Introducing Santiago Benavides

Graduate FocusIntroducing Santiago Benavides!

I am excited to introduce you to Santiago Benavides, a graduate of the BSC who is having a great impact for the gospel in Latin America (see my interview with Santiago here).

Santiago was born on November 8, 1977 in the city of Bogota, Colombia, though he grew up in the town of Limón in central Venezuela.

An important moment in Santiago’s journey of faith came at age 15 when he attended his first church service for his father’s baptism.  One particular testimony of a man released from alcohol touched him deeply.  As he stated, “once I came to church that day, I never left.”

Santiago always felt called to minister through music. He attended the Biblical Seminary of Colombia because he wanted to be biblically well grounded before he began to compose his songs.

He recounted that one of the seminary’s greatest gifts to him was the way it balanced academic rigor with passion for ministry.

Santiago is a singer, songwriter, producer and not the least a pastor who has toured extensively throughout Latin America, with a few stops as far away as Kuala Lumpur, Budapest and London to share the gospel with music.

He mixes Colombian folk with an acoustic flair and penetrating lyrics to present the gospel in an honest, biblical, down-to-earth and humorous way that really touches people where the are.

You can check out my interview with Santiago below.  His music is available through ITunes and on his own site: http://santiagobenavides.com/

Life Goes On (Even in Transition)

Life Goes On (Even in Transition)…

Though we are now back in Boston, my (Gustavo’s) work at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC) continues anew. Among other things…

1) I am starting a new semester teaching a virtual course on Hermeneutics and an intensive course called Overview of the New Testament.

I am excited to test a new webinar software (WebinarJam), which is typically utilized by Internet marketers, but makes a great resource for virtual professors to connect with their students through live trainings.

2) I am also helping on translating portions of a Greek language software which the BSC will utilize in their residential, virtual or Masters programs.

3) I am continuing on my doctoral thesis (the world-class libraries await) – I recently completed research on the use of the shepherd image in the Intertestamental literature (I wish that on no one! :)).

I am excited to begin this new stage of ministry to Colombia.

Same Ministry, Different City…

Introduction

It was 1999 when I took my first seminary course. Church History I with Dr. Garth Rosell.

I was only 34 (yikes!), married with one child. Our son Emilio had been born the year before and Rochelle was pregnant with our second child, Caroline. I was also living in Boston and working as a manager of a technical support division for a niche software company.

Little did I know where that first class would take me and our family. Since then, we’ve had the adventure of living in Costa Rica, Paraguay and Colombia. I’ve also had the privilege of starting a PhD program.

Ministry Overseas

Teaching in Lima, Peru

Teaching in Lima, Peru

As a professor, I’ve taught rural pastors in Paraguay and prepared undergraduate students for ministry in Colombia. As a guest lecturer for Gordon Conwell’s Hispanic Ministries division, I’ve taught national leaders from every Spanish-speaking country from Mexico to Argentina.

In Paraguay, I was blessed to serve as a pastor for a small rural church, something I repeated for a church on our seminary campus here in Medellín. To this day, these remain highlights of my missionary career.

Teaching is My Passion

 I began with this rather long introduction as a way of saying that teaching and mentoring leaders is my contribution to the kingdom. I’m not a great evangelist and I’m a so-so pastor (although my parishioners loved me because I always kept my sermons to 20 minutes! J)

But teaching? That’s my life. That’s my vocation. It is what I do to help the church fulfill its mission to this world.

Bible Institute

Bible Institute

Recently, I ran into one of my former students Argemiro Diaz. He wasn’t the most academically prepared student when he came to the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC). But you talk about grabbing a bull by the horns. He was tops in his class by the time he graduated.

Argemiro is now a director of a Bible Institute in his hometown. He is now preparing leaders for his churches and his region. How awesome is that?

Ministry in Boston

In a week or so, our family will be returning to Boston. But my work as a professor at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia will continue. My full-time responsibilities from Boston will include:

  1. Teaching virtual courses for the BSC
  2. Teaching for Gordon Conwell’s Hispanic Ministries Division
  3. Visiting Medellín twice per year to teach intensive residential courses
  4. Supervising student theses for graduating seniors
  5. Translating an online software to teach Biblical Greek
  6. Developing courses for our upcoming Masters program
  7. Fastracking my PhD thesis now that I have access to libraries

Returning to Boston will not be the end of my cross-cultural or teaching career at the BSC. Furthermore, I will maintain my status as a full-time missionary with the United World Mission.

