Dear Family and Friends,
We pray that you are well. We have been quite busy and have been eager to get out another report, only it has taken us a little longer than we had hoped. This report is dedicated to Instituto Teológico Latinoamericano (ITL). We hope to send out reports still on news about the work at Linda Vista, the new works in Coban, San Cristobal and Las Pacayas, and sundry other items.
THEY’RE OURS for the Lord’s work. As most of you are already aware, both the facility where the school is located and the house in which we live belong to ITL. We no longer have to pay rent (oh how sweet it is to say this phrase). God blessed us with people like you to be able to raise the additional funds needed to purchase both properties.
At our 2013 ITL Graduation and Lectureship we had the privilege of publicly announcing the purchase of the property. Most of you had already received this great news and we appreciate your helping to keep it a secret until it was announced here in Guatemala at ITL’s President’s Banquet, which opened the events for the lectureship and graduation. Even though we expected it, we did not hear anyone say, “I already heard that from...” Thank you again for helping to keep the information unknown until the proper time.
As a reminder, the total for both properties was $150,000. We already had $80,000 we previously raised to purchase property for ITL. This meant that we needed $70,000. Because of God’s favor and with His use of our friends and supporters, we were able to raise $83,650. The additional funds helped greatly with the paperwork and some immediate updates to the houses that were needed.
This transaction demanded a few trips to the bank to make the necessary transfers of funds from our stateside accounts to our Guatemala account. It was a good feeling to know that all the funds were there and soon the properties would solely belong to ITL. We felt important as the pen was placed into our hands to sign these very valuable documents. Byron had the privilege of signing for one property, while Hi had the privilege of signing for the other. We have already started the paperwork to establish ITL as a legal and separate entity, under which all the properties will be placed, as well as ITL’s van and any other holdings it has. We are currently in the waiting period, which the lawyer says can take two to three months. Oh, patience! We will eagerly send out a message once this is a reality, but we ask you to pray diligently so that this process does not take longer or cost more than necessary.
This past April allowed us the honor of beginning another school year with a new class, the Gamma
Class. For those who may not be aware, we only work with one class at a time. Allow us some space to explain our reasons.
We did this initially because we felt that the current system of training a large number of men and more than one class at a time, though effective in getting more men in the field and in the ministry, has been self-defeating in Latin America. One reason for this is that often the screening process is not as stringent since the goal is to fill the classes and to keep them filled with high numbers. Because of this more tolerant screening process, some who enroll in other schools are those who really do not know what else to do, or some are those that want to receive support from the U.S., or some come for other inferior reasons. The result is that the Lord’s money is often used to support men and women who really should not be supported in such an important work and for such a sacred commission.
Another reason that training large numbers is sometimes self-defeating is that with larger numbers it is more difficult to give better individual attention to those students who are good candidates, but who need more patience and a mentoring environment to develop their full potential. As a result, these students are not helped as much with their strengths and weaknesses in a larger class because the teachers have other students that require their time. There is more to be said about this whole system, but we hope that you can now better appreciate our reasons for choosing this method of training Christians for ministry.
Having explained that, we would like to introduce you to our new class. This year we began with five students, lost one, then lost another, but gained one. Did you do the math? Yes. We have four students now. The first one that we lost was the only student we had from Guatemala. He had to return home because of attention his mother was demanding of him. The second we lost regrettably did not submit to ITL’s rules, so he had to be dismissed. In addition to our four full-time students, we also have one more student, Benjamin Montejo. Benjamin actually came to us during our first class in 2009 from East Tennessee School of Evangelism and Missions, where he completed 1 1⁄2 years of training. He took several courses and marched with the class, but because of some health issues still had a few courses pending. He is now about to complete what he had lacking. Now, allow us to present the current students that make up our Gamma Class. They are all single students and all of them are from another country in Central America. We will tell you about them alphabetically.
First, we have Javier Alfaro from Grecia, Costa Rica. Javier is a 19-year-old student who has been a Christian for 6 years. He was raised in a Christian home and started preaching in the last year. He stated that he wants to serve the church full-time one day in the best way possible and that is the reason he chose to come to ITL. He believes it to be the best Bible institute in Latin America. In a humble way, we also believe this! His goal is to graduate from ITL and then, if God wills, also to get his Master’s degree and specialize in missions. We are glad to have Javier with us. We would say that of all the students, Javier would be the comedian among them. This has brought quite a bit of humor to the group, but it has also given us the job of teaching Javier when it is time to joke and when it is not, if you know what we mean.
Second, we have Cristhian (pronounced Christian) Cardenas, who is also from Grecia, Costa Rica, where Javier is a member. He is 20 years old and has been a Christian for 6 years. He was born in Nicaragua, but his family moved to Costa Rica when he was very young, so he is a legal resident there. He believes that there is an urgent need for the church to grow in Costa Rica, where he states there are few churches and few workers prepared for the task. His immediate goal it to graduate from ITL, but then hopes to return to Costa Rica to help establish churches where there are none. He also hopes to help his parents spiritually and materially. We are thankful to have Cristhian with us. The characteristic that we can share about him that we have learned is that he has a very tender and sensitive heart. He is really affected when his conscious bothers him and sooner or later he confesses what is bothering him. We hope to God that he will always maintain this sensitive conscience that is a necessary trait for any servant of God.
Third, we have Daniel Izaguirre, a 20-year-old young man from Paraiso, Honduras. Daniel came to ITL one quarter later than the rest of the students, so he received his uniform a quarter later. Our students have to complete one quarter at ITL before they are given the privilege of wearing the uniform. Daniel has the desire to learn as much as he can while at ITL. He says he wants to work in the ministry full- time to teach the Gospel to lost souls, to establish churches, and to defend the truth from error. He also likes to be involved in helping children and people. We would say that Daniel is the student that is known for having a very serious disposition about him. When you joke with him, at times, you have to remind him you are joking.
Fourth, there is 21-year-old Elmer Torres. Elmer comes from Quetzaltepeque, El Salvador, who has been a Christian five years. He is a member where Alexander Castellanos serves as the evangelist. Alexander and his wife, Silvia, have spoken several times at our annual lectureship. They are excited about seeing Elmer prepare himself and return to work with them upon graduation. Elmer states that he wants to learn to handle accurately God’s Word so that He can be an instrument in God’s hand to spread the Gospel to the world. His immediate goal is to graduate in theology to serve God, but he also hopes eventually to study psychology and to become a chef. Of all the students, Elmer is the one that probably misses his family the most. He said that it has been difficult for him to be away from his family and not have the usual communication that he was used to having. We hope that his value on the family will continue to grow with him as he grows in his knowledge and preparation in the Gospel.
As you can see, all of our students are from other countries in Central America. As we said earlier, we had one Guatemalan student, but he dropped out after the first week because of obligations in his home. We believe other students from Guatemala would choose ITL but, sadly, Satan has taken advantage of unspiritual and carnal men to cause the work in Guatemala much harm. Therefore many Guatemalans are reluctant to commit to attend ITL because of this. There are those who continue to slander our work and to make efforts to isolate us from the rest of the brotherhood. They have been so effective that some people believe us to be “isolationists, divisive, and hobby-riders” (among other things) and do not even know us, but have only “heard” about us.
It is a sad reality that the attacks, misrepresentation and maligning that have taken place (and continue to take place) by these brothers and sisters have caused some in Guatemala now to choose to have little to do with us. Some have believed the slander and false reports about us. Others are simply good friends with these brothers and choose to further propagate the lies or not to investigate the accusations. In addition, there are those brethren here who are just intimidated by their methods and afraid of any confrontation with them. Regardless, many have chosen to disassociate themselves with ITL. This has resulted in having difficulty with finding students from Guatemala. However, God is good, and we know that He will vindicate the righteous at His time and in His way. Slowly, we are beginning to see more and more Guatemalans see the truth and seek to involve themselves more with our work of training men and women for the ministry. Well, we do not want to dwell on this unpleasant situation, but we also do not want to pretend that all is well when it is not, as these brethren would have many believe, especially sound brethren in the U.S. that support their work.
On a more positive note, we are grateful to the many brothers and sisters who are behind our work and who bless us abundantly with their prayers, encouraging words and financial support. Among these faithful supporters, there is another group of brothers and sisters that has gotten involved in a special way by adopting our Bible students in a full- time program in our ministry called HTM (Help Train Messengers).
The HTM ministry was started several years ago and was designed to allow individual Christians or churches to become more personally involved with our students by “adopting” them as their students for $50 per month or more. This allows them to be involved more directly with the training of men and women for ministry and also creates a special relationship between the sponsors and their students. The students send periodic correspondence and thank-you notes to the sponsors, along with their grades. This allows the sponsors to get to know the students and helps to develop a special connection between them. Some of the sponsors even write their students. And, since the sponsors receive a small biography with pertinent information about the students, this gives them the opportunity to send their students special gifts for their birthday or for other special occasions. So, as you can see, the program is very personal and has blessed us with being able to accomplish our task of training men and women for the ministry in a more personal way.
If you would like to be a part of the HTM program, we are always eager to get more people involved. Simply send a note to us at our e-mail address (the most efficient and quickest method), firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know of your desire. Or, if you do not use e-mail, you can send a note to our overseeing congregation to let us know of your wish to participate in this program (though we do ask you for patience with this method because our physical mail gets sent to us once or twice a month). The address for this second method is:
Kingsley Terrace Church of Christ
Attn: HTM Ministry/Dwaine Himes
2031 E. 30th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46218
We have just completed another quarter in the Saturday program of ITL. For those who may not be aware, this program is designed for those who are presently serving faithfully in their local congregations. Most of them have secular jobs and for various reasons cannot study in the full-time program. Some of them are preachers while others of them are Bible-class teachers, etc. However, all of them have a strong desire to enhance their Bible knowledge and serve God to their fullest. This is why they dedicate every Saturday for 3 years to studying God’s word and other related subjects.
Our Saturday students have a lot of the same classes as the full-time students. However, even though this program cannot be as intense as the full time, it is a difficult one. One of the students once said, “Although it not exactly like the full-time classes, it’s no Sunday school class nor is it a picnic.” That student describes pretty accurately what the Saturday program is. We try to make the classes an enjoyable challenge.
Presently, we have 9 students studying with us on Saturday. Since most of the students work secular jobs, which includes working on Saturday, the class time is 2:30 – 6:00 p.m. Each quarter lasts from 11 to 13 weeks and we are scheduled to teach every other quarter because we only have 4 local instructors at the present. Lord willing, we plan very soon to involve ITL graduates in teaching in this program. And, after teaching in the Saturday program we hope to see our graduates also teach in the full-time program. This idea has already been presented to some of the graduates. They are excited about the opportunity while at the same very nervous about the responsibility it will give them. Please keep these goals in your prayers. This will be a great step towards seeing the local brethren take more responsibility and ownership of ITL.
Well, we will bring this update to a close. We are thankful to all of you for your prayers and for your support. We ask that you continue to pray for the work here in Guatemala. We are excited about the future and the many opportunities God is providing for us.
Serving the Master,
“The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
To see ITL’s report with pictures of all the students, please click here.