The Instituto Teológico Latinoamericano (ITL), or Latin American Theological Institute, began classes on April 13, 2009, under the direction of Hawatthia Jones and Byron Benitez, missionaries in Guatemala City, Guatemala for eleven years. After serving as missionaries in this Central American capital city for many years, brethren Jones and Benitez saw the need for a school to teach faithful men to preach the Gospel, and began working with Bear Valley to make this dream a reality. The first class of students graduated April, 2011.
The Asuncion Bible Academy began classes on March 11, 2013. It is a work of the Avenida Sacramento Iglesia de Cristo in Paraguay, South America, which is dedicated to training faithful brethren how to preach, teach, and become better servants in the Lord's kingdom. The school opened as a result of the brethren in Paraguay having recognized a real need for biblical training in their own native language and cultural setting in order to be better equipped to carry the Gospel to their fellow countrymen. With this in mind, the church in Paraguay begin working with Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver in March 2012 in order to develop and open an extension school that would help train brethren how to plant and develop more congregations in Paraguay.
The school is currently under the direction of Troy Spradlin, missionary to Paraguay since February 2010 and graduate of Southwest School of Bible Studies in Austin, Texas.
Eliezer Perez, who graduated from ITL in Guatemala in 2013, is now serving as a teacher in the Asuncion Bible Academy (as his article states). In addition, he began a mission congregation in Paraguay. However, before that, students from Guatemala were helping the church in Paraguay to establish a beachhead for the Lord.
This is an example of how God can use caring, committed Christians from different nations who are involved in training faithful preachers and missionaries. The church is one body of the saved under the headship of Jesus whether meeting in Guatemala or Paraguay or any other country in between. American congregations can learn from our brethren “south of the border.”
May all of us who are disciples of the Lord, whether in North or South America, Asia, Europe, Africa or beyond, join our hearts and minds, time and talent, money and muscle to speak of the Lord to those who have not heard or do not understand! This is actually what the Bear Valley Bible Institute is committed to. Join us in this mission of mercy!
SERVING GOD IN PARAGUAY
My name is Eleizer Perez. Gonzalez, born October 7, 1988, in the province of Colon, Panama. My father has been a Christian forty years. I became a Christian February 25, 2005 at age sixteen. I attended the Rio Rita congregation in Colon. The congregation had no preacher all the time. Men in the congregation taught the church. After I began to study, I had the ability to help others with the preaching, evangelism, and basic teaching. All this was of vital importance in order to begin my studies in the Bible Institute.
In 2010, I traveled to Guatemala to visit with Darvin Alvarez, who had spoken to me about the Theological Institute of Latin America (ITL). I met Hawatthia Jones and Byron Benitez who founded ITL. I was accepted as a student and began studying in 2011. My studies required much effort and sacrifice, but I graduated from ITL in March, 2013. The Institute greatly helped me understand the Bible. During that time, I worked with congregations in other cultures.
June 12, 2013 was the beginning of a new stage in my ministry. I now serve as a missionary of the church in Paraguay. I had learned of the church in Paraguay while attending the Bible Institute. Several students and I from ITL were involved in evangelism there in 2012. After graduation, member of the Sacramento Avenue congregation in Asuncion asked me to work with them for two years with the goal of planting a new congregation in the country. At that time, only two assemblies of churches of Christ were meeting in the country of Paraguay.
A new church was planted in Newby July 7, 2013. A group of Christians who traveled to the city of Asuncion to worship desired to begin a congregation near where they lived. The church first met in the house of Vicente Martinez with his family. The new church began to grow with the help of capable, generous brethren from the Sacramento Avenue in Asuncion. Soon, we began to build on that foundation by preparing men for local leadership. Raul, William, and Vicente were involved in preaching and Bible study. Growth was not only among the men but Patricia, Zully, and Natalia Osorio began teaching the ladies.
Between August and September we also rented a building where members could meet. The brethren then made the decision to move the congregation to another more central zone. Those who lived in different areas now had greater access to the place of worship. During this time, I also participated in evangelism in the zones of Pilar and Encarnacion.
During my ministry in Asuncion, I was also privileged to teach in the Bible Academy of Asuncion, which was started by the Sacramento Avenue congregation in 2013. The Academy is a two-year course of Bible studies, affiliated with the Bear Valley Bible Institute, to train faithful men and women to better serve God and teach His word. I teach the Prison Epistles (Philippians, Colossians and Ephesians), the Epistles of John, the Minor Prophets, Genesis and the Gospel of Mark.
The people of Paraguay have a strong interest in religion. Catholicism, with its deep roots in society, is ingrained in the culture. Many of our brethren who have been baptized into Christ and His body, the church, face rejection from their families for having left Catholicism. Yet, we thank God for those who are willing to study God’s Word for themselves and examine their faith. In spite of the difficulty of working in a culture affected by war and past dictators, God continues to give the growth as we sow the seed of His kingdom and water it, sometime even with our tears.
My Personal goals are: 1) To make the local brethren capable of supporting the congregation; (2) To establish firm leadership, which can teach others; (3) To strengthen families and the youth of the congregation.; (4) To establish a program of help to people with benevolence, teaching.
A TEAM EFFORT
My wife, Sarah, has always been equally involved in teaching the gospel to others. In fact, she attended the first World Mission Workshop in West Monroe, La. in the spring of 1964 before we were married.
Throughout most of the year, Sarah is studying to teach the Ladies Bible Class at the Bridgewood Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX where we attend. In recent years she has been writing a resource book for teachers entitled “The Drama of Redemption, Walking with Jesus from Creation to Canaan.” She is now writing a second resource book entitled “The Drama of Redemption, Walking with Jesus in the Prophets.” It should be completed by the beginning of 2016. Each of these grows out of more than forty years of study, contains promises and pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament, and is designed to aid teachers of children. However, many teachers are also using it in Ladies’ Bible classes as well.
Additionally, in the words of a pioneer preacher, Joe Blue of Arkansas, “she is taking care of the stuff.” When I began this mission work with Bear Valley, she was working full time with Tarrant County College to provide a financial base to make this effort possible. In her spare time, she took care of the home or “the stuff.”
For the last ten plus years, Sarah has also accompanied me during the summer to locations where the Bear Valley Bible Institute has schools of preaching. We have been together in the “Safari for Souls” at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in Arusha, Tanzania for a half dozen years. Along with others, Sarah has walked the streets of Arusha and taught women and children about the Savior that many knew little or nothing about. During this time, Sarah also taught Ladies’ Seminars.
We have also been on mission trips together to Peru, Cambodia, Paraguay, Tanzania, Canada and Ukraine. In fact, every time I have taught in Ukraine is during the summer months when she has been with me. While I am busy teaching the students in the Schools of Preaching, she is working just as hard, often spending as much time teaching wives of the students or other Christian women.
During the last two years, Paraguay has become an adopted country where we both enjoy teaching the gospel. Sarah has taught as many as 25-30 ladies on numerous occasions. I recognize that I might be exiled if I traveled there without her.
The Scripture describes the worth of many worthy women servants and teachers. Some are named such as Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe (Acts 9:36; 16:14; Rom. 16:1). Other prominent women are described as “chief” or “leading” women (Acts 17:4). Husband and wife are mentioned together, most notably Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:19; Acts 18:2; 1 Co. 16:19).
I am thankful to be a part of this team-effort—a teammate in study, evangelism, rearing our children, and taking care of the home. I know I am speaking not just for myself, but for other men privileged to teach the gospel in a full-time way, and for every Christian husband who is fortunate enough to have a faithful Christian wife. May God give us more faithful “soul-mates.”