September 2017 Update

Introduction

I am a huge fan of short-term missions…

And this summer I had the privilege of leading two separate groups: 1) Colonial Church in Edina, MN and 2) my home church, Park Street in Boston.

As I describe aspects of the trip, I’ll try to share some of the reasons for why I’m such a cheerleader of short-term team experiences.

A Tale of Two Trips

First I should mention that the two trips were pretty distinct in terms of flavor and purpose.

The first trip was comprised of eleven (11) 9th graders, five (5) staff members and four (4) parents from Colonial Church in Edina, MN.  If the church sounds familiar it’s because Daniel Harrell is now their Senior Pastor after serving as a pastor of Park Street Church for 20 years.

Daniel co-lead the team along with his wife Dawn (another former long-time Park Streeter).

The occasion for the trip was the completion of a 9th grade confirmation class for the students who came.  Instead of traveling to Minneapolis for their final service encounter, the group travelled to Medellin.

The purpose of the trip was twofold: 1) to have an immersive cross-cultural experience and 2) to experience the different facets of what God was doing through the church in Medellín. Thus, from the outset, we were not planning a traditional short-term team trip where we built a house, served an orphanage or otherwise had an intense service experience.

Short-Term Is About Who Goes as Well

And this brings me to the first reason why I love these outings.  I believe short-term team experiences are as much about the people that go as about the people the team serves.

Too often, we look at these outings in terms of ROI.

Why don’t we just send cash.  It would be a wiser use of money.  But this is the wrong approach.  I believe investing $2,000 in our children and parents in order for them to have a formative experience together is an incredible investment in the kingdom.

The ROI cannot always be measured. The payoff may be decades from now.

What Exactly Is God Doing in Medellín?

One of the beauties of the type of trip I organized for Colonial was how the team was able to experience a variety of ministries and to learn from their exposure to the students and staff of the Biblical Seminary of Colombia where I teach.

  1. We visited and served with Fresh Wind Ministries, a home for at-risk children, that feeds and educates over 300 kids every day in one of the worst drug, occult and prostitution infected sections of the city.
  2. We went to serve bread and water with the City of Refuge foundation. Our kids and parents huddled and prayed with people in a sea of humanity filled with drugs, desolation and darkness.  We almost didn’t get out of the bus because it was that frightening.
  3. We went to a catholic mass, a holy roller Saturday celebration and a homeless church service and all three were different faces of the church.
  4. We learned about the armed conflict that has wracked Colombia from the former ambassador from Colombia and who is now a professor of New Testament at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia.
  5. We visited seminary students’ homes, had refreshments and heard their testimonies of how God had brought them to the seminary. Some of the stories could be a movie in themselves.

And this is the second reason I love short-term missions experiences.

You quickly realize that God’s wonderful love is there with the people who are hurting the most.  And you cannot help but be inspired in your own faith when you see the passion and commitment that people have as they serve in God’s name.

To fight for people in a place that’s teeming with drugs, prostitution and the occult and see God victorious.  Wow!  That is something else.

Park Street Comes to Medellín

When I lead a team from Park Street Church, we had a more traditional but no less inspiring experience.

Our team was 53 people strong!  Yowza.  One part comprised our youth group making its fourth trip to Medellin in the last 6 years.  The other was comprised of families and their children.

And this is a third reason why I like it when the church sends out its own for these trips.

It’s one thing to take a vacation with your kids.  It’s quite another to teach an ESL course in another country and culture.  It is an experience you will never forget, and one upon which families can build upon with their children.

Do You Speak English? 

Our teams taught an intensive ESL camp to 380 students of a local public school.  This public school sits right behind the Biblical Seminary of Colombia campus, so there is a great opportunity for social and ministerial interaction throughout the year.

We ran two programs.  Our youth group taught 9th, 10th and 11th graders and our families taught 3rd and 4th graders.

Working with 380 students is a bit of an adrenaline rush.  Teaching them every day opens up so many dynamic avenues for growth and ministry:

  1. It is an intensely growing experience to teach ESL in a foreign context
  2. Teaching the same kids every day allows many opportunities for sharing and being challenged
  3. Serving the same group of people for a week fills your heart with so much love for them and for the wider world

And those are reasons 4, 5 and 6 for why I’m a fan of short-term trips, especially when you mix in ESL.

There are many more, but we’ll stop there.

I had a wonderful summer in Medellín.  There is much joy in being able to participate in others’ unforgettable experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Know The 7 Rules?

Introduction

I am pleased to announce my new Udemy course entitled: 7 Rules of Bible Interpretation EVERY Christian Should Know!

Think of it as Ninja Bible Study techniques (come to think of it, that’s what I should have called the class. Bummer!)

Who Is It For?

 If you’ve ever wanted…

  1. To go much deeper in your personal Bible study
  2. To contribute more in your small group studies
  3. To better prepare as you lead Bible studies

…then this is the course for you.

Grab Your Discount

 Head on over to the course page for more details. For a limited time, 80% off the regular price:

Use the following link: http://bit.ly/7RULES-NEWSLETTER

All proceeds help to fund the ministry of theological education in Latin America.

Virtual, Moving, Anticipation

Going Virtual

Gustavo is teaching a virtual course this semester (the Book of Acts).  Since the virtual program’s inception last year, student enrollment has nearly doubled at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia (BSC).  While teaching virtually has its challenges, the on-line platform is extremely flexible allowing Gustavo to engage with his students through articles, forums, chats and video lectures.  Indeed, he is able to deliver the same quality content that residential students receive but with the added bonus of being within a Web 2.0 environment.

In a remarkable tale of the program’s reach, last year one of our residential students (Joel) met and married another student of Colombian / Swedish decent.  They both moved back to Sweden and Joel had to drop out of the undergraduate theology program.  Well, imagine my surprise to find out that Joel returned to his studies through our virtual program.  It has been a real pleasure to reconnect with Joel, to study the Book of Acts together and to read about how he is contextualizing its lessons within his own European church context.

Going Virtual 2.0

Upon our return to Boston, Gustavo will continue as a professor at the BSC teaching in the seminary’s three virtual programs, supervising student theses (via Skype) and making periodic trips to Medellín to teach intensive and extension courses.  While Gustavo will miss the day-to-day interaction with students, the administration and other professors, there will be no shortage of opportunities to contribute to the seminary’s growth and quality of programs as well as the development of pastors, leaders and missionaries for the Latin American church.

Moving On Up (and Out)

Our plans for a Boston relocation are proceeding smoothly.  We have already pre-sold most of our belongings (only the car, the piano and some china are left).  We will be arriving on June 8th, 2015 with a ton of suitcases where we will need to purchase furniture, a car and setup our home.

Anticipation…

In the madness of returning to Boston, there are still two big outstanding family issues:

1) On March 10th, we will be officially notified about our children’s school acceptances.  Our girls are hoping to attend Boston Trinity Academy in Hyde Park while Emilio is hoping to attend one of the many excellent boarding schools in the New England area.  Please pray that the admission officers show favor on our children and on our family.

2) Please pray for Rochelle as she starts thinking about reentering the job market and as she explores possibilities.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding our move and Gustavo’s continued full-time commitment to the Biblical Seminary of Colombia via United World Mission.

To start contributing towards our work in Colombia, please visit our partnership page.

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