Dancing with the Navajo

There they were, the shivering and barefooted pastors of the Global Discipleship Network, dancing around the living room of the retreat center we were meeting at on the Navajo Reservation. They had come for a time of retreat, training and fellowship. They arrived into Albuquerque from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Orlando, FL, the Dominican Republic, and the state of Indiana and then drove with me for nearly 3 hours to the high desert of the beautiful Southwest. It was December and our land was sleeping, in the midst of its second winter storm. Several inches of snow were on the ground and the night time temperatures were hovering around ZERO degrees. I was blessed and honored to welcome them to the land of my tribe, my clans and my family: the Navajo reservation.

For the past 2 years these pastors had been exchanging visits with each other. Living in each other’s homes. Dwelling with each other’s families. Learning from each other’s ministries. Discipling each other in much the same way Jesus trained his 12 disciples. By being with them, 24 hours a day, as both friend and teacher. And now that they had a chance to begin building these types of relationships with each other, I was bringing them into my home to give them an even clearer example of the discipleship relationships I wanted them to experience.

We spent time catching up, sharing stories and getting reacquainted. It was wonderful to hear how in only 2 years their relationships and ministries had already begun to impact each other. I was especially struck by the story of Pastor Felix who is serving New Heart church in a bi-lingual (English/Spanish) community in Orlando, FL. While visiting and being disciple by Pastor Bernardino in the Dominican Republic he was struck by the work he was doing in both Spanish and Creole, including holding 2 distinct services, one in each language. Seeing the blessing those 2 services were to the Spanish and Creole speaking members of this congregation, Pastor Felix was motivated to begin holding 2 services at New Heart Church back in Orlando. They already had an English service and recently started a Spanish service. He reported that this second service has been a blessing to the entire church and allowed them to expand their outreach and ministry within their local community.

I led them in some Bible study of several of the passages that God had placed on my heart throughout the past decade of my work both on and from the Navajo Reservation. I introduced them to many of the relationships I have, the partners I work with, and the people I minister to. I brought them into some of the conversations that God has led me to participate in regarding reconciliation, contextualizing worship, training new leaders and preaching the Gospel. I, and my son, shared with them the painful history of our Navajo people both with the US Government and the Christian Church, the Doctrine of Discovery, the Long Walk, the broken treaties and the boarding schools.

We also shared with them our food, some of our language and a few of our traditions.

Which is how they came to be dancing on the living room floor of the retreat center. Most of these pastors came from tropical climates and a few of them had never seen or experienced snow before. So that morning I shared with them that one of our traditions. For a Navajo child’s first snow, traditionally they would be taken outside and rolled in the snow. This was not meant to be cruel, or even as a punishment, but rather to begin to toughen them up to some of the extreme hardships of life in the high southwest desert. And so that morning I had the pastors remove their shoes and socks, take off their jackets and run outside in the snow. They were probably out there for less than two minutes before they came running back in with cold toes and shivering bodies and in unison, without prompting, began jumping up and down and dancing on the living room floor. As I continued to introduce them to our people throughout the rest of their time there I told them this story, of the pastors first experience with snow. Our Navajo people often smiled and many of them even laughed. Tickled that these pastors had come not just to meet us and take our pictures. But to be with us and experience a taste of our lives.

And that is what is at the heart of the Global Discipleship Network. To bring pastors, from around the globe, together for a time of training, encouragement and discipleship. Understanding that no one pastor, language or culture is above the other. But we are all co-laborers in the church of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ahe’hee’ my brothers. You are always welcome in Dineteh, the land of our Navajo people. We are so glad you came.

Posted in Bernardino Wilson, Daniel Roels, Felix Fernandez, Henry Cruz, Mark Charles, Updates, William Quinonez | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dan’s Reflections on Visiting William

Global Discipleship Network Reflections

Daniel Roels visited William Quiñones, Guatemala City, August 2011, as part of a CICW / CRWM peer learning pastor exchange, and wrote the following in Sept 2011 in response to areas of reflection given by group coordinator Mark Charles:

  1. Bible Study

At the weekly célula meeting, one member was preparing lessons based on an American Christian book about family finances.  My first week’s lesson had a simple message: there is nothing wrong in asking God for prosperity.  As I sat through a few quotes of Bible verses and reflections about knowing how God provides for our every need and can also give abundantly, something in me began to rebel, and I’m sure it wasn’t dinner.

I come from a land where The Prayer of Jabez swept churches a few years ago and where Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel brings promising American glitz to every broadcast.  Everywhere I go there are ads for things to be bought and then replaced once obsolete.  In every city, urban churches are struggling because the middle classes took their resources to a bigger house in the suburbs.  Those of my neighbors who qualify as the American poor subsist on cable, welfare, and get-rich-quick dreams.  Meanwhile churches, whose Kingdom dream is mixed unquestioningly with the so-called American Dream, are doing mission on them and helping people out with money for food, rent, and utilities.  And we call all this “blessing.”  Something in me has long since been in full rebellion, and I’m sure it is the steady poisonous cultural diet of consumerism.

Yet sitting in a Guatemalan living room, in a house larger and nicer than my rented duplex back in Holland, I had to pause in my mutinous thoughts.  Poverty in Guatemala is different, right?  The neighborhood around this sturdy house was half cinder block and corrugated tin.  So why not ask God for prosperity if that means more than two bedrooms?  Surely, simply asking for a blessing is an act of faith in the One who blesses?  Is it not really a problem of stewardship of such great blessing that raises my hackles?  Has not my culture forgotten that blessing is not really for us, but for someone else through us?  Are material resources morally neutral in themselves?

The group of young couples begins to speak of blessings they seek, and all are buying land, building homes, or adding a porch.  The pastor lives in a three story block home, and the bottom two stories are given to the elementary school, with one room for guests like myself.  He, his wife, and two sons share a large bedroom.  Wouldn’t he love to build or add a porch?  Is he different because he is a pastor?  Something in me rebels.

Material resources are never morally neutral because there is always context.  There is no “in themselves.”  There is always culture, there are always needs, and there is always sin nipping at the heels of blessing, hindering the stewards who walk with God, lest they run toward their Savior with abandon.  And I return home to my sizable nest egg, represented by a number in my online stock brokerage account, and growing monthly with my middle class mindset of saving.  What is blessing and where is sin?  God grant me a stewardly and rebellious wisdom.

  1. Preaching

Pastor William and the pastor general switch every three months in the preaching schedule, though William admits he really doesn’t like to preach in such a formal Sunday service.  As it happened, the formal preaching I observed took place within context of a wake for a young man, whose family seemed at best loosely tied to the church.  Thus, William took the opportunity to preach an evangelistic message which reflected on his own loneliness as a fatherless child and pointed to the security and comfort found only in Christ.  The message was directly and obviously a proclamation of the gospel, even with acknowledgement that apart from Christ, comfort is hard to come by.

Were this to have happened in my American context, I imagine the various reactions of family members to such an evangelistic message: leaving the funeral service in a huff over being “proselytized” in their time of grief, remaining but feeling uncomfortable enough to let the pastor know that the deceased wouldn’t have been pleased, or assuring the pastor that such evangelism was exactly what the family needed to hear.  If I were preaching in the situation, I would find my hearers all over the board with regard to religion: some who consider themselves post-religious, others who prefer to be “spiritual” without making specific commitments, others who like the idea of Jesus but hate being “churched,” and still others reacting to all this with a more forward version of Christian faith.  I might spend a lot of time thinking about how to slip in some Jesus without offending, or how to get the gospel in by the back door.  Or, even in a culture in which medium may carry more meaning than the message itself, I might do well just to preach the Word, setting aside trepidations about how people will react, and be bold to preach the one hope of myself and of the world unapologetically.

