|Group Photo no. 1: Langham Preaching, Trinidad. Edwin is on the right,|
Igor in the sky-blue polo-shirt.
A little like West Ham United of late, recently I (Craig) haven't been home all that much at weekends. Though, admittedly, for higher motives than the removal of an athletics track.
Two weeks ago, I was with my Langham Preaching cohorts for our final annual workshop, led by our old friend Edwin Fernández, and, for the first time, Langham Preaching's Latin American Director, Igor Améstegui.
For newcomers to the blog, Langham seeks to improve the quality of expository preaching in the church through cell groups. These cell groups meet once a month, with one of the group 'preaching' to the others, and the others responding with feedback. But before the annual cycle of meetings begins, there is an annual residential workshop, taking a slightly different angle.
This year the focus was preaching from the Psalms, and it drew heavily on Christopher Wright's recent book, How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth, which Langham have recently translated to Spanish (Wright even visited Bolivia for a special Langham conference earlier this year) and each attendee was given a free copy.
While there was plenty of material on the different kinds of Psalms and their emphases (lament psalms, psalms of Zion, psalms of thanksgiving etc), Edwin and Igor shaped the weekend by taking a leaf from Walter Brueggemann's book (quite literally!) which groups the Psalms into three general categories: Psalms of orientation, of disorientation, and reorientation. So, for example, Igor and Edwin preached from a different Psalm each day based on these categories. And on the second night, there was a (much welcome!) time of pastoral care, in which we were asked to consider if our life and ministry were on a plane of orientation, disorientation or reorientation, and explain why.
What I particularly love about Langham is that, for all the focus on sound preaching, there is a great emphasis on aspects like this kind of personal care, and also the church as a receptor to preaching. On the second day, there was an exercise in which we had to write extensively about the needs of our churches, and then consider the main themes of the texts we had been preaching recently, and how closely those two aspects aligned. It was illuminating, to say the least, and had me thinking -- not for the first time -- that the Langham participants in our church ought to be getting together on a weekly basis to provide more direction for the preachers (mostly myself right now!). Admittedly, I've been considering this for a couple of years, but it has been difficult to find a time when everyone is free. Maybe it's time to simply go for a time when most people can make it.
Anyway, as ever, a really stimulating and refreshing few days. Aptly, I think the group in general felt very much 'reorientated' by the Sunday afternoon. That evening, Igor preached at a special joint service of the churches involved, which we held at Fundación Totaí, and the encouragement of his visit with Edwin was shared by our congregants.
|Group Photo no. 2: Latin Link Bolivia.|
Meanwhile, last weekend, we found ourselves in the country's de facto capital, La Paz, for Latin Link Bolivia's annual retreat. You may remember that we were invited to join the Latin Link Bolivia team just over a year ago, and each year, among other things, we are required to participate in two events: one is the conference (which we attended over New Year) and the other is the retreat. The conference has a teaching programme and seminars, with plenty of time for group fellowship and some necessary group business meetings. The retreat, meanwhile, is really focused on pastoral care, so much so that those who lead the retreat come from outside the group.
|La Paz from the air. As I explained to a friend, it's like Cloud City from|
Star Wars -- only with even more treachery!
The retreat's focus this year was the Sermon on the Mount, and there were five main sessions. But instead of an aural teaching focus, each session required us to go away for an hour or so, read the required passage, and respond using prompts prepared by our retreat leader, Carlos. Two factors in particular made this possible. Firstly, Sam had his very own paceña babysitter for the weekend. Phew! Secondly, the venue was a place of great natural beauty, with plenty of space to be still and undistracted. Amanda and I both came away feeling -- yep, you guessed it -- reorientated!
|Quiet times don't get much more 'quiet' than this!|
As did the rest of the group, with whom we had plenty of time to further consolidate the connections we had only begun to establish in December/January. Before we went our separate ways, there was also a quick meeting to discuss the team's plans for Latin Link's upcoming international assembly, a four-yearly event which takes place in Guatemala in February. We have decided to kill two birds with one stone and have a slightly stripped-down version of our own team conference just after the assembly.
The only hitch came on Monday afternoon as the pilot on our homeward flight approached Trinidad, considered the tropical rainstorm that was taking place and thought to himself, "No thanks!" We were re-routed to Cochabamba, where the pilots waited for the situation in Trinidad to calm down. It did not, and we were flown back to La Paz on a No-Expenses-Paid basis (except for the next day's re-scheduled flight). This was particularly infuriating as a member of the crew had assured us all verbally that the airline would put us up in a hotel; we lodged a complaint upon our re-arrival in La Paz.
As awkward as all this was, I was quietly delighted (don't tell Amanda!). Because our Cochabamba-La Paz flight took place around 5pm, which, for the photographers out there, is generally Bolivia's 'golden hour'. And there are few flights more scenic than Cochabamba-La Paz! Every cloud, then, does indeed have a silver (or, in this case, burnished-gold) lining.
|Illimani, Bolivia's second-highest peak.|
|The view over El Alto as we approached. El Alto is where|
the airport is based and is a city in its own right:
it sits on the edge of the crater, rather than inside the
crater (like La Paz).
|One happy customer.|
And so, we checked into a La Paz bed-and-breakfast we know well, had a good sleep, got up and went back to the airport. And, appropriately enough, we reorientated ourselves back to Trinidad.
- Pray for boldness and resolve for ourselves and our colleagues in putting into practice the principles learned over the past couple of weekends.
- Pray for our Guatemala trip next year. It's obligatory (and exciting!), but obviously expensive. Pray that the funds might come together for this.
- Give thanks for the great encouragement of the last couple of weekends.
- For the boost to the various churches in having Igor and Edwin visit us again.
- For the pastoral care and preaching help so abundantly afforded to the Langham group.
- For deepening relationships with our Latin Link colleagues.
- For plenty of time and space to meditate on God's word in La Paz.
- For the opportunity to simply get out of our ministry HQ for a few days and have time together as a family.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda