A Time For Firsts...

7 Full-Time Graduates In Cap and GownIt was a time of firsts. The past few days was a series of firsts for me and the work of ITL in Guatemala.

It was my first visit to the work in Guatemala. A volcanic eruption and a tropical storm hindered my plans to visit the work in Guatemala last year. Maybe it was providential and perhaps God was working to make my first trip exceptional. 

3 Saturday Students to GraduateMy plans for 2011 have been to visit all of the schools I have yet to see in the program. If all of my visits are like this one, it will be incredible. The word awesome is not strong enough to describe the greatness of these past few days. The Christians of Guatemala and the hospitality demonstrated makes me thankful to be a part of God’s marvelous family.

It was the first assembling of several world visitors. Many traveled to share in this wonderful moment. Friends of the work traveled from Germany, Panama, Peru, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and several States throughout the U.S. Joy filled every moment as the students recognized the desire of so many brothers and sisters in Christ who came to share in this event.

Presidential Banquet NightIt was the first Presidential Banquet. The events of the graduation and lectureship were started with a lovely Presidential banquet. The evening included by giving honor to whom honor is due, as friends, supporters and participants were honored for their support of the work. Denton Landon, who has been involved in ITL since its beginning, was the guest speaker of the evening. After a wonderful meal, the evening concluding with a slide show of the past two years in ITL and the taking of many new pictures of the graduates in their caps and gowns.

It was the first lectureship I attended at ITL. The Theological Institute of Latin America hosted their second annual lectureship. It was my first, and I pray it will not be my last. The focus was on What Does The Bible Say... The lessons presented were sound and powerful, dealing with what the Bible teaches about various subjects. It was an experience I will never forget and one I hope to repeat in the future. There was a large attendance, the singing was incredible and these brethren came to hear the word of God proclaimed, and it was. To say I am thankful for the opportunity to share in this event does not adequately describe how I feel.

It was the first graduation of ITL. Sunday, April 3, 2011, the students of ITL were honored for the hard work they have demonstrated. Having completed their studies, these students received their diplomas and certificates. They will now enter into full-time work in the Lord’s church in Guatemala. 

It was the first time for students to walk across the stage and receive a diploma. It was the first speech given by a valedictorian. It was the first presentation by staff and students of ITL. It was the first charge given by Stephen Warren, an elder of the Kingsley Terrace congregation, to students entering the Lord’s vineyard to serve. To say emotions ran high would be an understatement. 

Approximately 400 people came together to watch these 7 full-time students and 3 from the Saturday program receive their diplomas and certificates as they graduated from ITL.  

Byron and HawatthiaIt was the first class for two special men. Hawatthia Jones and Byron Benitez have been working in Guatemala for the past 11 years. Their efforts have faced many challenges and while many others would have allowed the discouragement to cause them to leave the race, not these men. They have been diligent, steadfast, and faithful to their purpose and the first fruits of their labor were seen on this day. 

Byron, Anibal, Darvin, Hawatthia (ITL Staff)Their work is far more involved than just the Theological Institute. However, for two years now, these two men have been instrumental in establishing ITL for the purpose of training of men to preach the gospel in Guatemala City. They have been accompanied by two other instructors, Anibal Ramirez and Darvin Alvarez, as well as a host of short course instructors. The result of their work is nothing short of special. The news gets better as you will see in the next paragraph!

It was the first day in the Christian walk of a new sister. Tears ran down the cheeks of nearly everyone as Edras Tista baptized his mother into Christ after graduation. She said, “I gave my son to the church of Christ when he was 16 and today I am giving my life to the same church.” In the words of Edras, “this gift is better than any gift I have received today.” I cannot think of a better way to conclude the events of such a powerful event than witnessing the birth of a new sister in Christ.

It is the first day for students to enter full-time ministry. As exciting as graduation was for these students, I know they awoke this morning to a realization of their first day as full-time servants in the kingdom. Please join me in praying for each of these workers as they serve our God in Guatemala.

My perspective of the Extension Program always takes on a new meaning when I have opportunity to visit the work first hand. This trip was no exception. While it was the first in several areas, I will never forget this trip. The graduates exemplified a Christ-like spirit, and they are ready to begin serving in the work. The Lord’s kingdom will expand in Guatemala because of their efforts. I look forward to reporting about their progress in the months and years ahead.

With the future in mind, ITL is set to begin the second class the first of May. Because of funding, as well as, housing and classroom limitations, ITL is only able to accept a maximum of 10 students. 

Bear Valley is thankful to be working with such an able administration and staff as ITL. We look forward to continuing to develop a relationship unified in reaching the lost of Guatemala through training men to preach the gospel.

For more information about ITL, it’s work, and the Kingsley Terrace congregation who oversees the work, please visit /guatemala/.

Coordinator Updates

Reports from the coordinators are now located on the website, under Staff Reports. The address is /extension-schools/

Donnie Bates’ report from Guatemala gives the first details of his trip to Guatemala for the lectureship and graduation. 

Extension Reports

Reaching Out To The Youth In Nepal: Efforts are being made on the part of the Nepal Center For Biblical Studies to reach the youth in Kathmandu.

Life In The BVBIU...Ukraine: The work of the staff and students in Gorlovka, Ukraine extends into various cities of this country.

Prayers For Elections In Nigeria: The dangers in Nigeria continue to raise concerns on behalf of developing the cause of Christ.

Signs Of Wonderful Growth In Arusha: The development of leadership in the churches of Arusha, Tanzania demonstrate needed growth for the future work of the Lord.

A Rooster, Shaving Cream, And A Dog: What do all of these have in common and how are they connected to the Lord's work? Read Jimmy Gee's report to learn more.

Still Growing In Cambodia: The news from Siem Reap, Cambodia and the work of students in the International Bible Institute continue to show growth in the Lord's church. 

Final Thoughts

This week is no different than any other. The news continues to be exciting as the work of Extension Training grows. Week after week I am thrilled to share the news from the various locations where men are preparing themselves in the greatest work on earth.

These students and the staff of the Extension Program are all aware how this is possible only because of your generosity. Thank you for being involved in helping this work grow and succeed. It would be interesting one day to see just how many individuals have been involved at every level and the lives impacted as a result. I know it takes everyone, and I mean everyone, to make this work what it is today.

I give praise to our God for His tremendous love and grace. I give Him thanks for allowing me the privilege and opportunity of sharing in such a worthy cause. I cannot thank you enough for being the tool through which He works.

I pray for you daily. God bless

Posted on April 4, 2011 .