This week, I had the opportunity to go into Mercedes (a mountain village about 45 minutes outside of Gracias) with Clay Powell to meet with some pastors that graduated from the Level 1 training of the Pastor Training School in October of 2016. I want to introduce you to these pastors.
Each of the pastors that I met today owns a small coffee farm and they are therefore all dependent on their coffee crop for their entire annual income. Although it is currently a critical time of harvesting coffee, each of these pastors left their coffee fields long enough today to meet with us for a couple of hours and feed us lunch. There were anxious to learn more about what we will be doing with the pastor training for 2017. Although it would mean leaving their coffee in someone else's hands for a short time, these pastors thought it was that important to come and meet with us. The pastors were excited to learn that we are providing more training for them for this year as well as opening up the level 1 training to additional pastors. This particular group of pastors is very interested in doing the level 1 training themselves for their small group leaders and they asked for our help in doing that in their community. It is exciting to see that these pastors are getting excited about raising up their leaders to be more effective and to reach deeper into the mountains with the gospel.
I would like for you to meet the pastors that I met today and let you hear a little from them about how the pastor training has impacted their ministries. German Diaz is the pastor at the San Juan neighborhood church in the Mercedes village. German is married and has two children. German spent some time in the United States working before he felt God calling him to come back to Western Honduras to be a minister of the gospel. German expressed that before the pastor training he had many doubts about how he was handling Scripture, but he now has the confidence that he is properly teaching what God has communicated to His people through His word. He said that his congregation is now more attentive and eager to hear what he says in the sermons. He said several in his congregation spend a lot of time reading their Bibles, but don’t understand what it is telling them and he is now able to help them learn to study God’s word for themselves.
Melvin Portillo also graduated from the level 1 training in October. He shared of how it has impacted him to learn the importance of looking at the context of a verse to properly understand it. He shared they had received some devotional material that took one part of a verse out of Proverbs and as he studied it he didn’t understand what it was saying, but with his training, he went back to the verses that surrounded that verse and understood the context and was then able to understand and explain the meaning of the verse and the devotion.
Carmen Amanda Murciashe also graduated from the level 1 training in October. Carmen shared how the school gave her the confidence and she felt very full of passion and zeal. She shared a testimony of a time recently where she was preaching the word to a small group (similar to a Sunday School) and that because of her knowing how to preach the word of God two people in the small group received Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Daniel Cáceres shared how much it meant to him that we were willing to bring the training to them. He said that there are several Bible Institutes that they could attend to learn to be better pastors, but they are all expensive and require the pastors to leave their work and their families and live in another place for the time required to get the training. Daniel was excited that we are bringing the training to them and doing it in a way that allows them to focus on their work during coffee harvest time and continue to lead their congregations and families while receiving the training.
By the estimates of some there are approximately 2,000 villages in Western Honduras that do not currently have a Bible Preaching church. My Spanish teacher in Copan Ruinas even shared that some of the pastors in the "churches" among the indigenous people between Copan and Guatemala (part of Western Honduras) do not even have Bibles. Most of these villages are too difficult for us to get into directly, but the Pastors that are attending the Pastor Training are from churches in villages that are reaching closer into those villages. These pastors have the vision of taking the training and evangelism and discipleship into other villages and then as those pastors are trained they can repeat that cycle further into the mountains. Over time, it is this duplication of pastors that will eventually lead to all of the villages having a bible preaching church.
So what exactly is the Pastor Training? The Sowers started a pastor training school a number of years ago with a vision to reach and train pastors and plant churches in these villages that so desperately need a bible preaching church. The missionary that was teaching the school for the Sowers left the area and the school was not operating for a time, but in 2016 a partnership between Allen and Russel Sowers, Shannon Hopkins, and Clay Powell enabled the training school to be re-started with a fresh vision and enough diversity to make sure the training is not dependent on one missionary to continue operation. For the 2017 training, I was invited to enter into the partnership. Each of the missionaries brings a niche to the partnership and when we all work together it leads to a better administration and operation of the training. The pastors come down to a retreat center near Gracias, Lempira for 3 days each month (March through October) for the training. The pastors pay their own travel costs and a small fee towards the food and lodging, but the four missionary partners raise funds from supporters back home to cover the bulk of the cost of the books, rent, food, etc. The level 1 class focuses on teaching the pastors basic discipleship, how to interpret the Bible, how to put together a sermon, and how to preach the sermon. The level 2 class will add topics such as Old Testament survey, New Testament survey, church history, biblical backgrounds, etc., but the pastors will get to continue to practice what they learned in level 1 while adding in what they learn from level 2. The cost per pastor to attend the training is less than $200 for the entire 8 month training. We are looking for church partners in the U.S. to help us with our part of the partnership ($3,000). If your church is interested in partnering with us to participate with this important ministry (or if you would like to personally sponsor a pastor for $200 for the year) please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.