Brief Report from my Sabbatical time
We are very grateful and joyful for the traveling and experiences that Letty and I had. We really appreciate our church and other individuals who helped us to accomplish these trips.
Koinonia. I wanted to learn about the actions that members of the community play in the life of the newcomers. Thus, I wanted to interview 3 to 5 members of a community of faith. I have three questions
- What circumstances were you going through when you came to this community? Or What was your situation like?
- What specifically did the members of this community do for you?
- Why are you still here? What keeps you motivated? Or what do you want to accomplish?
In Argentina, we visited Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rio Cuarto and Tucuman. We had meetings with children, churches and families. The fellowship, times of prayer and meals were great. God is moving in a mighty way. The economy has several challenges and there are several areas of tension, nevertheless, people are responding to the gospel.
Israel is an incredible country, we were amazed at the richness of the land, in modern buildings as well as historical monuments, rivers, Capernaum, and the historical part of Jerusalem. We were very surprised by the high quality of all fruits and vegetables. The touching history and imagining Jesus and his disciples' reality was a gift.
Cuba was a contrasting reality. The church is present with more than 30 Reformed Presbyterian congregations, organized in three Presbyteries and one Synod. The PC(USA) has been in close contact and supporting partnership with the IPRC. Most of these congregations have seen a tremendous decrease in attendance. The harsh daily reality for the average Cuban is extremely difficult, lacking food, water, electricity, medications, gasoline and serious difficulties with transportation, salaries, currency stability and trust. Thousands of younger Cubans have left the country, because they are convinced their future is extremely uncertain.
Hawaii and Kauai, were incredible in their natural beauty, hundreds of beaches, green mountains, a superb canyon filled with wildlife, water falls, and delicious fruits. We thoroughly enjoyed the rest and relaxation as a family with our children.
Kashmir in India was a very exuberant experience. The city of Srinagar has high mountains, tropical exotic vegetation, real jungle animal life, with tigers, cougars, panthers and bears. It is filled with lakes and extensive green mountains. The city has a highly tense environment because of the differences with the mainly Shiite Muslim populations that feels oppressed by the current strongly Indu government. The gospel is being presented and preached in many different ways, by highly committed and wise believers.
Mexico retains its beauty all over the place. We started at the largest urban area of the world, Mexico City and then we spent four days in Acapulco with family members, including four children and passing through Taxco. Next was Guadalajara, and specifically in Ajijic, Jocotepec by the Chapala lake, where we had four days of naturalistic approach to our physical health. It was a time of physical restoration as we ate only fruits, teas and vegetables.
- We learned that God is the only one in real control, we may not like what we see, or the timing, but God is in control. We need to humbly recognize that ultimately, we depend on him.
- Most of the people I interviewed stated they received from the members of the community of faith simple things, such as shaking hands, a smile, a prayer, looking them in the eyes, saying and memorizing their name, a word of encouragement, inviting them to eat, and a hug, they did this genuinely, from their hearts. These seemingly simple actions were crucial for them to start to attend and later they made a decision to surrender their lives to Christ. They also said they wanted to give the same things they had received to the new generations.
- These genuine demonstrations of care, interest, support and love for other people are the pathways to see and experience the gospel in action. Diaconia is an evangelistic powerful and effective tool.
- The concept of the Koinonia or life in community, as a family is a very distinctive christian teaching and characteristic. When Jesus said “in this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love each other,” he was fully aware that this concept is not common around the world. I noticed that for people of other faiths, the fullness of Koinonia was difficult to grasp.
- The FIVE Key characteristics of the church, based on the book of Acts, (Kerygma, Koinonia, Diakonia, Liturgia and Martyria) have to be practiced simultaneously, each has its place in the life of the community of faith and all of them are important.
Thank you, Respectfully in HIM,