Since our last update, I would say that our attitude has been cautiously optimistic, or rather, one of vacillating between optimism and caution. We made optimistic plans to return to Bolivia in February to set discipleship ministry plans in motion for the year and bring closure to some of our involvements (in person), but caution caused us to postpone our trip. We had been optimistic that we would be done with Covid by then; instead, cases were higher than ever.
Cautious yet Optimistic
Even though caution kept us from going to Bolivia in February, key things that we had planned to do while there, still happened. Our colleague, Patty Nacho, who had been staying in our apartment in our absence, graciously took it upon herself to close the apartment. This meant not only finalizing all the details with the landlord satisfactorily, but also arranging for everything, including a vehicle, piano, books, electronics, furniture to be sold, transferred, gifted to others. It was a huge job, but in the end we are happy with how the material things we are no longer using will be able to benefit others—the cellphones went to children who need them for remote learning, the car went to the Emmanuel Foundation as theirs was beyond repair, Janice’s piano will be used by children at the Foundation whom she had been teaching while in Bolivia, most books were gifted away to those with a special interest in the topics.
Another thing that I had hoped to do while in Bolivia was to organize a national leadership team for Discipleship and Pastoring of Pastors (DPP) and put ministry plans in place for the rest of the year. It wasn’t possible to do this in person, but I have been able to continue meeting with key leaders bi-weekly and, together with denominational leadership, form a national leadership team of 14 members from 6 regions. In addition to a national leadership team, the Unión Bautista Boliviana (UBB) has included DPP in its 5-year plan and signed an agreement with the organization overseeing DPP in Bolivia. I am optimistic that with the support of Pastor Lucio Arias, the new President, the diligent work of the Bolivian coordinator for DPP, Pastor Lourdes Salazar, the efforts of the national leadership team, and continued involvement of those with past experience, DPP will consolidate and be a source of encouragement and growth to our pastors.
Involvements in Central America also leave room for optimism. CBM’s hiring of Byron Velasquez as National Field Staff is a great asset in opening up new ministry opportunities. Byron, two other Guatemalan pastors and I, have been running a trial Pastoring of Pastors group, weekly, via Zoom. If deemed helpful, other Pastoring of Pastors groups could be formed.
Byron and our colleagues, Bruno and Kathleen Soucy, have also been instrumental in setting up groups for the study of and implementation of Marketplace Ministries through the Institute for Marketplace Transformation (IMT). I have been taking part in the trainings and reading materials along with the groups. I’m optimistic about the potential of this ministry that emphasizes God’s calling, not just to ministry in the church but in all aspects of life, and especially the workplace, where most people spend most of their time. The trainings and materials focus on the church gathered and the church scattered, working together to transform the world.
We are cautiously optimistic about new travel/ministry plans. We are tentatively rescheduling our Bolivia visit for November. This visit would include a team retreat and could include ministry around DPP, Marketplace Ministries, and theological education. Prior to the visit to Bolivia, I am hoping to visit pastors I have begun to know via Zoom, in person, in Guatemala and El Salvador. I am just working on formulating ministry and travel plans around such a visit. I am also cautiously optimistic about CBM-related mission plans with churches in Canada. As restrictions are lifted, I hope to visit more churches in Canada. I will be attending the Assembly meetings of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC) at the end of May and am hopeful that opportunities will emerge from those, in person, meetings.
In reality, for Christians, it’s not really about finding a balance between paralyzing caution and blind optimism, but a matter of faith—a certainty based in and guided by God. Romans 8 has become my favourite passage during the pandemic. It assures us that we are not slaves to fear (v.15), that present sufferings are not worth comparing to future glory (v.18), that even when we are so overwhelmed that we do not know how to pray, the Spirit prays for us (vv.26-27,34), that God works all things for the good (v.28), that we are more than conquerors (vv.31-32,37), that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (vv.37-39).
Personally, our most immediate challenge has been the passing of Janice’s Mom on March 26th. We had a wonderful celebration of life for her on April 9th. With no Covid restrictions about 150 friends and family members gathered to sing and share testimonies of her faithfulness to Jesus, her family, friends, and the world. I (Bill) had the privilege of delivering the message, Janice played the piano and arranged the eulogy, and every family member gave tributes.
Janice and I praise God that we have not yet contracted Covid. Our daughter, Marigan, has begun to see some improvement (very limited mind you), but is still something to celebrate after about 18 months.
Praise and Prayer.
- That Marigan continues to show signs of improvement.
- For Janice and her family as they grieve her Mom’s passing and adjust to family life without a parent.
- For ongoing ministry opportunities in Bolivia, Central America, and Canada. Pray that God will continue to guide Bolivian leadership as they use resources like DPP as a discipleship tool for spiritual growth. Pray for the growing Marketplace and DPP ministries in Central America. Pray for churches in Canada as they begin to reduce restrictions, regroup, reorganize…etc., and as we seek to involve them in God’s mission through our interactions.
- For Goretty and the Emmanuel Foundation. This is where Janice had a music ministry and for whom she continues to have a heart for. The challenges related to health, grief, education, career guidance, have been enormous during the pandemic. Pray for health. Pray for strength. Pray for wisdom. Pray for protection for the children. Pray that the older children and those leaving the protection of the Foundation’s guidance make good decisions.
Thank you so much for your continued support!
Bill & Janice
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Note: People across Ukraine have fled their homes, evacuating to neighbouring countries as the conflict increases. The U.N. estimates the wave of refugees could reach 5 million. As part of the Baptist Forum for Aid and Development (BFAD), CBM is immediately releasing funds to support the response of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and the Ukrainian Baptists as churches open their buildings to host refugees and provide essentials such as food, clothing and personal hygiene supplies. To support crisis relief for Ukraine, click on the following link:
Ukraine Emergency Relief