Half of our 2011 Annual Conference Mission Offering went to support the education and development of church planters in Venezuela. In this excerpt from a letter, Dr. Warren Lathem, President of Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela, shares the story of one of the seminary’s students.
Dear Friend and Supporter of the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela,
At the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela we have a lot for which to be thankful.
One of the most recent can be seen in the photo. You can see the welcoming banner for the newest United Methodist Church of the UMC of Venezuela. Pastor Elinor Salazar, a student in the Seminario Weselyano de Venezuela and a friend for many years, has established this new work.
In Venezuela, like most of Latin America, pastors plant churches wherever they discover a need. They usually do this without any outside financial support and often with little or no denominational support. They understand the necessity of planting new congregations if they are to ever reach their generation for Christ.
Not only do most founding pastors have little or no financial support or denominational support, most have little or no training in Church Planting, Pastoral Leadership, Biblical Interpretation or Theology. They have a Bible and a passion to reach others who do not know Jesus, and often some very ineffective models of ministry, and sometimes even heretical theology.
Pastora Elinor, however, has many more resources than most. While there is no financial support, she does have denominational support from fellow United Methodist pastors and congregations in the eastern part of Venezuela and the support of the Conference and Bishop. She also is a student in the Seminary which makes an excellent theological education affordable and accessible to her, even though her commute to the Seminary is over 20 hours by bus.
Pastora Elinor is one of the shining examples of the impact the Seminary is having on the Kingdom in Venezuela. Local staff and faculty as well as missionaries and some of the finest professors from all across the Western Hemisphere combine to make this a unique and decidedly effective school. More and more Venezuelan leadership is emerging in both the UMC de Venezuela and the Seminary. Our goal is to eventually have the Seminary operation fully in the hands of Venezuelans.