Colombia 2014 Marriage Seminar Report
Bogotá, January 6 through 10, 2014
Would you agree that one person’s hunger for more of Christ can bring about blessing to many others? And who would have thought that a simple inquiry email could result in a marriage seminar with people from 6 countries, all eager to understand more about the abiding life and how its principles apply to everyday living –especially to married life? As a member of the Confraternidad Unicentro Church in Bogotá, Beatriz attends the Sunday morning service on August 5, 2012, where Raimundo speaks following an Addictions Conference with Tim Lester. From other church members she also hears about the life-changing teachings that Tim had shared the two previous days, regretting that she had thought the conference was specifically geared for people involved in drug abuse. Beatriz buys a Spanish copy of Heavenly Discipleship and is impacted by the “liberating concepts and by the way Mike challenges certain paradigms that many Christians passively accept, even though they realize they cannot live up to them” [Her words in quotes.] A few months later Beatriz approaches her Senior Pastor, who agrees that she write to us to “find out what one has to do to ´live out´ a discipleship experience in the terms of the book.” So in early February 2013 Beatriz contacts Raimundo asking if our ministry offers training “for people like me, who want to grow spiritually, overcome that sensation of ‘stagnancy’, and as a result be able to mentor other individuals in their own process.” “I imagine a less ‘theoretical’ and more ‘experiential’ discipleship approach. We know a lot, but that does not always impact our being,” says Beatriz in her email. So from there on we exchange messages, and other couples from a Bible study group in which Beatriz and her husband Gabriel participate (like Alejandro and Ana María) [Pictures # 01a, #01b] express their interest in receiving more. By the end of February 2013, Betty, Tim and Raimundo are pondering dates and possible venues for a Spanish training conference, which at Tim’s suggestion is focused on the topic of marriage. After analyzing several options in diverse countries we decide for Colombia, and plans for a Marriage Training Conference in Bogotá begin to shape up. Setting up a one week long seminar in another country, and involving participants from several nations is –as we would soon discover– not an easy task. But the Lord made it possible to find an excellent place [Pictures #02, #03] in the city of Bogota; to initially contact almost all the ALMI friends that had been made throughout many years in the Spanish speaking world; and to arrange travels both for those we would be helping (some with all their expenses, others with part, etc.) and for others coming fully on their own. Then there was the logistics: food & accommodation details; sound; shuttling people to and from the airport according to their arrival/departure schedules during the 2 days before and after the seminar; drawing up the teaching schedule; translating or adapting the diagrams to be used & getting them printed; obtaining cost estimates for recording the complete seminar on DVDs that might be made available to participants for their review, for their use in multiplying the seminar in their countries, and for people anywhere in the world to have access to; and many other details to be taken into consideration. And here again, God was immensely gracious in providing local people to go about doing different tasks that meant an enormous help, from getting the seminar notes printed, to providing an HD camera at no cost –which meant an important reduction in the recording budget. Confraternidad Unicentro Church assisted us with the sound equipment, the printing of materials and other issues, in addition to storing our books in Colombia since 2012. Mario [Picture # 15, with wife Olga, the first two on the left holding colored packages] is one of the several pastors in the leadership team; many years ago he had read “Sidetracked in the Wilderness” –the first Spanish printing was done in Colombia in 1996. Mario was our liaison with the local church and proved to be a great blessing, both in the August 2012 Addictions Conference and in this recent seminar; one of those key persons that the Lord always has available in the right place at the right time! The day began with breakfast at 7:45 and the first session at 8:35, after a short worship time led by Pastor Henry with one of his staff; a real blessing to us all! [Picture #4] We had 5 daily sessions of one hour and ten minutes each. [Pictures #05, #06] In the afternoon, after the last session, there was a 30-minute time for Q & A. That proved to be more efficient than a last period of questions at the end of the seminar, in that questions were mostly relevant to the recent presentations and people had things still fresh in their minds. Our day ended with dinner at 7:00 pm. [Pictures #07, #08] After that, participants from different countries had the opportunity to get together and share aspects of their respective