  1. Prayer

William begins most of his prayers with “Papito lindo” (something like “Beautiful Daddy”), which was an address for God I had not heard before.  The words may be best translated as “Abba,” yet the “ito” as part of an address for God, as also in the “Diosito” of a Mexican family I know, made me uncomfortable.  Part of my discomfort stems from my inadequate understanding of that grammatical marker, since I learned “ito” as a diminutive form used for small things or yound children, but “ito” endings also make objects or people familiar and close.  Or perhaps my psyche and religious sense is accustomed to the distant above-it-all transcendence of a Most Holy God of Hosts spoken of in stentorian tones.  More fire on the mountain than let the little children come to me; more judge than daddy.  Yet this means that my discomfort was good because my experience of God was being stretched with a simple bending of the grammatical ending of one word.

  1. Worship

Upon my return to the States, I often remarked to my congregants that the youth worship service in Guatemala was more contextualized for my own culture than my usual service was.  Saturday nights rang with drums, electric guitars, and pumped up audio.  Video loops ran behind song lyrics in EasyWorship2009, video clips introduced the message, and a gigantic black banner across the front of the sanctuary read “X-Files,” as a way to present our many deep questions for God for which He sometimes has mysterious answers.  The pastor has a donated blackberry, via which he teases attenders with themes and invites on facebook, and he says, “Jesus used parables, so I use whatever I have within my reach to communicate the gospel.”  American high schoolers I know would be more likely to attend this service and enjoy it than most services in West Michigan.

This is not to say that the worship service I preach in is not contextual.  It is, but to an older generation which is more apt to learn by listening than by seeing, and wants to be fed on the famliar spiritual diet that has nourished it for decades.  Similarly, the Sunday congregation at the Guatemalan church is older, and more traditional, though that means they enjoy familiar hymns to Mariachi band once per month.  I pray that lovers of a certain style of worship become lovers of a variety of worship, so that God would be experienced in more of His uncontainability.

  1. Community Involvement/Outreach

William repeatedly said that most churches of his evangelical denomination pull in the direction of being separate from the society around them.  This has led to a diminished voice in government, where once the evangelical church in Guatemala could speak and change the course of legislators and laws.  In contrast, William and the Morán family (the senior pastor’s family) are heavily involved in the community through the colegio and the outreach center in downtown Santa Catarina Pinula, and are frequently getting the church and school and outreach center working together on social service projects.  That includes an anti-addiction community coalition he, a government worker, and a high-powered Roman Catholic lawyer are building as well as the colegio’s class-based social project to put on a party for the kids who attend the outreach center.  For William, all this is a matter of conviction and faith that God is involved in every facet of life and that evangelism is not merely a matter of the soul, but a misión integral.

How very reformed, even Kuyperian!  When I noted that engaging with culture and reaching people wholistically was part of the Calvinist and Kuyperian theological traditions, he saw that as a great asset and a surprise.  Even apart from theology, the theologians were invested: John Calvin made it his business to design a decent sewer system for Geneva, though I’m not sure if it was implemented.  I wonder if our churches make enough use of our heritage in this respect.  William could no doubt be encouraged by Kuyper and Calvin, but their work is unfortunately not much in Spanish.

  1. Leadership Development

The key area in which I observed this was during Nexo, the youth worship service.  After ten years of working with many of the same youth, William has trained various of them in roles supporting the worship service.  Some are techs and trained in EasyWorship, others are musicians, dramaturges, décor artists, or set-up / take-down crew.  In weekly planning meetings with worship leaders (who have their own teams they are responsible for) and on facebook, the service theme is discussed and ideas are exchanged.  This bears some superficial resemblance to the modern American environment, with its high degree of relationship building and use of social media.  However, in Guatemala, I think that there are more opportunities for long-term fruitful discipleship due to lower social mobility, strong collectivist values, and a longer time of being considered “youth.”  All of these factors result in less geographic mobility, which leaves more time for relationships to grow.  Yet, reflecting back on the U.S., there may be increasing opportunity as our culture grows in exactly those three areas under the effects of economic recession (fewer grads can afford to move away, or live at their parents’ home) and the growing need for deep relationships (studies indicate Americans have fewer close friends than decades ago).

7.       Relationships/Fellowship within the Church body

            (see reflection on #1 and #9)

8.       Sacraments

            (Not observed)

9.       Involvement of leaders own childern and family in their ministry

            Iglesia Nueva Jerusalén has a three-part ministry of church, school, and neighborhood drop-in center.  As William brought me around to each, I was constantly meeting more siblings, in-laws, and extended family – as it happened, the daughters of Pastor Morán (the senior pastor of the church) each have become deeply involved in the various ministries.  William is a son-in-law and the youth pastor.  Carlos, married to daughter Mimi, is the outreach center director.  Daughter Milú is a teacher, and daughter Caren, though she could land a well-paying job with her master’s of psychology, is the principal of the school.  Daughter Jahaira takes charge of much of the home hospitality, and was the one who received me and cooked for me on day one.

            I found myself asking how this could hold together.  In the U.S., children would either rebel against such deep and assumed commitments, seeing them as imposed, or would simply find their own paths in career and ministry.  Among the congregants, other leaders would chafe against the apparent domination of one family within the structure.  Over time, having such a pillar family running most of the church might lead to the closing of the church once that family burned out.  In my own church experience in West Michigan, the strength of family values has hindered and at times trumped family-of-God values, because dinners and homes and social life is family-based in the extreme, to the exclusion of those who are not family, even if such outsiders have no reliable family other than the church.  So, why can such a family-oriented structure work in Guatemala?  Upon reflection and a bit of research (particularly in Cultures and Organizations, by Geert Hofstede), there are two reasons such a dynamic can function healthfully and long-term.  First, Guatemala is a far more collectively-minded culture than the U.S.; in one cultural study, Guatemala ranked as the most collectivist whereas the U.S. ranked as the most individualist out of 76 countries studied.  In collectivist set-ups, one’s identity and purpose is found in the group, so sticking around and participating in the group project matches one’s own sense of what is desired and desirable.  Iglesia Nueva Jerusalén may depend on exactly these values.  Second, Guatemala has a cultural characteristic of “high power distance,” especially relative to the U.S., meaning that authority and inequality of decision-making power is accepted more readily.  If the pastor lays out the plan, people are more likely to follow it, and having one powerful family is seen as more okay.  Thus, a ministry rooted in family participation and strength is a model that functions well in Guatemala.

10.   Children’s / Teaching ministry

            I would guess that children’s ministry anywhere in the world requires fun.  In Guatemala, this means playing soccer and, currently, marbles.  Laugh.  Be not so distantly adult, but be a kind of friend, and then teach as an insider, yet also as an authority on Things That Matter.  Such relational ministry is an equal requirement in Guatemala and the U.S. for genuine discipleship.

