Monday, July 25, 2016

Connecting the Dots - interviews with members of a visiting team

Allen, Trish, and Russell are always happy to have a short-term missions team visiting from the states. And, I must confess, when I get to speak to some of the team members on the phone, I share their excitement. Okay, so that’s only happened once - but it was exciting. I recently had the opportunity to speak to three of the six visiting team members of Life Community Church in Columbus, Ohio.

Pastors receiving gifts of soccer balls, for use in ministry, from the LCC team

The team from LCC arrived in Western Honduras on July 15th  for a week of working with the Pastors' Training Program. As Allen said, “It’s a time to connect the dots. They’re already aware of the ministry, but it’s amazing to see how much knowledge the visiting team has, versus the Honduran pastors. There are so many things they can share. Then they get to take their experiences home to share with their church members.”

Pastor Rick Tawney, Cell Group Pastor at LCC

Who better to ask about Pastors’ Training School than a visiting pastor? Pastor Rick has been on staff at Life Community Church for seven years. This was his first trip to Honduras and he found it to be a far cry from his own pastoral training. You see, Pastor Rick, like many pastors in the U.S., has a Masters Degree of Divinity. He also has Masters in Christian Counseling.

Pastor Rick teaching at the school
Far from feeling superior to the indigenous pastors he met and taught, he felt humbled by their intense desire to learn. In fact, that drive to learn is what most impressed Pastor Rick. After a long afternoon of teaching, he said, “I’ve been impressed with their commitment to the ministry down here. That’s a tough way to pastor - that’s for sure!”

Pastor Rick’s lessons to the students in the Pastors’ Training School included How to Do a Cell Model Church, Leadership Development, and Priests in the Old and New Testaments. He had just finished giving a lesson when I spoke to him. I’m not complaining, mind you, but the lesson did go long, requiring the call to be pushed back a bit. That’s due (at least in part) to the language barrier, necessitating for everything he said to be translated into Spanish and any questions to be translated into English.

Even with the language barrier, Pastor Rick said the team felt they “got connected to the pastors.” He said it was “a fun week--a good week for the team.” He was thankful for the experience and is taking home a desire for their home church to “get a partnership going with a sister church--start bringing down teams of teens and adults.” He expressed a desire to do ongoing work with the pastors, and for future teams to help operate Vacation Bible Schools. “When you bring people here, they get excited.” And that excitement leads to an ongoing commitment of support.

This trip was right up Pastor Rick’s alley. He said, “I’ve always said I’d love to train pastors in another culture--to give them training they can’t get.” He hadn’t done it prior to this because of the language barrier, but it is a passion of his. He continued by stating, “The education I have is great. When you take what you have learned and give it to pastors who have almost nothing, it makes you feel useful.”

What is Pastor Rick taking home from his experience with Pastors’ Training School? For starters, he’s taking home a tremendous appreciation for the fact that he can work as a pastor and get paid a living wage. Even though he isn’t wealthy by U.S. standards, he is able to support his family. Being in Honduras made him even more aware that isn’t the case for many pastors.

Doug Truax, Nationwide is On Their Side

Doug Truax, teaching
This was Doug’s second trip to Honduras, as he was there last year on a scouting trip for Life Community Church. A Nationwide Insurance employee in his daily life, he was able to spend a week showing the students at the Pastors’ Training School that he’s on their side, too.

Doug told me the reason LCC partnered with Sowers4Pastors is how well the Sowers work to empower the pastors. “Everything they do is to empower the pastors. We felt, as a church, we would be able to get involved with that,” Doug said. The team members from LCC worked to create their own curriculum, which they presented to the students in the Pastors’ Training School.  

When speaking about the pastors at Pastors’ Training School, Doug said, “It’s clear they have a passion for Christ and for their communities. None of us speak Spanish, but it’s still clear by the way they pray and worship. We deliver a session, but it’s through the questions they ask afterward that you can tell the passion they have for their ministries and people. They want to serve their people.”

Doug continued, “The pastors here need support. They are effective in what they do, but they need support educationally, financially, and with various resources to help them.  A lot of the pastors have the desire to reach villages further up the road, but they don’t have the resources. Their hearts are there, but they need help.”

“What confirmed, to us, why we got involved was how right it feels, and how effective it is to empower local native pastors/missionaries to support their work. As we leave, even if they just took one nugget with them, it was worthwhile. Ministry is hard. it’s hard to hear their stories about not having formal Bible training. They are trying to protect their sheep from false doctrine, which means they need to know true doctrine. I pray they will continue to grow,” Doug said.

Rachel Bidwell, Nurse Practitioner with a Newfound Talent of Cutting Plantains

This was Rachel’s first mission trip. She went for experience and exposure, and because she wanted to see the work the Sowers are doing, firsthand. While the men were teaching, the two women team members from LCC were busy cooking. That was an interesting experience because the LCC women don’t speak Spanish and the Honduran women they were assisting don’t speak English. Still, they managed to communicate mostly through makeshift sign language. Rachel also said, “We’ve learned a little Spanish. They’ve learned a little English.”

Team members Susan and Rachel prepare plantains
for the pastors' meals

When asked what she will tell people at home, Rachel responded,  “I'll tell them how many ministries the Sowers have, how earnest they are--how much they care for the people. How much they care even though it takes a lot out of them.” Rachel was glad to see the ministries up close and personal. She was also very impressed by how homey Trish has managed to make the warehouse-like building they currently call home. Ah, Warehouse Sweet Warehouse!

- posted by Christi

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