lives & ministries, and we know that many used that time to interact, sharing insights and discussing topics and teachings presented in the seminar. People loved Tim’s teaching. The truths he shared –some of them really surprising for many participants– were very well received. It is true, on the other hand, that certain ALMI principles present a challenge to what some believers have been taught all along, and to what some have in turn taught others for many years. There were things that needed time to “sink in”. One vivid example was what happened in morning of the last day. Tim had been speaking about judging our thoughts and emotions, and recognizing who is speaking to me. Participants were so absorbed that when we announced the end of the session and began collecting our things, everyone remained quiet, just sitting there, thoughtful… for almost a whole minute. No one moved! The help provided by Hilda, and by our son Ariel and his wife Silvana [Pictures #09, #10, #11] was instrumental in the registration process and in dealing with the many daily details needing attention in this kind of event. Their help freed me to be able to better concentrate on my major task that week, which was to serve as Tim’s interpreter. Ariel and Silvana are enthusiastic ALMI promoters; throughout all 2013 they led a Saturday afternoon group at their local church, teaching the abiding principles (and will continue this year). The atmosphere that developed amongst the 41 participants, [Picture #12] and their interaction, were amazing, beautiful! Argentineans, Colombians, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, Mexicans and Peruvians [Picture #13] took pictures together, shared experiences and developed friendships that we look forward to seeing extended far beyond the seminar week, producing ALMI-fostered associates that will pray for each other and share experiences –and why not, develop future projects together on their own? As Tim said in his closing words, we look forward to the existence of pockets of people all over the world, who will share the abiding life principles in their own communities and cultures, which after some time might not remember ALMI or any of our names, but that will continue teaching and living the abiding message simply because they have made it their message and their way of life. So special was the atmosphere throughout the seminar that it was appropriate to end sharing Mike’s experience with the people at his village in Fiji when a relationship had become really special. [Picture #14] Also, the Colombian group had a time at the closing of the seminar to say goodbye and to give each foreign participant a gift of typical candy assortment wrapped in the colors of the Colombian flag. [Pictures #15, #16] On behalf of all the Spanish speakers that attended this seminar [Picture #17], I want to thank everyone at ALMI, and all those who lovingly support the ministry, for this unique training experience that I am certain will be reproduced in many countries. The training package in preparation includes 24+ DVDs with titles in English and Spanish, plus a CD containing the diagrams in diverse formats, the seminar notes, and the outline indicating the sections contained in each disk, all in both languages. In Jesus Christ, Raimundo Ericson Spanish Language Representative We have received a number of messages from participants, some of which are translated below. Gabriel & Beatriz. Members of Confraternidad Unicentro church. God used them to sow the seed for this seminar. They have been involved as leaders in several family ministry programs implemented by the church. They lead a home group with couples that also attended the seminar. “The seminar was liberating. Many of us are burdened by a sense of guilt for not being the believers, the parents, or the husband & wife we believe we should be, and we feel we do not deserve to be called the Lord’s disciples. Often we feel that this business of being a Christian is beyond our scope and we would like to say ‘I give up’. God used this seminar to give us new strength and to show us that it is in the Spirit and not in the flesh that we will be able to live a victorious Christian life –as individuals, as a couple, and as parents.” “Our first decision is to meet regularly with two other couples from our church that attended the seminar, to share what we understood and those things that impacted us. The seminar provided a lot of info and we need to digest that… Now we realize that in everyday life and in less ‘formal’ settings, God can use us to share what He is showing us. Amen.” “Thank you for the love, honesty and professionalism with which you presented ALMI’s ministry.” Benjamín & María. Pastors in Mexico, in their 60s; will soon be retiring and becoming part of their denomination’s Council of Pastors, where they will be responsible for the family and missionary areas. Mike and Raimundo taught a two-day seminar at their church in 2011. Closely related to David and Olga Casana. “We received an incredible blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ –in many ways. Right from the start, I was ‘captivated’ by the clear and simple way you began, when Tim said: ‘I myself do not know how it is I am here, because I have failed the Lord, I have fallen. But, you know? My Father has put me on my feet again, and if I should fall again I know that He will again lift me up… because He loves me’. I started crying because the Lord was speaking directly to me… I would need many pages to describe the blessings that our Lord has bestowed on my wife and me. […] Please tell Tim how much we thank the Lord for his life, and my eternal gratitude to Mrs. Betty Wells. It was an incredible blessing to meet you [Raimundo] again and receive so much teaching from you, and your wife, and your son and daughter in law. A big hug for you all. Thank you!” Erik & Adriana. Missionaries to the Arhuaco indigenous people settled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the most Northern part of Colombia close to the Caribbean coast. Their purpose is to plant an autonomous, sustainable and missionary Arhuaco church. Commissioned by Confraternidad Unicentro Church, they are under the supervision of Misincol missionary agency. “It was God who gave us this opportunity of attending the seminar, because with our own resources it would not have been possible. We realize it is part of a process in which the Lord has been working in us, as it affirmed some known truths and revealed other new ones applicable to our lives and especially to our marriage relationship. We are sure that we can share with other couples what we have learned, and in fact we have already had the opportunity of doing so. We thank God and you all for ALMI.” Fernando. Pastor of a local church in Perú, outside Lima, affiliated to the Iglesia Evangélica Peruana, a denomination with three thousand churches nationwide. “I thank God for His great love, and also ALMI, who made it possible for me to be in Colombia. Some things I fondly remember are the good organization of the event, the excellent food, the cleanness everywhere, and the amiable and willing attitude of the staff & cooks at the venue.” “The teachings were innovative for me, and of great help. I was impacted by the reality with which Pastor Tim spoke about different issues and brought our attention to the reality of sin. His applications –and especially his ‘self-applications’– were very important. He did not leave the applications for the end part, but included them as he developed the topics. I realized this was a great contribution to couples. I also want to mention the clear interpretation that allowed us to understand everything. Thank God for ALMI!” Henry. A young pastor from Peru, whom we came to know a number of years ago, in our first trip there with Mike. He was then still a seminarian and assistant to our main contact there, Pastor Julio. Whenever we went to Peru, Henry was at our full disposal; the most willing person one can imagine. In our last trip to Peru with Mike, he arranged our program with a church in Tingo María, on the border of the Amazon Jungle. Henry is now an ordained pastor and the local Director for Every Home for Christ. When Henry heard about this seminar, he recruited a number of his staff at EHC and other leaders who bought their own tickets and paid for more than half the expenses of their accommodation. Ten individuals in total! “There are mainly 5 aspects in which we thank God for the seminar: 1. It helped us to acquire key tools in counseling, such as learning about the unique self and its 3 temperaments. 2. It led us to remember and rediscover the life of Christ within us; always willing to show forth when we open the door of our hearts to other people as we face conflicts. 3. It helped us to discover that we are not the ones who have to bring about a change in us but rather that the change is produced by God, from the inside out, and that the change begins when I recognize it has to begin with me. 4. It provided very real, practical and truthful tools that are applicable to the development of youth counseling or the work with couples anywhere –as when we understand that ‘the problem is not the problem.’ 5. It has been a great blessing to our lives because the teaching is totally Christ-centered and leads us to recognize that our authority to help other people is not based on us becoming better persons every day but on the fact that we have failed and died so that the life of Christ can be seen in us.” “Thank you, dear brothers and sisters at ALMI! We firmly believe that the effort of traveling from Peru was worthwhile; what God had for us there was a great and precious blessing. Now we are ready to reproduce these teachings in our nation. We will be praying that our good God himself be the One who renews your strength in every place to which He takes you. Ignacio & Sandra. Ignacio serves in prison ministry in close association with Vine International, in Guatemala. As Asociación Barrio para Cristo [The Neighborhood for Christ] their mission and vision is focused on the work in prisons for minors and in crime prevention. Families