            On the other hand, the type of content delivered in the teaching I observed was very different.  A common style of Biblical teaching I observed in classes at the school and young adult Sunday school was moral education: what is right and wrong?  How should one decide?  What are consequences?  Such questions would not attract most American high schoolers I know, who would rather speak about who they are and how they feel, emotion more than ethics.  I remain somewhat unsure about the positive reasons for the apparent effectiveness of this teaching focus on the Guatemalan side, but there are negative reasons in that in the U.S., the relative ineffectiveness of such teaching would be related to the growing narcissism (and subsequent entitlement) of younger generations and to postmodern moral relativism.  The first means a self-orientation that inhibits learning about a moral structure based in someone else (be it the other, or God as the ultimate Other), and the second means any moral structure doesn’t seem to fit the wishy-washy world American teens inhabit.

Expand one of the reflections above into a short essay (approx 1-2 pages)… Two more stories that address what I think the church in Guatemala can teach and what lessons I carry with me.

1)      A barbershop quartet: Psalm 92:4

William said he needed a haircut.  Maybe it was because his doppelganger, a candidate by the name of Baldizón, was running for the presidency.  Not that William wanted to differentiate himself from the dozens of “Baldizón ¡Partido Líder!” ads lining every street of Guatemala City, but more that he felt he needed to look good for the campaign.  After all, Baldizón might be his brother, the pictures were everywhere, and so in this city, he was inescapable.  Down the hill we went to the barber.

The barbershop: a fine high-backed chair, scattered hair-care products, the daily newspaper to read, mirrors bordered by family photos, and the real family members who passed through on the way to the store.  The barbershop was, in fact, part of the house, next to the garage.  Plastered on the walls were the ten commandments, other written Bible verses, and a testament to living alcohol-free through Jesus.  In this barbershop, He was inescapable.

William and the barber, who goes to the church, made small talk for bit, discussing the latest news and being sure to greet every family member within range, but after additional snips, settled down to the meat of the conversation.  “Do you remember Panalito?”  (They called him that since the young man once had an afro such that bees could have dwelt in that “honeycomb.”)  “Well, his mother has diabetes and had to go the hospital a couple nights ago… she’s doing fine now… we need to ask the Lord to do a work in her life.”  “I was just telling Daniel about the student who stayed with us years back – how he met his now wife, who also stayed with us before he did.  Look at how God blesses these things!”  And from there they launched into iterations of stories I’d heard three or four times already in under two weeks: how this person was brought back to grace, how another was healed, how Jesus had saved a life nearly lost to drugs.  In this barbershop, He was inescapable.

The haircut was done, but the retelling of the mighty works of Yahweh continued.  It might sound like the high-minded piety of people trying to impress a guest pastor, but it wasn’t.  It wasn’t religious or forced or dull with unpolished antique faith.  No, this was living and active, a conversation well-seasoned.  It was entirely natural to be talking about what God had done, maybe for the umpteenth time for them, in the freshly winsome tones of people who never cease to celebrate Jesus.  Driving back to the house, we saw more photos of Baldizón, and William looked more presidential than ever.  But in the city as in the barbershop, the images that mattered were of Him who is everywhere, and He was joyfully inescapable.

2)      Acompáñame

It was late.  It was late because tomorrow morning students would begin arriving by seven o’clock, some of them with snare drums, others with shrill bells, all ready for parade rehearsal.  And it was late because the neighbor would surely be cranking music well before seven o’clock.  And it was late because the urban roosters would begin sooner than that.  Thus, the sudden shuffle of activity surprised.  It was an emergency.

Willie’s mom had to get to the hospital immediately.  After days of fighting an illness, her diabetes was out of control.  “William, is there anything I can do to help?” “Acompáñame.”  So we went across the main street of Santa Catarina Pinula to a neighborhood ironically named La Joya, the jewel, to pick up Willie, a.k.a. Panalito, and his mom.  She staggered into the car, dragging close to her the clinging smell of illness.  The streets were clear.  We sped to Roosevelt Hospital and dropped her off at the gate outside emergency.

And then we waited.  The rules say that only one person can go into the secure area with a patient.  All others hang around outside trying not to be too cold and trying to reach the designated insider by cell phone.  There are a lot of us.  These days, the hospital unions are on strike, so nobody goes to the hospital until things get really serious, because at least emergency is still open.  After an hour, there is no answer to the phone and no news from the inside, but it is clear that we are staying until there is.  William tells me about growing up in the country during decades of varying degrees of civil war.  Once, while playing soccer with friends, he watched rebels attack a hospital in an attempt to rescue a leader.  These days the conflict is more about narco gangs versus everyone else, which is why after two hours, heavily armed federal police showed up to guard one of the ambulances.  After three hours, we went to sleep in the car.  Eventually, Willie came out and said his mom would be discharged, and we were back home by 2 a.m.

For all that time we stayed, I spent half of it wondering if we would ever get back to the house that night.  Willie might never answer his phone, let alone come out, until the next day.  The house, and proper beds, might have been only twenty minutes away.  But that’s not what “Acompáñame” meant.  It meant, “Hold vigil and watch with me.”  It meant, “Do this open-ended task together.”  It meant being incarnate representatives of God’s presence, but not the glorious shining-eyed Jesus kind so much as the stiff, bleary-eyed, inefficient-but-together kind.  It meant ministry.

Other questions that could be reflected on…

–          What did you learn about God? (see my #3)

–          What new perspectives do you have on your cultural context? (answered in many places in my reflections, but it could be a prompt for a more specific answer)

–          What mistaken expectations did you have about the context you visited?  For me, the Spanish accent of Guatemala gave me more trouble than I thought it would.  I can only compare the experience to something like learning English for the first time in Michigan and then going to Texas for two weeks.

So, esteemed colleagues in ministry, I hope these reflections are soul food for you and lend support to the idea that peer learning, international included, continues to be a good idea.  This is not a particularly professional write-up, but I’m not sure exactly what is asked, so some of my writing probably feels like an informal travel journal, or like hefty ideas needing more “unpacking.”  If anyone wants something different, just let me know.  If any of this material is going to be published or public in some way, as opposed to being a basic report to those who are involved or tracking this GDN project, I would like the chance to review and edit it.  I am also willing to prepare articles or reflections for a broader audience.  In any case, all this is written with deep gratitude to William Quiñones, Mark Charles, CRWM, CICW, and all the other players in this.  May the Lord use it all for His work.

Bendiciones en el Señor,

Daniel Roels

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Dan’s Reflections on Hosting William

A few reflections post Quiñones visit to Holland, MI, October 2011

After a first guest experience and then host experience as part of the GDN, some reflections about unexpected challenges in trying to understand how to host well.

First, the relationship of guest-host is something we think is heavily conditioned by culture, and this relationship is one we don’t know enough about.  May the guest help around the home?  What may the guest ask for in terms of food or services?  How should the guest express gratitude so that it is received well?  When is it appropriate for the guest to participate in the host family’s “family time”?  While I think I had some cues from my time as a guest in various homes of Central America, when William came, I realized I didn’t have a chosen reference point for how to host him.  Do I host him in the same way he hosted me or do I try for a more “American” experience?  And what expectations did we have of him as a guest?  How much were those expectations colored by being Americans or by my experience abroad?  How do the various aspects of the professional-personal-familial pastor-exchange relationship affect how the host and guest spend time together?  For example, in the Quiñones home, their family has but one large bedroom to themselves, and so thinking in terms of (American?) privacy and pastors and families needing a space for themselves, I rarely approached that room, let alone entered it.  I wonder if that affected how much time William spent in the upstairs of our duplex with our family, since he may have perceived our upstairs as our “family space,” as it is where we do everything.  In any case, we were humbled by how much we don’t know and our difficult-to-fulfill desire to be good hosts.