For these reasons, I am asking that you continue to support this work with your generous donations to UWM. There is much left to do. The job of preparing leaders, pastors and missionaries for the global church will continue, even from Boston.

As I stated earlier: same ministry, different city.

Road to a Masters Program

Introduction

It is hard to believe that in a few short months, the Biblical Seminary of Colombia will be in a position to offer one of the few evangelical, accredited masters programs in theology on the Latin American continent.

After years and years of dreaming, we are now in the final stages of having our program approved by the Ministry of Education of Colombia.  And what a program it promises to be.

Program highlights

We will begin by offering a Masters of Biblical Exegesis (with a hope of expanding into other emphases) in partnership with Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles.  The combination of Fuller’s world-class professors and significant on-line Bible and theology resources significantly increases the value of our program for our prospective students.

The program is mostly virtual by design in order to allow anyone on the Spanish-speaking continent to study without leaving their home.  In addition, there will be a core set of two-week intensive courses that will be taught in Medellín.  This is wonderful news for Gustavo as he can be an integral part of the masters faculty even from a distance.

Road to a PhD

The program has been specifically designed for anyone wishing to pursue advanced theological studies in an evangelical context.  Also, because the program’s focus is on languages and advanced exegesis, it is ideally suited to prepare students for eventual PhD studies (the next stage of our dreams here at the BSC).

Latin America desperately needs its own theologians, scholars, writers, professors and leaders who can provide direction and resources for the church and who can engage the broader culture with the gospel in a constructive and prophetic way.  The masters program is another step in preparing this new generation of leaders.

We ask for your prayers as we make our way through the arduous accreditation process.

Thanksgiving, petitions and dreams

Every Monday morning on campus, in a small corner room at the end of a long, dimly lit hallway, several professors and members of the administration come together for a time of prayer.

In the meeting, one person takes to the grease board to record our “praise reports” as well as “petitions.” On one side, we chronicle answered prayers, the seminary’s success stories and items for which the proper response is thanksgiving to God. On the other side we record our prayer requests.  These are petitions to God for the seminary’s needs and future projects.

I must say that seeing the weekly snapshot of the seminary’s successes, needs and strategic aspirations is quite inspiring.  Thus, I thought I would share aspects of that snapshot with you in order that you might also be inspired to give thanks or say a prayer on our behalf.

We give thanks to the Lord for…

  • Students returning from winter break and time with their families
  • The arrival of two new professors to our staff along with their families
  • The approval of SBC’s university accreditation for 7 more years
  • The Secretary of Education’s renewal of SBC’s extension program
  • For the record number of students to our newly launched (fully accredited) virtual program

 Join us in praying for the following items…

  • Healing and care for a professor whose cancer has returned
  • Our 70th anniversary celebration as a theological institute
  • Two grant proposals to fix a major humidity problem in the library
  • A joint masters program that is being developed between SBC and Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California
  • Additional scholarships for our students
  • For one of our students’ whose baby was born premature

Great Expectations

At the beginning of my Acts class this semester, I asked my students in 400 words or less to tell me what expectations they had for this course.  Here are some of their answers:

“I want to more fully understand what Acts describes as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”      – Eduardo

“I want to know why the things that occur so frequently in Acts (i.e. the works of the Spirit) I don’t see in my church today.” – Jonathan

“I want to learn how to accurately apply the Book of Acts to my modern church context.”     – Johan

I received about 45 expectations in all many related to having a deeper foundation for the subjects the book treats:

  1. The Christian church’s origins
  2. Baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues
  3. The planting of churches
  4. The apostolic preaching to different audiences
  5. The use of Old Testament citations by the New Testament authors

Many of the expectations had to do with how one could properly interpret and apply the Book of Acts to a modern church context.

  1. Which events in Acts were repeatable and which were not?
  2. What criteria should we use to make that determination?
  3. Should our modern churches try to return to the ideals or the practices of the “primitive church”?

Finally I should mention that a large set of expectations had to do with a deep desire to know more about the work of the Holy Spirit.  For some this meant being able to distinguish between genuine and questionable manifestations of the Spirit.  This topic was all the more relevant given the tremendous number of neo-Pentecostal churches that had taken root in Colombia in the past decades.

