The elders who participated were Gabriel Garcia and wife Andrea from Mexico City. Pastor Raul Machicao came from LaPaz, Bolivia. I had never met him before and really appreciated getting acquainted with him and better understanding the churches in Bolivia and brethren in Peru. Besides those who were physically present were Israel and Serra Robledo from Guatemala, Scott and Gayle Hoefker from the United States as well as Jaime and Janet Salek from Bogota, Colombia via videoconferencing.
Each pastor gave a brief report about their area, but then enumerated a few of their difficulties and challenges. Issues ranged from immodest wear at Sabbath services to how to distribute the Good News (we have kept the name since Beyond Today does not translate well) in their country. Then we all joined into a discussion about solutions. It was mutually encouraging and helpful to all of us as good ideas were shared.
One of the highlights in Jaime Diaz's report (pastor of the southern Temuco congregation) was a report of the Good Works efforts of the local Santiago congregation. They organized their own project to help various people, including the replacing of a widow's roof as well as teaching English.
I also found out that this Good Works spirit has spread to the Misiones area of Argentina. Some of the challenges of his area are the lack of resources, travel distances and the need for doctrinal reinforcement through more educational venues. Also, the great need to properly mentor people. They would like more systematic coverage of doctrine so that we are all on the same page. I was glad to hear that 30 of the 36 of UCG's booklets are translated into the Spanish language.
Pastor Raul Machicao from La Paz, Bolivia spoke next. He stated several times how they feel so isolated in Bolivia and have even little time with brethren and pastors from neighboring countries. There was strong desire to have programs like Labor in the Word be transcribed and translated into Spanish.
Jame Gallardo, pastor of Santiago, spoke next. In Santiago there are 80 members. One in Buenos Aires, one in Paraguay, 16 in Temuco. Some of the difficulties are adults understanding modesty in dress, ageing in the congregation. And, challenges with evangelism. We spoke about taking advantage of social media. He spoke about the radio station in the Misiones region of Argentina which has been very effective.
Scott Hoefker then spoke about Colombia which he and his wife Gayle serve along with Jaime and Janet Salek. Bogota has ten members, Cucuta 26, Medellin 11, Santa Rosa 27 and Monteria 9.
Scott expressed gratitude for the help given the brethren through subsidy to attend the Feast of Tabernacles for so so many. He spoke of youth camps that are modeled after the US program.
Challenges have been that they had not been pastored well before 2010 and it's a challenge to bring harmony, but they are making progress.They have challenges with Sabbath attendance because of long work hours during the week.
Jaime Salek from Bogota spoke. His wife Janet is translating the Deuteronomy 6 lessons into Spanish . Jaime was very grateful for all the aid that we have provided from the USA.
Guatemala pastor Israel Robledo followed. There are ten brethren in Panama that he oversees. 2 in Costa Rica, 7 in San Salvador--altogether 12 in El Salvador. Their Webcast is heard in these countries and some even connect from Bolovia.
There are 42 baptized members in Guatemala City, 22 in the Quetzaltenango area 95 in Guatemala City Buenos Noticias subscriber list is low at 372. The brethren also distribute another 500 magazines. One suggestion was to do distribution closer to the church building where they meet.
250 people came here for the Feast of Tabernacles. 34 youth came for camp. The theme this year was "Examine Me, God" (Ps 26;20)
14 are in the LifeNets Developing Nations Scholarship Program and the students are studying dentistry, architecture, teaching and some becoming system analysts. 5 more are coming of university age. 96 have received LifeNets school supplies.
Gabriel Garcia from Mexico City was the final speaker. His wife is Andrea (Medina). This is a growing area. Mexico City is a huge are of 25 million people. Problem is with the resources to visit everyone and distances. They use WhatsApp and the Webcast to connect with people. Gabriel spoke emphatically about the need for mentoring and the need for guidance.
The next Latin American and Mexican Website will be launched February 28th. Gabriel gave us a tour of it. It will more closely align with the US site. They want to see a section for children. There will be additional resources such as Mario Seiglie's commentary "The Bible Under the Lens of Science" series that he has written in 350 installments over the years.
Another subject discussed was the order of service in the United Church of God and the need for visiting the brethren.
Good Works has also sponsored a community outreach project in the Posadas area of Argentina. They have helped orphans, food for children at Feast time and providing bed sheets for a hospital in Temuco. And help the homeless with food. This has involved the youth of the church. I personally applaud all these efforts.!!
We touched on more Spanish language development in the United States.
After our great meetings through the day all the personnel went to a Chinese restaurant for a great meal and great fellowship. A great conclusion to two days of conferencing!