Second, even though this is a cultural exchange that tries to put pastors on equal footing, with each pastor being the teacher in their own context, there is a third cultural context that complicates matters greatly: the in-between cultural context.  This in-between culture is created when each guest and host tries to bend life a bit to accommodate the visitor and to operate in their role from a growing understanding of foreign cultures.  While I was in Guatemala as The Foreigner, I was certain that others were making allowances for me since so many Americans had visited William’s church and school before.  When William came to the States, I wanted to teach something about multi-ethnic ministry, and so that included some analysis of cultural factors that affect such ministry (like power distance, time orientation, uncertainty avoidance, and so on), and Guatemala was an obvious application.  In my own estimation, I have a fair amount of knowledge about other cultures and how to think about them, and so in a certain way, I feel I can teach in the in-between third culture space.  Yet, given our learning model, I felt conflicted about teaching about his context while in mine, even though such cross-cultural teaching is part of my context and ministry.  For both William and I, we were trying to meet and function somewhere between cultures, being aware of the other’s presence and needs and expectations.  It was much more complicated than I anticipated, and I am far less adept than I had hoped.  Thus, despite knowledge, I am grateful for being humbled again.

Onward the GDN!

–          Dan Roels, October 2011

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William’s Reflections on Visiting Dan

Nombre: William Quiñónez

Sitio de la Visita: Holland, MI

Estudio Bíblico

Me pude dar cuenta que el pastor Daniel utiliza mucho de su tiempo en el estudio de la Biblia, dando bastante importancia a la preparación del sermón que predica cada mingo. Una notable diferencia es que, en Guatemala debo distribuir mejor mí tiempo para la preparación de mis sermones. Como pastores compartimos el mismo interés por los devocionales diarios, la lectura de la Biblia y lectores de literatura que enriquece nuestro deseo de aprender más de Dios.

La Predicación

El pastor Daniel y yo compartimos la misma preocupación en cuanto  a la preparación  de la Palabra de Dios, somos celosos de dar un contenido bíblico Cristo céntrico y fiel a la Biblia. Pienso que aunque predicamos a dos culturas distintas, la necesidad de predicar la Palabra de Dios es la misma y la sed de las personas también

La oración

El pastor Daniel dedica un tiempo de oración en el templo antes de iniciar sus labores diarias. Aunque yo oro todas las mañanas y hago mi devocional también, pienso que es un buen ejemplo ir al templo a orar, antes de iniciar con el ministerio. Los dos estamos convencidos que la oración es una herramienta clave dentro del ministerio

El culto de alabanza

Realmente son muy diferentes nuestras reuniones de culto y alabanza. Nuestra iglesia en Guatemala es más contemporánea en ese sentido, aunque es una iglesia histórica, su alabanza es más dinámica y variada.

Compromiso con la comunidad / evangelismo

El pastor Daniel muestra interés por las personas que viven en su comunidad. Ha hecho acercamientos con ellos por medio de vistas a sus hogares y actividades dentro de la iglesia. A demás me impacto su profundo interés por la comunidad hispana, ya que en Holland, son muchos los hispanos residentes.

Discipulado de Líderes

Existen diferencias entre los dos ministerios. El pastor Daniel es pastor general de su iglesia, mientras que yo trabajo con los jóvenes de mi iglesia como pastor de jóvenes. En la iglesia yo trabajo en la formación de líderes juveniles, mientras que el pastor Dan está trabajando en formar un liderazgo sólido a nivel de iglesia.

Compañerismo / comunión – incluyendo las relaciones entre generaciones o culturas distintas.

Me pareció sorprendente ver que la mayoría de los miembros de la iglesia del pastor Daniel son personas de la tercera edad. El pastor Daniel está haciendo grandes esfuerzos por llevar más jóvenes a la iglesia y lograr que la iglesia pueda contar con una siguiente generación de creyentes


Como yo también provengo de una iglesia histórica, realmente no encontré mucha diferencia entre las dos iglesias. Sin embargo, mi iglesia en Guatemala está haciendo esfuerzos por no quedarse tan solo en lo tradicional. Creo que la iglesia del pastor Daniel debe hacer los mismos esfuerzos, tomando en cuenta que el evangelio es dinámico.

Compromiso de la familia y de los hijos del pastor con el ministerio

La esposa del pastor Daniel está comprometida con la iglesia y con el ministerio que él desarrolla en la iglesia. Su hija apenas tiene unos meses de nacida, así que aún no tiene la capacidad de decidir.

Ministerio de Jóvenes y de niños 

Los ministerios de jóvenes y niños están resurgiendo en la iglesia con la llegada del pastor Daniel. En realidad él está poniendo bastante énfasis en ésta área de la iglesia. Lo considero muy importante, ya que las iglesias que no trabajan con las nuevas generaciones, están condenadas.

En el contexto cultural del anfitrión, ¿Qué aprendiste sobre Dios?

Las dos culturas son totalmente distintas. En la cultura hispana dependemos mucho de la fe y la paciencia para contar con los recursos que necesitamos en el ministerio. En la cultura norte americana, los recursos no son problema, están a la disposición de todos. Sin embargo, esto les hace depender menos de Dios y confiar más en sus propias capacidades.

¿Cómo profundizaste tu entendimiento del Cuerpo de Cristo?  

Durante mi visita pude darme cuenta que no importa el lugar dónde estemos, las necesidades de Cristo son las mismas. Ya sea en Guatemala o en Estados Unidos, las personas tienen una profunda necesidad del Señor, Creo que el cuerpo de Cristo no es solamente una iglesia local o el grupo de iglesias de mi país. Es mucho más grande que eso. Es cada cristiano alrededor del mundo que ama la obra de Dios.

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Henry’s Reflections on Visiting Dan

Informe Narrativo de Visita a Hollad Michigan. Estados Unidos. Al Pastor Daniel Roels

19 de Marzo al 2 Abril 2012.

El día 19 comencé mi viaje saliendo de Nicaragua a las diez de la mañana y llegando a Hollad a las 2 de la Mañana hora de Hollad, aunque mi ultimo vuelo tuvo un retraso de cuatro horas al fin puede llegar a mi destino donde me estaba esperando el Pastor Daniel, muy preocupado por la tardanza de mi llegada, pero junto dimos gracias a Dios por haber concluido ese día pudiendo alcanzar los objetivos del día.

Mi experiencia con la Familia Roels.

Una familia muy hermosa, Daniel, Bett y Rachel. Fue una experiencia muy linda compartir estas dos semanas con ellos, creo que los tiempos de conversación, intercambios de experiencia ministerial, familiar, social, cultural y espiritual fueron muy ricos, siendo que mi visita me ubicaba como un Discípulo puedo asegurar que aprendí de ellos mirándoles en su forma de ser, de hacer, de decidir, de pensar, de actuar. Es interesante notar que aunque pertenecemos a culturas muy diferentes, tenemos los mismos intereses en común, intereses que nacen del conocimiento de Dios y su Reino en nuestras vidas.

Mi experiencia en la Congregación Melo Park.

Debo resaltar algunos puntos que considero importantes y que dicho de paso los he incorporado a la vida en la Iglesia donde estoy Pastoreando.

