Joel Van Hoogen's Report from Venezuela
from Joel Van Hoogen
This year my wife and I were able to sit behind a curtain and listen as our oldest daughter had her first child and we were given our first grandchild. It was a sacred moment for us all. The last two weeks Don and I were blessed to be in the delivery room as many new born babes in Christ entered into the Kingdom. It was incredibly satisfying to say the least.
When CPE brings a team from North America to work in a country the temptation for the Christians of the country is to think that the results of ministry were largely resting on the presence of the North American Christians and not on their acts of obedience and boldness. This could not be the conclusion drawn from the last two weeks of ministry in Venezuela. This was all their work and they are continuing it. The numbers of professions of faith are just the first fruits of an initiative they have begun.
A busy two weeks of ministry in Venezuela proved to be a time of great reward. Back in March CPE training took place with around 140 participants. Forty of these were students in a lay leadership and pastoral training institute called IBAVEN. These students comprised the CPE team that we worked with these last two weeks. They would locate the persons and places of ministry. Don Ibsen (former missionary to Venezuela with the C&MA) and myself arrived to go with them to their initial evangelism appointments and provide coaching based upon what we witnessed. We would be a safety net for them in their time of witness but, make no mistake, they were the ones who would carry it out.
Our days were full from beginning to end. We worked in 8 different communities with 42 team members going on evangelistic dialogue visits. These 42 were charged to continue through five days of evangelism and discipleship and we participated with them in one of those days. We could not go with some and yet they still reported visits scheduled and made and people coming to Christ!
The very first day we arrived in Cartanal we were immediately escorted to our first appointments. I went with a young Christian mother named Carolina as she met with her friend Mary. Mary's little boy was fussy so it was my job not only to observe their time together but to keep the little guy occupied. Carolina's first nervous words were, "Mary, you know I have been praying for you every day for the last 90 days." Tears came to both ladies eyes and the conversation took off from there. Mary gave her heart to Jesus after a meaningful conversation. She was the first of 75 individuals that Don and I witnessed confessing faith in Christ through the multiple conversations that followed.
Also reporting from a week of ministry that happened during my time in Venezuela was a team led by Jim Evans and Dusty Benner. 95 first time professions of faith. The rains were so significant that it was decided to have at the church an initial night of discipleship for those professing Christ. Jim again reported that 95 showed up for that first night of discipleship.
God sees the heart and knows those who are his by Spirit led faith. We will leave the final count with God. But Jim also praised the Lord to see significant fruit from his last work there finding at least 40% of those praying in the past worshipping in the church and some of these comprised the nationals they worked with this last week.
Dan McIver is with a team for two weeks in Brazil at this writing. Mark Shafer has teams continuing to come in Ecuador. Keep up prayers for power and safety and lasting fruit for the Savior. More to Come!