This article compiles reports from GCI mission developer Rod Matthews and others who participated in two GCI conferences held recently in Bogotá, Colombia.
History was made recently as, for the first time, congregational leaders and members from GCI churches throughout Central and South America gathered for the Latin American Conference in Bogotá, Colombia. In their honor, GCI Mission Developers (MDs) from around the world together with other GCI denominational leaders joined the conference prior to holding the annual Mission Developers Conference. According to MD Rod Matthews, “The two conferences reflected GCI’s unique world-girdling fellowship with its connectedness despite diverse cultures and languages.”
Latin American Conference
The tone of this conference was expressed well in its title, A Celebration of God’s Grace. It was marked by a spirit of joy among participants—many meeting for the first time. Though some participants did not speak Spanish, the beaming smiles, hugs and animated gestures powerfully conveyed what could not be expressed in words.
The conference was hosted by the Bogotá church, including its Pastor Hector Barrero (who also is an MD) and his wife Paulina. Assisting was the Barranquilla church, including its Pastor Sonia Orozco and her husband Luis.
Conference presentations were made by GCI President Joseph Tkach and his wife, Tammy; Superintendent of U.S. Ministers, Greg Williams; Grace Communion Seminary President, Gary Deddo; U.S. Church Administration and Development Assistant Director Charles Albrecht; U.S. Church Multiplications Ministries Coordinator, Heber Ticas; and GCI Board Member, Wendy Moore. Leaders of GCI churches in Colombia, Argentina, Honduras, Peru, El Salvador and Chile gave updates on how Christ is involving their churches in his ministry. MDs James Henderson (UK), Eugene Guzon (Philippines) and Kalengule Kaoma (Africa) shared their experiences, adding to a sense of closeness as a truly international denomination.
Members of the Barranquilla church led worship, and offered a beautiful sketch illustrating the Colombian culture through dancing and singing. Hector Barrero commented: “We worshiped together with the verve and expression for which our Latin brethren are renowned.” Joseph Tkach noted, “The worship was simply fabulous—the joy we experienced transcended any differences in language and culture.” The conference ended with a particularly emotional communion service led by Caribbean MD, Charles Fleming and his wife Carmen.
Mission Developers Conference
This annual conference of GCI’s MDs together with other denominational leaders followed the Latin American Conference and focused on pastoral development and education, including evaluating how GCI can better serve the needs of its ministers given their geographic, cultural and language diversity, along with a disparity of access to electronic communication. The MDs gave updates about their families to strengthen the bonds forged through many years of shared service. The group also discussed mission coordination and financing challenges, ordination management in remote areas, and other topics of shared concern.
Following the MD Conference, the MDs and others (most of whom were in Colombia for the first time) enjoyed a day-long trip to Mount Monserrat with its historic church and magnificent views of the city (see below), and the underground salt cathedral of Zipaquira where vast caverns of a former salt mine have been turned into an inspiring and unique memorial to the life of Christ.