  • Espacios de dialogo.  Muy notablemente encontré que esta iglesia promueve espacios de dialogo, lo que facilita un acercamiento entre personas, un interés en temas comunes mismos que generan acciones o actividades para dar respuesta.
  • Método de exposición Bíblica. Las ayudas visuales, (date show)  la elaboración y facilitación de las porciones bíblicas  y bosquejos usados ayudan a gravar el conocimiento bíblico que se esta exponiendo. La enseñanza no importa en el idioma que se dé, definitivamente es auxiliada y fortalecida a través de Visuales.  (pinturas, fotos, parábolas, Instrumentos útiles varios. Etc.)
  • Koinonia. Relaciones interpersonales. Los espacios de compartir tiempo juntos son muy fabulosos, el compartir un refrigerio, café, panecillos, esto facilita el dialogo entre los miembros tuve la oportunidad de conversar con algunas familias y me impresiono la forma de vida de Fe de estas personas, que aunque están en un país desarrollado siguen siendo victimas de temores, complejos, ansiedades, discriminación y restricciones, en algunos casos producto del sistema de vida y en otros casos productos de sus propias cadenas las que han arrastrado desde sus países de orígenes. Oyéndolos a ellos aprendí que es necesario facilitar procesos de Vida basados en la Palabra de Dios, pero estos procesos deben ser tomados en cuenta desde el contexto personal de cada persona. La fe debe ser vista mas allá de la religión, la religión es un método la fe debe ser una Relación con Dios, relación que en primer lugar de fortalece, te da convicción, te da Esperanza, te hace salir de cualquier temor y te enseña dependencia de Dios. Me preguntaba, ¿Cuantas personas en el mundo necesitan ir más allá de la Religión? Necesitan Conversión.  No estoy criticando la Iglesia pero estoy compartiendo lo que aprendí viendo y oyendo.  Mi fe fue movida a ser mas activa, más intencionada, mas compartida, mas ejercitada. Aprendí oyendo ´´un poco´´ a ser mas constante y orar con mas intensidad rogando a Dios por la bendición de su Pueblo.

Cultura General.  Puedo mencionar algunas virtudes que pude mirar, mismas que me han inspirado a explotar dentro de mi contexto cultural.  Por ejemplo:

Cortesía. El hecho de agradecer un favor recibido, respetar las leyes vigentes, facilitar trabajos, compartir tiempo, brindar atención debida a los que me rodean, todo esto es producto de un Ejercicio de Cortesía y debo reconocer que el mismo produce un ambiente de gozo, y paz.

Puntualidad.  Aunque el contexto de vida es muy agitado, siempre se esta respetando las diferentes fechas, horarios y días señalados para las diferentes acciones.

Alimentos. Una persona se alimenta no para llenar el vientre sino para incorporar salud al cuerpo físico, los alimentos que se consumen son ´´intensionados´´ no se trata de comer por comer, sino de comer para ser saludable, fue esto lo que aprendí en el tema de ´´ Comidas diarias.´´ Por dos semanas estuve alejado de mi arte culinario diario, conociendo y practicando otras obsiones las que al final son muy saludables.

Expresión de Pensamientos. Dentro de esta cultura no hay temor para expresar los diferentes pensamientos habidos en el interior del individuo, la diversidad de ideas y expresiones pone en evidencia el grado de madurez de quienes la practican. Aunque no se comparta un punto de vista escuchado o visto, siempre hay cordura para respetar el mismo.

Misión y VisiónTuve la oportunidad de ser oyente de una conferencia que se realizo en las instalaciones de Trinnity Collage en Chicago y el tema de esta reunión fue ´´la Discriminación racial y la participación de la Iglesia en este particular.´´ Daniel estaba convocado para esta Conferencia y por supuesto yo le estuve acompañando.  Me alegra saber que existen ministerios que trabajen a favor de este sector poblacional el cual todavía se encuentra siendo objeto de exclusiones y discriminación. Esta conferencia me hizo ver un ´´pintura´´ más amplia de la sociedad en su conjunto y de cómo la Iglesia puede trabajar, intencionar, promover, inspirar cambios en este sentido. La necesidad de poder ver en los seres humanos a  la Imagen de Dios debe ser una realidad,  La imagen de Dios se hace necesaria en el mundo entero, la necesidad de cambiar nuestra Cosmovisión se vuelve una urgencia, esta conferencia me hizo pensar que debemos incidir en la historia y que aunque no podemos cambiar la historia, sí podemos construir un futuro, pero para eso se necesita Compasión, Llamado, Humildad, Obediencia, y por sobre toda las cosas Acción, Accionar en la Palabra de Dios.

Esta conferencia me causo un regocijo muy grande en poder conocer y compartir con más de veinticinco personas, siervos y siervas de Dios que están involucradas en la observancia, reflexión y acción de este tema. La Misión y Visión de la Iglesia esta siendo intencionada desde este particular. Esta experiencia aplicada a mi contexto social me hace pensar en los diferentes sectores marginados de mi Sociedad, y puedo decir que sin embargo reflexione en una forma o herramienta que puede ser usada en todos los contextos de las diferentes sociedades del Mundo Entero.

Finalmente puedo decir lo siguiente.

  1. Podemos aprender viendo, oyendo y compartiendo.
  2. Necesite despojarme para luego programarme-
  3. Creo que mi ministerio con esta experiencia tiene una Visión más Fuerte.
  4. He incorporado nuevos elementos en mi trabajo de Predicación.
  5. El discipulado se incrementa a medida que se estrechen relaciones interpersonales.
  6. El reto por desarrollar la Misión y Visión de la Iglesia es más Alto en mi vida.
  7. El haber hecho amistades fortalece mi Ministerio.
  8. El poder compartir en otra cultura, me hace saber que la cultura no es barrera.
  9. El lenguaje del amor es universal.

Agradezco a Dios por esta experiencia.

Rev. Henry Cruz Sandoval.

Pastor Iglesia Cuadrangular Monte Sion.

Managua .Nicaragua.

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Bernardino’s Reflections on Visiting Felix

Nombre:   Bernardino Wilson

El que le visitó:  Felix Fernandez

Fechas de la visita:  June 2012

Cual aspecto del ministerio te dio más gusto al enseñar?  Porqué? 

El ministerio infantil,el servicio de la iglesia hacia lacomunidad,ya que tenemos acercamiento con toda la comunidad  mostrando al cristo encarnado,identificandono con los problemas sociales, espirituales, educativos, emocionales en nuestra comunidad.el ministerio de servicio.

Cual aspecto del ministerio fue difícil enseñar?  Porqué?

El  ministerio  de los jovenes ya que dicho ministerio sube y baja ya que los estudiantes al terminar la educación media emigran  hacia la ciudad y tienen que dejar la comunidad.

Qué aprendiste de ti mismo o de tu propia cultura por medio de ser el anfitrión?

Aprendi de la humildad que presento el pastor felix durante estos días adaptándose a nuestra cultura,de que nosotros tenemos que ofrecer a travez de nuestros ministerios,no estamos para recibir sino para dar.

Describe los momentos en que sentiste orgulloso de tu cultura?

me sentí orgulloso de mi gente,el trato que le dan a la visita,la seguridad de ministrar y dirigir los servicios haciendo lo cotidiano en ambos idiomas,kreol y español.

Describe los momentos, si hubo, en que sentiste avergonzado o inseguro de tu cultura? 

No me sentí vergonzado en nada.

