27 March 2020
God is still on the throne,
Almighty God is He!
And He cares for His own
Through all eternity.1
“El Salvador declares a national
in-home quarantine for 30 days.”
We were able to leave El Salvador and Honduras just in time, before the borders closed!2
Thank God that not all the news is “coronavirus news.” The King of the Kingdom is still in control and carrying out His purposes! I bring back good news of blessing from my recent missions trip. I got home from Honduras not a moment too soon — praise God for His sovereign timing! Less than a week after my return home, the infamous coronavirus started closing borders, first El Salvador and then Honduras. Another mercy: Although I left on the trip with a head cold, I came back healthy, and have continued so.
“Shelter in place”? “Shrinking economy”? “Social distancing”? God used this trip to grow Kingdom connections, provide valuable one-on-one time with leaders, and to open more venues for teaching. On the next visit to Honduras, it looks like there will be six venues in which to teach, up from three on this trip just ended. You can call it double the work, if you like; I rather see it as something of a double-portion blessing. The return was doubled on your investment in prayer and giving. And another cause for praise — because of what you and the Lord did regarding this trip, illiterate pastors and their people are now in a literacy program. Here’s an overview of what happened on this trip.
Revisiting the “Elephant Eaters”
Teaching in Yoro3
In Tegucigalpa, a pastor receives
a much-needed laptop.
This presentation was done after the meeting, without fanfare.4
For the third time, I was privileged to teach in both Yoro (at the church of superintendent Javier Cruz) and in the capital city, Tegucigalpa (the church of Pastor Ángel Álvarez). Of the “elephant eaters” in those churches (that is, those who had previously made the commitment to read through the Bible annually), over 50% are still actively engaged in that discipline, with reports of great blessing and personal growth as a result.
There were key regional pastors in attendance and some really sharp young people. In both of these locations, we finished part three in our “What’s the Context?” series (which is also the last session in our two-part series “Woman in the Kingdom of God”). That subject — God’s role for women in the church — is revolutionary in the “epicenter of machismo.” And pursuing this as a Bible-wide topic reinforced for the pastors and leaders the importance of studying the entire Bible as the context of what they teach. The training we bring provides an eye-opening “show and tell” of why a Bible-wide perspective is indispensable.
Another blessing — due to the gift of a “pre-owned,” but viable, laptop, I was able to leave a computer with a pastor who had need of one — a great cause of rejoicing for him.
Initial “Treatment” for “Analfabetísmo”
Pastor Aguinaldo Centeno (center), pastor of the Trojes church, knew firsthand the challenges of illiteracy when he started preaching 17 years ago. That's Bro. Orlando on his left.
Sister Yesica (to my right) is a public school teacher, and the daughter of Sister Eladia (to my left), who is illiterate. Eladia and her husband (who cannot read either) also raised a son who is a lawyer. After the first night's presentation, Eladia was eager to start the program and stirred up to exhort the congregation to move forward, so…
…the second night she spoke eloquently about the need and the opportunity that was being offered. I think she was the first one to sign up!
Nubia, Keren, and Marcia were the three young women who volunteered to be the facilitators for the new literacy classes. They underwent training the second weekend in March.5
Analfabetísmo. Sounds like a strange disease. In a way, maybe it is; that’s the Spanish word for illiteracy. Long background story short: Although this was my first trip to Trojes (a treacherous six-hour drive from the capital), I had encountered 7 or 8 pastors from that area on my first visit to Honduras in 2017. I quickly realized, “These dear men can barely write their own names!” How little impact — and perhaps how frustrating — my message would be to men who could barely read. What's the sense in teaching leaders how to interpret and “rightly divide” the Bible if they can’t even read it?
That’s been a burden for three years. This year, in anticipation of my Trojes visit, I had been praying about how to address this issue. Another long story short: The Lord sovereignly helped me to finally make the right contacts in the last few days before my trip, allowing Pastor Ángel and me to meet with a Honduran-based literacy ministry during my teaching days in Téguz. Because of this God-arranged encounter, when we arrived in Trojes we had a workable plan to present.
But the scope of the project had grown. This wasn’t literacy just for these pastors. It was a nearly free education option for adults in their churches and communities as well. It’s also a strategic means of Gospel outreach in the surrounding neighborhoods. Practically speaking, the program packs an elementary-school education, grades 1-6, into a three-year program. I had a Christian public-school teacher in Trojes look over the spectrum of course materials, and she was very impressed with how well-presented and appropriate the curriculum proved to be. The literacy ministry (Alfasic de Honduras) works closely with the Honduran department of education.
