Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

From Rev. Ken Herfst

Written by Rev. Herfst
Rev. Herfst has recently begun his work of teaching at the Seminario Evangelico Presbyteriana at San Felipe, Guatemala. He introduces us to his work.

About twenty men and a few women sit in a semi-circle in front of a man who is speaking about the churchÕs calling in the world. ÒWeÕve lost our focus,Ó he insists. Working through Matthew 28 and other familiar passages, he urges those present to be part of a renewed effort to recapture the priority of evangelism. One might well suppose that there isnÕt anything newsworthy in this. However, the speaker happens to be a 92-year old retired pastor! Yes, Pastor Samuel Ochoa shuffles a bit as he is speaking. At times, he coughs and it is difficult for him to catch his breath. But there he is, urging the church to remember our calling in the world. As he speaks, his eyes glow and one senses the love he has for the Saviour. All of us leave the room that afternoon impressed. As a result of this manÕs efforts, the Western Presbytery has agreed to equip the churches to evangelize. Forty churches will be involved.

Vision of the Seminary
In the providence of God, we will have a part in that process as well. The Presbyterian Seminary has formed a Centro MIES (Misi—n, Investigaci—n, Extensi—n and Servicio or Mission, Investigation, Extension and Service) whose purpose is to work with local churches to promote holistic missions locally, in other parts of Guatemala and beyond. Building on a tradition of Theological Education by Extension (TEE) that was first developed at the seminary and has since been used all over the world, the vision of the seminary is to equip churches to remember our focus. Given that we are on loan by the Free Reformed Churches to the seminary, our churches now can play an important role in bringing this vision to reality. This month, for example, we had a Christmas program at the menÕs jail in Retalhuleu. Activities like this will be a regular part of the studentsÕ training.

Our family arrived the first week of September. Later that month, the seminary hosted a mission conference at which time I was installed as professor and given the position as director of the missions department (Centro MIES). Much of our time has been spent in preparing course material, finding suitable books, developing contacts, etc. This is a large field and there is much to be done.

Home Life
WeÕve also been settling in to our home in Quetzaltenango. This is the second largest city in Guatemala. It lies in a picturesque valley. Just to the south of us, the majestic Volcano Santa Maria de Jesœs, towers over the landscape. Off to one side, a smaller volcano, Santiaguito, constantly spews steam or ash. Tremours have become part of our life again. We live in a three-bedroom condominium on the outskirts of the city. Security is more of a concern here and this complex is large enough to allow our youngest daughter Jerusha to mingle with other children, while providing us with the security that Latin American city life requires. The other children are already well acquainted with the bus system and get around by themselves.

Quetzaltenango is renowned as a centre for education. Esther and Jerusha are enrolled in a private Christian School. Jackie continues to home school Nigel and Justin. The old part of Quetzaltenango has plenty of old world charm with its narrow streets and colonial architecture. At the same time, there are modern shopping centres. There are very good health facilities in Quetzaltenango as well, as weÕve recently come to experience. Nigel received an emergency appendectomy in November. Esther fractured her wrist. God was merciful and both received excellent medical attention and have recuperated well.

Our family attends the ÒBethel Church.Ó Founded by Presbyterian missionaries in 1904, Bethel celebrates 100 years of GodÕs faithfulness this month. This church has ÒmotheredÓ many other churches in Western Guatemala. Our family has been well received in the church community and all our children attended church camps. Their new friendships have certainly helped in the transition.

Our Mission
Let me close with another snapshot of why we are here. A number of us had gathered from all across western Guatemala for a meeting of CONEM, a Guatemalan network of churches, mission-sending agencies, seminaries, etc., that cooperate in helping local churches send their own missionaries. Today there are Guatemalan missionaries in places like Africa, Spain, the Middle East and India. The speaker was Jesus Londo–o, a Colombian. Before explaining the nuts and bolts of how CONEM works and the need to motivate local churches to be involved in missions, he expounded Scripture. Using John 9, he took us through the challenges that the healed blind man faced: challenges from neighbours, challenges from the religious authorities who clung to their traditions and didnÕt recognize that God was at work, challenges even from his family.

The fundamental question that Scripture demands of us is not, Ôdo you believe that God can transform your neighbourhood, your church or your family?Õ The answer to that question is easy: of course He can. When our Lord found the restored man, the question was, Òdo you believe in the Son of God?Ó That is the most urgent question. In His grace, Christ led the restored blind man to the point where he believed in Christ É and worshipped Him. That is where our vision for mission needs to begin: at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, worshipping the One whom the Father sent as the Saviour of His people, who in turn looks at us and says, ÒAs the Father has sent me, I also send you.Ó It is our privilege to join men like Samuel Ochoa, Jesus Londo–o, the seminary staff and others to equip the churches to respond to that call.

With warm Christian greetings,

Pastor Ken and Jackie Herfst, Justin, Esther, Nigel and Jerusha

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