Cómo fue la experiencia para tu familia?  Para tu iglesia?

mi familia se sintió muy contento al recibir a felix nos sentíamos en familia,ya era parte de nuestra familia.la iglesia se sintió muy contento  con su presencia  lo celebraron y le celebraron una despedida a la hora de  irse a su país.

Cuando venga el próximo invitado para visitarte, que piensas mejorar del su plan para discipularle a él en este modelo del GDN?

Pienso mejorar en la disponibilidad del tiempo  y recibirlo mejor.

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Felix’s Reflections on Visiting Bernardino

Name:   Pastor Felix Fernandez

Date of visit:  6/4/12 – 6/13-12

Location of visit:  Monte Plata, Dominican Republic

Write a short reflection on each of the following aspects of the Christian life as you observed and experienced it during your visit.  How were they lived out differently than in your home context?  What was similar to your experience and what challenged and stretched your understanding of these practices? 

  1. Bible Study – Pastor Bernie had trained 4 different leaders in the church to lead the Bible study.  I was so surprised to see how calm in the hour leading up the Bible study.   When I got to the study, I realized that he was calm because He was a participant and not the leader of the Bible study.  This was a big shock to me.  I do most of the teaching and preaching at New Heart.  I was inspired and motivated to do more to train up leaders in my church to take up the work of teaching.
  2. Preaching – Pastor Bernie is a dynamic preacher.  He has fire in his belly and a love for God’s Word!  His congregation is made up of both Dominican and Haitians.  He felt a freedom to go back and forth between Spanish and Creole.  At New Heart, I translate the sermons into Spanish, but refrain from using much Spanish in my actual sermon.  Pastor Bernie preached predominately in Spanish, but then he would pause to speak in Creole to make sure everyone was on the same page.  I was inspired to use more Spanish in my sermon for the Spanish speakers in my congregation.
  3. Prayer – On the subject of prayer, I noticed that it was customary for the congregation to pray along with the leader at the same time.  At New Heart, the congregation is silent while the leader prays.  However, in much of pastor Bernie’s practice of prayer, the congregation was invited to pray along with the pastor.  With everyone praying at the same time, it almost sounded like the people were speaking in tongues.  I have been in a similar situation before and have found it difficult for me to concentrate during prayer while others are praying along with me aloud.  But the challenge is there to pray with the one who is praying whether aloud or in silence.
  4. Worship – Structurally, the worship took place on Sunday evening and the service began with 30 minutes of the assistant pastor offering up prayers to the Lord and inspiring people to enter into His presence.  The next 40 minutes were spent in singing songs to the Lord.  After songs, members of the congregation were permitted to come to the front and offer a personal testimony to the Lord.  Many of the people sang, some choir groups came up and sang, some read Scripture, a dance was performed by the young girls.  After this, the sermon was preached, then the Lord’s Supper observed, and then babies were presented to the Lord.  All in all, the worship service lasted 3 hours.  It began at 7pm and concluded at 10pm.  The worship service was definitely much longer than the 1:15 we practice, and it took place on Sunday evening instead of Sunday morning.  I enjoyed the amount of involvement by the congregation in the worship service.  I could tell the music was the music of the people!  This inspired me to discover the voice of our church & to capitalize on the gifts within our congregation & to seek more involvement by members of the church.
  5. Community Involvement/Outreach/evangelism  – Pastor Bernie’s church has a partnership with Compassion International (a Christian organization committed to releasing children from poverty in the name of Jesus Christ).  Pastor Bernie has 165 children from his community in the program.  He also has 3 fulltime employees dedicated to this ministry.  I was so touched with what I saw, that I was personally challenged to expand our outreach in our partnership with Angel Tree.  Last year, we touched some 30 children of prisoner’s lives, and now we have a golden opportunity this year to do more with these children!
  6. Leadership Development – Pastor Bernie’s church is twice the size of the congregation at New Heart Church.  I saw firsthand what it takes to take a church to the next level and this includes strong leaders in the church.  I was personally challenged with the following thought:  “When the pastor does less, the church can do more”
  7. Relationship/Fellowship within the Church – At the end of my visit, members of the church through me a surprise farewell party.  Pastor Bernie expressed that this was not something He had planned, but that it was something that the people from His own congregation had put together.  I was touched by the commitment of the congregation to welcome me.  This was a tangible expression of their love for the Lord and fellow believers.
    1. including inter-generational and cross cultural relationships  – Pastor Bernie’s church is made up of both Hatians and Dominicans.  In the USA, it is frowned upon to speak in Spanish in public places.  But in the community of pastor Bernie’s, the congregation was accepting of Creole songs even though the Dominicans were unaware of the lyrics or meaning of these songs.
  8. Sacraments – The CRC in the Dominican Republic has three ways they fence the Lord’s table:  (1) if you have not been baptized.  (2) if you are living with someone who is not your spouse. (3) if you are living in sin or have unresolved issues with someone else.  In a congregation of 100, only 15 people partook of the Lord’s Supper.  I was shocked at such a disparity.  At New Heart Church, basically the table is fenced based on commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and children who have not made a profession of faith.
  9. Involvement of  the host’s children and family in ministry  – Pastor Bernie’s children are 5 years and younger, and could be found wondering around the front of the church service while dad manned the powerpoint and mom led the singing.  I was amazed at the vital role that Pastor Bernie’s wife plays in the church.  She is a gifted leader and singer.  She had the church praising the Lord in a powerful and Spirit-filled way.  I personally enjoyed the high respect that the congregation showed to both the pastor and his wife.  Pastor Bernie’s parents and mother-in-law has attended and participated in the service.  It was a family affair!  I was challenged to have my family be more involved in the service at New Heart Church.  Perhaps when in-laws and parents come to town, they can share in the worship service.
  10. Children’s and youth ministry – please see question #5 listed above for more details in terms of the church’s outreach to children and youth.  The special thing about the church’s partnership with Compassion International is that the church requires that the children in the program participate in a Bible study in the church.  What a great way to feed the stomach and the soul!  I believe my congregation has a golden opportunity to capitalize on the same things when it comes participating in the Angel Tree program.

12.  What new understandings about God did you learn in this context?  God is at work in the Dominican Republic in a powerful way.  The basic message of the Gospel is transforming people from slavery to sin to service to Jesus.  Our Gospel in the US is often watered down or too sophisticated.  The Gospel in the Dominican Republic is about a Savior who died and rose again to make His people into a new creation.

13.  What new understandings about the Body of Christ did you learn in this context?  I loved the fact that the Dominican community was so accepting of the Haitian style of worship.  Creole sermon translation and Creole worship songs may be enough to drive some people away from the church, but these aspects of the worship service actually formed the identity and commitment of the church.  This experience helped me throw off some of the inhibitions that exist between the Latin and Anglo culture in the congregation so that we can speak powerfully to both cultures.

14.  What new insights did you gain into your own culture and ministry?  As wonderful as Pastor Bernie’s ministry in D.R., the reality is his ministry has the same commitment as our ministry in Orlando.  We both want our congregation to be a light in our community and to offer the hope of Jesus Christ.  We both want the same thing, except his context includes a country church made up of both Haitians and Dominicans, while my context is a suburban church made up of Latinos, Anglos and African Caribbean.

15.  Write about 2-3 ways that God has uniquely gifted the Church in Dominican Republic.  God has gifted Pastor Bernie’s church with (1) strong lay leadership (2) strong children’s ministry. (3) a wonderfully gifted worship leader in his wife.