For others, as in the first set of quotes, they truly wanted to know why the dynamism and power so frequently encountered in the pages of Acts were largely missing from their corporate and personal church contexts.

My students expectations have given me much to reflect upon as I’ve prepared my lessons.  Because many of them are training to serve in full-time church ministry, a course on Acts (which is mainly about “the church”) must balance academic inquiry with the practical considerations that the students will surely bring to the text.   I’ll surely have to be on my toes for this one.  Thank goodness for great expectations!

Gustavo M. Karakey

Virtually Apocaliptic

The apocalypse is coming!  Well, it’s virtually coming, anyway.

This week I have the privilege of beginning to teach the Book of Revelation in a virtual class.  This poses at least two challenges for me.

One, it’s the Book of Revelation, OK?!!!  It’s not exactly your average Old Testament story, simple parable by Jesus or one of Paul’s situational epistles which I have the pleasure of unraveling.

Two, I will be teaching my second virtual class which has its own challenges of keeping students engaged and on target, designing homework and virtual tasks that fit the teaching platform and otherwise trying to overcome the “distance” created by not physically being in the same space with my students.

In terms of virtual classes, the Biblical Seminary of Colombia is currently developing on-line courses for their entire theology curriculum.   In a few short years, any Spanish speaker in Latin America or the world will be able to take advantage of this premier theological educational institution and its programs without having to relocate to Medellin.

This is huge for the future of our institution and for the future of theological education in Latin America.

GK preach at chapel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don Sendek praying with Gustavo prior to Gustavo preaching the sermon at the college’s weekly chapel services.

By Gustavo Karakey

Celebrating a year of missions in Colombia

Introduction

A little over a six weeks ago, we celebrated our one year anniversary of serving at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC). Our time here has been very special and every day brings a new sense of how privileged we are to minister in such a setting.

As we reflect back on the year, we wanted to share some of what makes the BSC such a special place of ministry:

 #1 – Theological Education +  

All seminaries dream of extending their teaching beyond the classroom. At the BSC, it is part of our educational identity.

Our campus is geographically small, intimate and relationally driven. A majority of our students, staff and professors live on the grounds. The result is a rich and rewarding mix of life, ministry, academics and practical theology.

# 2 – For Such a Time As This…

The BSC has built a reputation as one of the premier theological institutions in Latin America.  In a short time, all of their curriculum will be available online for the Spanish speaking world thereby extending its reach far beyond Colombia.

At a time when leadership development in Latin America is so critically needed, the BSC continues to seed the church with mature graduates. It is a great blessing to play an important role in such a strategic endeavor.

#3 – Rich Community 

Prior to our arrival in Colombia, we often wondered what it would be like to live, work and play within a small geographical region.  Well there is no more need to wonder.  It is pure magic!

The community here on campus is so precious, generous, caring and embracing.  I daresay it feels a lot like the description in Acts 2 and the Jerusalem church.  The daily interactions with people at work, at home, on the campus, at informal and formal events, is one of the highlights of being a part of the BSC.

#4 – We are a family

Raising a family on the mission field is an extraordinary blessing especially within a seminary context.

Our kids are vital parts and contributors to the community here.  And it is wonderful to see them absorbing the language and culture.

Being here has also given our family a strong sense of purpose, shared vision, adventure and growth in the Lord.  Indeed, our children are now old enough to begin appropriating and reflecting on these elements for their own lives.

Finally, we love spending time together as a family, and we are grateful that our work arrangement makes that possible.  We try to make sightseeing trips, movie nights and game nights a regular staple of our family life.  (The only negative part is that it’s not fun getting beat by a 10 year old!)

Teaching the Book of Acts

Introduction

The Book of Acts has always held a special fascination for me.

Apart from being the only book of its kind in the New Testament (a theological history of the expansion of the early Christian church), its narratives are as powerful as they are colorful.

Who can forget the giving of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the mass conversions and the first church sharing all of their possessions, Ananias and Safira’s dreadful fate, Simon the magician, Paul’s dramatic conversion, Cornelius and the tense (nay historic) debates of the Jerusalem Council, Paul in Athens and before Festus, King Agrippa and his Jewish countrymen in Rome?

This is the stuff of heroes and courage and sacrifice and the relentless movement of a transformative message from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

Idealism or Forgotten Identity?