By the time Pastor Ángel and I left Trojes on Leap Day, the local pastor had “signed on,” he had three volunteer facilitators who enrolled to learn how to teach the courses, and there were at least a dozen adults already signed up for the program, including several pastors. This entire endeavor was amazingly orchestrated by the sovereign hand of God! He turned a burden He had given me into a wonderful reality in an incredibly short span of time!
Here’s a delicious irony: My teaching in Trojes, which hit home, was from an intro to our “Hearing God” series. Hearing God and following the Spirit’s leading are things even the illiterate can do (just like the early church). But more to the point — hearing God was exemplified as the Lord helped us to live out that message each step of the way in setting up this literacy ministry!
about the literacy ministry.
Double Your Pleasure, Fun… and Workload
and Pastor Alfredo Guzmán of Iglesia El Legado
Pastor, church-planter, and trainer
Gustavo Valladares of Oropoli, Honduras
during his visit to Trojes
With Pastor Alfredo Barahona
in San Lorenzo, Honduras
So, three teaching venues: Yoro, Téguz, and Trojes. Where does this doubling come in? Well, word gets around, I guess; and more importantly, God opens doors. Consider:
- On Sunday 2/23, as Pastor Javier was driving me to Téguz, we stopped off at the new building of a burgeoning church in the city of Siguatepeque. Out of that came an invitation to teach next year. That makes four venues.
- Then, while in Trojes, I met a dear man of God named Pastor Gustavo, a brother greatly gifted in and burdened for the training of pastors. After two hours of fellowship on my first night in Trojes (2/26), Gustavo expressed his strong desire for me to come to his church and teach the leaders he is training. Coming from this church-planting servant, the invitation is a great honor. And that makes five venues.
- While driving back from San Salvador, El Salvador (a side-trip report that will have to wait until the next newsletter, I guess), we made a side trip to San Lorenzo on the Honduran coast. There I met Pastor Alfredo, who is part of a 40-pastor coalition in the town. He spoke of their great hunger to have teachers come for leadership training, and of his desire to have me come. That’s six Honduran venues waiting for our next visit.
And six is twice as much as three. Twice as much work? Yes, if all these venues align just right on the next visit. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s a “double portion” blessing. It’s a privilege to be able to help these pastors who have such passionate hearts to bring people into God’s Kingdom, but who have no way to obtain instruction in deeper Bible comprehension and study to help them in their pastoring.
Keep On Keeping On
The story of our trip to San Salvador,
El Salvador (March 2-4) in order to visit Superintendent/Pastor Francisco Olivo (center) has yet to be told. For now, suffice it to say that it represents another invitation and open door to teach and encourage the leaders
in his five churches.
Seeing double: Pastor Francisco Zeledón from Ocotál, Nicaragua (my translator in Trojes) sharing with another “double portion” blessing!
Everything I’ve just reported has come about because of your faithful support in praying and giving. We thank you for your partnership! What now? Well, we “keep on.” It’s already time to start preparing for the next trip! The studies, the materials produced, the prayer, the preparation for each teaching mission require time, labor, intensive, thoughtful Bible study, intercession, writing (not only for teaching, but also our websites, and our publication ministry), translation, and communication. While we don’t have travel expenses during such periods, there are always the ongoing operating and living expenses.
Often people aren’t aware that these “behind the scenes” activities and preparations are vital parts of our missions/teaching ministry, equally deserving of prayer and prayerful financial support. Successful trips don’t “just happen.” They require months of unseen groundwork. We ask that you continue to partner with us to make the upcoming trips (Guatemala, El Salvador, Iowa, Perú, and Florida) even more Kingdom-fruitful by faithful prayer and regular financial support of our ministry. (You can use the donation links below.) Your gifts are humbly received with much thanks to you and to the Lord.
Thanks again for your part in helping make this trip a success, and please join us in preparing for the next trip. Let’s work together “to keep on keeping on”!
Much love in Jesus,
Tax-Deductible Donations Gratefully Received
- The opening poetic lines come from Wendell Loveless’ chorus I Have Christ in My Heart. ↩
- Quarantine graphic from LaPrensaGrafica via Facebook. ↩
- Photo by Javier Cruz. ↩
- Photo by Ángel Álvarez ↩
- Animated GIF by Jim Kerwin. All other photos not otherwise attributed are by Jim or someone using his smartphone camera. ↩