16.  Write about 2-3 lessons that you hope to incorporate into your church back home.  (1)  I am seeking to step up the leadership training process and to incorporate the Reformed fundamental doctrine of “every member a minister”.  (2)  I am seeking to become more diverse in our worship service.  A shift has taken place in our church.  A few years ago were just made up of Anglos and Latinos.  Now the Lord is providing more and more Africans from the Caribbean.  We must accept this as a sign from God and move in that direction to reach more and more, pastor Bernie is actually already doing this and it was a great experience to see firsthand.  (3)  Appreciate what the Lord has given to our church.  No church is perfect but my congregation has been blessed in many ways.  God wants me to say, “thank you” for everyone’s love and service over the last 6 years.

Please expand one of your reflections above into a short essay (1-2 pages).   The following is a list of the 7 things the Lord taught me on my trip to D.R.:

1.      Luke 6:20  “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  Something unique happens when you are poor when it comes to your relationship with God.  A developing country is one where there is a huge divide between the have & the have nots.  When you are poor in a developing country, you don’t have running water, your kitchen is an open fire in the backyard, often exploited by the strong, access to medical assistance is limited and unemployment is extremely high.  It’s not to say that in a developing country there are no modern conveniences – one of the modern constructions in the Dom. Rep. is a train system that runs from north to south in the capital city.  But over all, to be poor is to be severely at a disadvantage.  But it is in this disadvantage that you actually have a wonderful opportunity to depend on the Lord for your daily bread.  Amen!  Often times Christians in developing countries, the only thing they have in Jesus & the only thing they need is Jesus.  Amen!  When I saw what I saw & heard the faith of those followers of Christ, I said – how true it is when Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”    Don’t be so quick to want to resolve that conflict or problem in your life.  First, look at each challenge you face as an opportunity to depend on the Lord.

2.      THE GOSPEL IS ALIVE & WELL IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC!  The most famous Dominican singer (Juan Luis Guerra) is a Christian.  The most famous baseball player (and arguably the greatest in the history of baseball) Albert Pujols is a Christian.  The city had 5 Christian radio stations (fm – not am).  I spent most of my time in the country, and I saw firsthand that country church’s love for the Lord and one another.  From the most wealthy & influential Dominicans to the poorest the gospel is there, but the capital city to the country the church is there as well.  Years ago only 10%  of Dominicans were professing believers of Jesus Christ, but today that number has surged to 30%.   THE GOSPEL IS ALIVE & WELL IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC! 

3.      THE REAL PARTY IS IN THE CHURCH:  Just because Jesus is at work in the Dom. Rep., doesn’t mean that the Devil is taking a break.  We know that the Bible compares him to a roaring lion.  One thing I saw everywhere were signs warning against the abuse of women & children.  I also prostitution first hand on the beach.  One day we went to the beach with his family, and I saw a man who had six women who were selling themselves.  Every town in the Dominican Republic is guaranteed to have a grocery store, a church and a night club.  Sunday night after church, Pastor Bernie and I were in the car driving people home in his van.  In those little towns you should have seen how many people were dancing, drinking & partying.  And here we were just finishing worshipping the Lord.  I told Bernie – you see these people here – they have no idea that the real party is in the church worshipping the Lord.  Amen.  No matter how strong the temptation may be, the only way to love, joy & peace in this life is through a life that is fully surrendered to Jesus Christ.  THE REAL PARTY IS ALWAYS IN THE CHURCH: 

4.      LET KIDS BE KIDS.  This one was a personal one for me – and since it is Father’s Day, I have to tell you that God really dealt with me on this one.  One of the neat things about this trip is that I had the opportunity to not only see Pastor Bernie the Pastor, but also Pastor Bernie the husband and father.  An opportunity to see the personal side.  Wouldn’t that be something to spend a week with a pastor to see the personal challenges he has to face, I think the church would be so much more appreciative and responsive for the man of God.  But to see the way He interacted with his kids – each one was unique.  The old girl is 5 and he’s a tough cookie.  One time mom said to her:  if you are going to have that attitude you need to go over into your room.  And the little girl respond, “I’m going to my room, but it’s because I want to go to my room”.  The 2nd son (3 years old) is easy going.  The third one is also a tough cookie (Denny 1.5).  I saw him try grab her old sister and take her behind a tree so he could hit here without anyone seeing him.  I saw the way he handled those situations and how I would have handled those situations – and I saw him much calmer than me.  You know what, dads?  Our kids our going to be perfect.  Should we help correct and guide them?  But don’t be the kind of dad that doesn’t let your kid be a kid.

(5)  WHEN THE PASTOR DOES LESS, THE CHURCH CAN DO MORE.  It was a Tuesday night Bible study, and I saw Bernie the calmest I have ever seen a pastor.  I thought to myself – why is this man so calm.  And then I realized that he wasn’t the one who was going to be teaching the Bible study.  In fact, that night there were 4 Bible studies going on in the church and the pastor wasn’t teaching a single one of them.  He had trained those leaders to take up the work of teaching & training the rest of the members in the church.  And that’s when God taught me:  When the pastor does less, the church can do more.  If New Heart Depends on me, then New Heart can only go as far as I can take it.   But when we all come together & we acts as the body – no bench players, but everyone with a position on the field – then we go as far as God can take us.  Amen!  Some of you right now are just coming to church and you are holding back.  I want you to know that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, God has given you a uniform & a position on the team.  And at the end of each game, he wants that uniform to be dirty.  He wants you to get a little stinky for Jesus.

6.      Evangelism & Discipleship are the backbone of a church.  Bring them in, train them up & send them out – is the work of the church.  One pastor says, the church is the only organization that exists for its non-members.  And that’s absolutely right.  We are not a country club, but a command center.  Where we receive our orders and then are sent out into the world to represent Christ in order to Jesus Christ.  One of their strategies is through a partnership with Compassion International.  An adoptive parent in the United States sends a letter to the child they have adopted in the Dominican Republic.  Pastor Bernie’s church then gets those letters to the children.  Instead of giving those families money, they give them a coupon in the amount of the donation that was sent.  And with that coupon the families can go to a local grocery store, clothing store, or shoe store and redeem that coupon for the amount that was donated.  And the beautiful thing is that through this ministry, they are not only helping these children physically, but spiritually as well.  They also have those children attend Bible lessons at the church.  And through this ministry they have seen many children and adults come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

7.      The CHURCH IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD!  Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray:  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  God’s grand purpose is to bring heaven to earth.  And the primary way that God has designed this to happen is through the church of Jesus Christ.  When I saw this church in a community of 300 hundred homes & it be able to reach out to 165 children through its Compassion ministry & have over 100 people in worship on Sunday, I saw a church that was a gift for the community.  Many people think the community exists for the church.  Let’s see – how many more tithing families do we need in order to meet our budget?  No, it’s how many people this week will die and go to hell and we never told them about Jesus.

This church is a gift from God to Monte Plata.  And I want New Heart Church and every family in this church to be a gift to the Greater Orlando Area!

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Felix’s Reflections on Hosting Bernardino

Name:  Pastor Felix Fernandez

Participant’s name who visited:  Pastor Bernardino Wilson Joseph

Dates of visit:  June 2011

What aspect of your ministry did you enjoy teaching the most?  Why?

