’m so happy we’ve all been blessed with such a wonderful opportunity.

Today is a religious holiday in Manizales, although I’m not sure what it is. Earlier today, a priest was preaching on the sidewalk with a loud speaker. There was a 9.30 am parade, complete with fireworks, bands, and school children walking down Main street. As you walk around town today, people are everywhere.

The girls are doing great. They are excited about teaching this evening at Santa Rosa de Cabal, which is about 1 hour and 10 minutes from here. As soon as we finish our time together in the pm section of our leadership conference this afternoon, we’ll leave directly for the service.

As always, I appreciate all of you. And, thanks to everyone who has written emails, or spoken to me through Facebook. Your encouragement means more than you know.

God bless all of you on this Thursday afternoon.

More on Friday.

Wednesday AM Update: Manizales

Good morning! Our leadership conference got off to a great start yesterday. We had around 15-20 preachers present along with several women from the Manizales church join us. I taught both morning lessons, the first one on the Biblical pattern for how New Testament churches were organized, and the second on the role of the evangelist in appointing elders.

During the lectures, I was so impressed with the type of questions we received. It is evident that our Colombian preaching companions are not only interested in the issue, but that they take it very seriously. You can tell they truly want to learn more about this subject. It’s such a humbling experience and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to share.

We had lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. And then spent the afternoon in a question/answer session led by Carl McMurray. For over an hour, he led a great discussion on the appropriate age for elders, adopted children and the eldership, and how to inspire men to want to be elders. I wish you could see just how interested they are, and the way that they are taking notes. It’s wonderful.

In the late afternoon, before heading to Chinchina, we spent a little while at Jaime’s home and visited with each other. Then, it was off for the evening service. Chinchina is about 20 km S of Manizales, and the congregation there numbers around 30. Brothers Jason Schofield and Carl McMurray led the service last night. Jason spoke on the need to respect God’s word, and Mac spoke more on the aspects of the eldership. The brethren are just so thankful for our being here and they show it so many ways. I wish you could see the smiles on their face and the genuine appreciation in the way they communicate.

After we finished the service, we drove back to Manizales, where we all had dinner together before retiring to our hotel.

As always, my heart just goes out to my brethren here. Some of them live in incredible poverty and have no idea where their next meal will come from. In Chinchina and Neira, some of them have never left their small town and a trip just 20 km away would be a major thing. But, they are so happy. So humble. And, so loving.

Today, we’re back at the Manizales church at 9.30 to continue day 2. Jason & I will be teaching today, with Mac helping on a panel session we’ll be conducting toward the end of this morning’s study period.

Thanks again for your prayers and for giving us the opportunity to be here.

Tuesday Morning Update: Manizales

We are just starting day 2 on the ground here in Manizales. Most of our time thus far has been spent getting here. Our travel has been very smooth and comfortable. We got in to Manizales around 11.30 yesterday morning and were met by Jaime and Carlos Julio. After getting settled in the hotel, we had a few hours for lunch and to walk around a little. 

Late in the afternoon we were invited to Jaime’s home were a number of preachers have gathered for the week. Some have traveled as much as a day and a half to get here. Some of them are, Rafael Amaya from Ibague, David & Henri Jerez from Bogota, Wilson Valbuena from Villavicencio, Carlos Julio from Cali, and others.

We traveled to Niera for a service. This 20 km drive takes around an hour to cover. Mauricio Zapata serves as the minister for this congregation. Before things began, we were invited into their home for snacks, etc. It was great to spend time with this family & enjoy the hospitality of their home.
The meeting place was packed with guests and local church members. Mac & I spoke on the need to be progressing toward spiritual maturity, congregational unity around Christ, and the need for elders. It’s hard to describe just how warm and friendly everyone is and how appreciative they are in our being here.
The girls are doing great. Excited to have Natalia Restrepo with them helping in translation.
We’re excited for this day to begin. We appreciate your prayers and support while we’re away.

The Proliferation of Profanity

This morning as I took part in my fifteen-minute walk to and from a class I’m taking at a local university, I was in earshot of several male and female students dropping f-bombs. These words weren’t spoken out of anyone’s anger or heightened frustration. It was just a part of normal conversation between young people. No thought was given to the usage of the word. There was no shame whatsoever. And, there was absolutely no regard for those who heard them speak. Lest I sound too aged here, in the circles I ran with, in my day we would have never thought of speaking in such a way. Times have certainly changed. Continue reading “The Proliferation of Profanity”

Go the Second Mile

“And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles,” (Matthew 5:41, ESV).

Are you familiar with the background of this statement? This, of course, is in the middle of one of the sections of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5.38-42 Jesus challenges His followers to be initiators of peace. Contained here are a few core principles of Christianity: Continue reading “Go the Second Mile”

Young Preachers and the Pursuit of Higher Education

I read someone’s recent Facebook post regarding young men being talked out of preaching at a young age so they can pursue a secular education as a “backup plan.” They claimed that 90% of potential young preachers interested in pursuing the profession before college, change their mind upon graduation. One case was cited where parents insisted their 17-18 year old son go to school instead of preaching. Now this person has left the church all together. Well, that’s tragic. And, I certainly hope that this young man returns to the Lord. But, I believe this case is an exception rather than the norm.

Continue reading “Young Preachers and the Pursuit of Higher Education”