But beyond the dramatic, the Book of Acts is also fascinating for what it stirs up within us as we live in our modern day church context.  Many individual Christians as well as churches yearn for the type of transformed lives and dynamic church experiences exemplified in the Book of Acts.

…A church where no one was in need, where tongues of fire brought ecstatic utterances and divine power for ministry, where all were of one heart and mind, where neither Jew nor Gentile mattered but rather Christ resurrected, where people felt worthy of being persecuted for Christ’s name, where all demonic forces were subject to Christ’s authority and the lame were healed on command, a church where the Holy Spirit reigned supreme and whose effect was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Teaching the Book of Acts

This term I have been privileged to teach the Book of Acts and along with my students have had the thrill of reassessing the message of Acts for our time.  At the same time we have all felt that pull of idealism and inspiration toward a more dynamic church experience.

This is not to imply that there is a shortage of “the Spirit” in Colombian churches.  Goodness no, the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are growing like gangbusters here with many exhibiting signs, wonders and ecstatic utterances not unlike in Acts.

It is in the other areas where the challenges and the “idealism” of Acts is most pressing: its call for a greater social justice, for a real unity within the church and with other churches in the city, its focus on missions and on breaking down racial, cultural, religious and ethnic barriers.

Finally, the need for a mature theology of the Spirit is great, whether in the baptism or the filling of the Spirit, in the nature of tongues and on the repeatability of these events.  It is in these areas where we have had the most discussion and disagreement.

Conclusion

Acts is a beautiful part of the New Testament giving us some of the most dramatic narratives in the Bible and laying out a picture of the triumph of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.

At the same times it calls us to re-examine our lives and church practices and to yearn for more unity, more mission, more power indeed more of the Holy Spirit working in and through us to accomplish God’s purposes for this world.

Gustavo’s First Semester of Teaching

Introduction

Gustavo’s first semester of teaching is two weeks from wrapping up and it has been equal parts joy and challenge.

Gustavo began teaching a Leadership Formation class on February 1st, which runs for a full 16 weeks.  1/2 way through he added Paul’s Letters to his schedule, which essentially squeezes 16 weeks of course-work and lectures into the final 8 weeks of the semester.  Both classes had to be developed from scratch; thus he is feeling the full weight of being a college professor more than ever.

Just today, he traveled with his 13 students just outside of Medellin, to participate in a retreat for his Leadership Formation course.  The students were asked to reflect on their past to see how God has worked in their lives to this point and to dream big for God in terms of where he is leading them in the future. (P.S. He used our new van to transport 7 students.  Thank you everyone for the gift of transportation!)

A clash of leadership styles

The Leadership Formation class has been very challenging, exciting and fulfilling for Gustavo as he and his students have tried to unpack a biblical theology of leadership.

While it is not possible to state “this is the Bible’s definitive leadership model” there are many principles of leadership that are important:  Jesus’ models of service and shepherding; the importance of character as a foundation of good leadership;  the church as a body with many functioning members; relational integrity; and the notion of a plurality of leaders (especially noteworthy in the New Testament).

Many of these core principles of leadership are a direct challenge to the typical leadership models seen in a Latin American context.  This is difficult to state without sounding imperialistic, overly generalized or critical of vast swaths of the Christianity we have dedicated our lives to serve.

Yet it is the sad truth (as affirmed in Operation World’s most recent publication, in countless interviews with leaders in Latin America, missiology journals and our own cross-cultural experience) that the one-pastor rule is the predominant leadership form in many churches of Latin America.

All spiritual authority is vested in one person (usually thought to be granted by God himself and with the approval of the church’s members).

As you can imagine, the study of a biblical theology of leadership has also had a profound impact our student’s conceptions of leadership, most of whom have been raised with the aforementioned authoritative models.

Teaching at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia

No matter the challenges (whether cultural or theological) we consider it such a great joy and privilege to be serving at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia and for Gustavo to be teaching here.

We live on campus in a beautiful setting and city, Gustavo has daily interactions with students and committed colleagues,  we get to enjoy the language and culture (well, Gustavo enjoys the language, the rest of the Karakeys would like to take a break from the language for a while), all the while serving the Lord in a strategic place and ministry.

It is far more than we could have ever imagined.  And we thank you for partnering with us.

All of God’s blessings to you,

The Karakeys