I enjoyed showing pastor Bernie the different approaches to church ministry in the Orlando area.  We began our visit together by giving him a taste of worship in a mega church setting.  I also took him to a Haitian CRC church in Orlando.  We then had an opportunity to compare and contrast the ministry at New Heart Church with the mega church and the sister congregation.  Pastor Bernie found that New Heart was much closer to the CRC Haitian church than the mega church.  I enjoyed showing this because it confirmed to me that our ministry is a powerful one even though we do not have 10,000 members.

What aspect of your ministry was difficult to teach?  Why? 

At first, I felt like I had to be doing something as a pastor all of the time.  My thought was the busier I am with pastor Bernie the more successful of a pastor he’ll believe I am.  But the further we got into the week, I realized that talking through the issues facing the church and different members gave me an opportunity to stay busy in a different way.

What did you learn about yourself and your own culture through this experience of hosting? 

I re-opened my eyes to the challenges facing the church in North American today.   So many people come to church looking to receive and be sensationalized, but New Heart Church has not caved into to this approach to ministry.  We are a humble church with a Big Savior!

Describe any moments when you felt proud of your culture. 

North American is a law-abiding and very organized country.  I felt proud to demonstrate how traffic laws are obeyed, how honesty & personal responsibility is the basis for much of what we do and how we operate as a country.

Describe any moments when you felt insecure or embarrassed about your culture or your context. 

Pastor Bernie was surprised with the number of “M’s”  – as he called them (McDonald’s around).  He noticed that there was one on every corner and he was surprised to see the number of morbidly obese people in my community.  I explained to him the connection between the “M’s” and the health issue facing the U.S.

How was the experience of hosting for your family? For your church? 

We loved it!  I noticed that at the 8 day mark, Pastor Bernie was really missing his family and ministry.  We had a blast together just hanging out together and learning from each other.  My wife was a gracious host and my kids played some jokes on Pastor Bernie – hiding a spider under his pillow one night.  The congregation had a special dinner in which it thanked pastor Bernie for his visit, and the congregation explained to him that they were grateful to have him here.

What aspect of discipleship do you hope to improve on for your next hosting experience? 

Well, having gone through it once, I have a better grasp of how to set up the itinerary for the week.  It would also help me better if I understood the kind of ministry and context from which the visitor is coming.  I wasn’t quite sure where Pastor Bernie was coming from, and was wondering if he had a context from which to absorb what I was showing him.

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Dan’s Reflections On Hosting Henry

Name: Dan Roels

Participant’s name who visited: Henry Cruz

Dates of visit: 19 March – 2 April, 2012

What aspect of your ministry did you enjoy teaching the most?  Why?

To the extent that I was able to describe multiethnic ministry, even as someone facilitating it, from the outside, in a new church plant that my congregation is “nesting,” it got me excited talking about power dynamics, learning more about God through other languages and cultures, and the demographic future of the United States.  Such ministry is my dream, and that dream waits to flourish. As part of that dream, we had opportunities to meet with Moses Chung, director of home missions, and attend the CRC office of race relations retreat at Trinity Christian College.

What aspect of your ministry was difficult to teach?  Why?

It was most delicate to explain the ministry choices I have made and how I have adjusted my role and expectations relative to my church’s situation and the various gaps we have in what I consider a healthy congregation.  I consider my current church to be exemplary of many of the reasons for decline in many Reformed and mainline churches in the United States, but teaching about that has to proceed by exposing the absence of what should be, rather than by bringing someone into what exists.

What did you learn about yourself and your own culture through this experience of hosting?

Most striking for me was the day that I thought I had lost Henry.  Henry liked to go for walks every day and wander the neighborhood or go down to the Mexican grocery, which I was quite comfortable with once I understood he simply liked to amble freely.  But one day, as I prepared to head home for lunch and assumed he would be waiting just outside the doors of the church as on other days, I found I could not find him.  So I walked home, hoping he had preceded me.  No Henry.  Then I began to get worried about what had happened to my guest.  Was he wandering the neighborhood?  Maybe he had gone down to La Provi (the Mexican grocery)?  I hopped in the car to go pick him up, hoping that he was there.  No Henry.  And the store owners said they hadn’t seen a short guy with glasses.  But, I wondered, what Mexican grocery store owner is going to tell an official-looking white guy where a Hispanic is?  I could be an I.C.E. agent or something.  And then I had a terrifying thought: what if Henry got picked up by the police or by immigration?  I know it happens in Holland.  He wouldn’t have identifying papers on him.  He didn’t speak English.  This could be Bad.  I drove with increasing speed back to church.  Henry.  And I exhaled. Never before had fears about immigration agents been so real to me, and it brought me into personal touch with the creeping feeling that pervades communities around West Michigan and the country.  Worse, this is not an irrational fear.  Nevertheless, it was good to sense myself on the fearing side of the cultural equation rather than the “to-be-feared” side.

Describe any moments when you felt proud of your culture.

Perhaps the favorite group that I work with is the high school youth group.  Though most do not attend a church, and some have absorbed the skepticism of religion, they are a lively bunch, full of good questions, and responsive when I ask them to think their way through a lesson.  When Henry was here, I was teaching parables, though using the “Socratic method,” in which the group would experience something, read the corresponding Bible story, and wrestle with my questions about meaning.  This kind of teaching model, however, works well in low power-distance cultures, in which youth feel free to volunteer their answers and even their best guesses as part of group discussion.  American culture lends itself well to a participatory and experiential youth group.

Describe any moments when you felt insecure or embarrassed about your culture or your context.

Moment one, which was during all the Henry’s two weeks: As I believe I am pastor of a dying church into which attempts to integrate any potential new believers, let alone those of another race or culture, may do harm to nascent faith, there are many aspects of outreach and evangelism which I feel embarrassed about not doing.  My church is comfortable with the status quo to the point that I no longer try to start new things, which makes me very uncomfortable.  I have become a manager of the decline, trying to steer things to graceful endings, but I spend too much time in the office reflecting the decline in the vitality of the American pastoral role, when I would rather be able to bring visitors into fruitful evangelistic and discipleship relationships and contexts.

Moment two: I was part of a discussion group about race, and requested that Henry be able to attend as my guest.  The facilitators sympathized, but chose to keep meetings closed since confidentiality and privacy, with the goal of creating safe discussion space, were part of the group agreement from the beginning.  I understood, but I think that decision erred on the side of privacy, which American culture values so (too) highly.

How was the experience of hosting for your family? For your church?

The most enjoyable aspect of hosting for us was seeing our eight-month-old daughter Rachel interact with Henry, whose presence startled her the first morning, but fascinated her the rest of the way.  Another enjoyable yet challenging part of hosting is trying to figure out what is personality and what is culture when sharing life with an individual for two weeks. For my church, whose fellowship is rather thin as it is, it may be neat that other pastors are visiting me as part of the GDN, but that most people do not reach out to interact across the language barrier, and the connection to the church is professional rather than personal.  The one family that has been most welcoming is a Mexican-American family.

What aspect of discipleship do you hope to improve on for your next hosting experience?

I would like more intentionally to bring my colleague through my sermon-forming process.  I spend ten or so hours per week on my sermon, beginning with the original language, going through commentaries and online articles, and shaping the outline in a creative back-and-forth with my powerpoint visuals.  Such care for the text is a big and rich part of the Reformed heritage, and it is not easy to share since much of the process happens in my head, but it could be rewarding for both my guest and me to walk through it together.

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Translations into Spanish and English coming soon!

GDN is working with a translator to post reflections in both English and Spanish. Stay tuned.

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