are daily destroyed and the children end up involved in crime. The reconciliation of couples, leading them to Jesus, creates a positive environment for youths and reduces the involvement of children in crime. “Thank you all at ALMI for the tools received at the seminar” Jose Orlando & Estrella. Pastors for 25 years, and for the last 9 working in the outskirts of Bogotá, in a missionary project in the marginalized village of Usme. They have started 9 home churches, with an average attendance of just under 50 people in each. They are also starting a Bible School, although that is making slower progress because much of their resources are invested in helping those individuals that are most vulnerable. [We heard of this couple when we were in Bogotá and invited them. They attended as from the second day.] “You have no idea how grateful my wife and I are, to God and to ALMI, because we did not have the financial possibilities to attend, but God knows why he took us there; something glorious happened. I refer to my personal life, because I was very burdened by some problems in our congregation […]. I was really very discouraged. God is definitely very good and made it possible for us to attend at no cost. Truly and with all sincerity, you people maybe do not know what a beautiful work you do with God’s children. The Almighty will no doubt reward you abundantly.” “THANKS A MILLION, FROM THE DEEPEST OF OUR HEARTS, FROM MY WIFE ESTRELLA AND ME. THANK YOU ALMI, THANK YOU PASTOR TIM AND PASTOR RAIMUNDO.” Edgar & Candy. Pastors of Berea Church in San José, Costa Rica. The week after Mike passed away in Costa Rica, Raimundo presented a “taste and see” conference that was attended by Edgar and Candy. That day they bought the three books and took some DVDs. They immediately realized that what they had been introduced to was from God. They wanted to put their arms round Jesus and not the things that have been laid at His feet. The following week they were studying the books with the entire congregation. Raimundo spoke at Berea Church in July 2012. ALMI invited Edgar to attend the seminar and paid for Candy’s accommodation. “At the seminar we were ministered to in a very special way. One blessing was the Lord’s answer in providing the funds for Candy’s air fare so that we could travel together. Another blessing was the opportunity to meet other couples that are also teaching and sharing the ALMI message. The seminar motivated and encouraged us to press on in this way. More important still, was the opportunity of being in that place receiving those fresh and practical teachings that provided us with tools for our work, specifically with couples and future couples. We can truly say that this seminar was an answer to our prayers; we thank ALMI for this unique opportunity and we pray that the Lord might prosper you more every day. David & Olga. A middle aged couple. David has a PhD in Theology and has founded 4 churches in Mexico, one of which they are pastoring at present. He is Director for Seminario Bíblico de Fe (Faith Bible Seminary) with around 200 students enrolled in 10 chapters, in 7 states in Mexico. Olga is a high school graduate in theology and a teacher at the same seminary. David and Olga have been ALMI friends for many years and were well acquainted with Mike –and with Betty. “This training in Bogota helped us to see the problems in couples not ‘in the other person’ as is usually assumed, but in oneself. That is, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror before blaming the other person for our troubles.” “We need to work with a special emphasis on forgiveness; understand that we may not be able to completely forget, but we certainly can pray for those who have done us evil, to the point of blessing them. We need to work on the unique self, to let ourselves be discipled by the Lord Himself. We need to decide that we will walk in the path of the Spirit, and not in the path of the flesh.” “The seminar was a blessing for us both as a couple; at one point we remarked that if we had known these things earlier in life we would have been spared many troubles, both individually and as a family.” “What we learnt we put into practice immediately. During that week, on Wednesday evening, there was a clash between one of the couples attending the seminar. My wife and I approached this couple that evening and the following day, dealing with them individually and coming to good results. Marvelously, God spoke through brother Tim, because everything he said on Thursday had to do with them, and only we four knew the problem. There we were able to confirm how God works, and how He responds in a direct and precise way through His Word. We are now drawing up a training plan for multiplying the teachings.” “We thank God in the first place, and ALMI, in the memory of our dear brother Mike Wells, who we miss, although we know he rests with the Lord. Thank you Betty, for your integrity and consistent work. Our gratitude to those who support ALMI, to Tim with his ‘almost Texan’ accent, and to Raimundo with his loving family team.