This past week, I had the blessing of being able to travel to Quito, Ecuador with three of my colleagues for meetings with CLC leaders from the Americas. These gatherings take place every two years and are always a time of encouragement and joy in our renewed fellowship. There is nothing quite like worshipping in Spanish and English with Latin Americans. They sing with a fervor that I rarely experience in North America.
From the moment we landed, I knew that something was going to be different about this trip. I was not sure if it was simply trying to learn to breathe properly at 9,000 feet or the fact that I was visiting a country that straddled the two hemispheres of our world. In the end, I think it was really the beauty of the country and the people that actually took my breath away.
The host team from Ecuador was celebrating its 10th anniversary and what a wonderful ten years it has been in their ministry. Our Colombian team sacrificially sent Carlos Marin and his family to begin the CLC work in 2001. From the initial beginning in one location in Quito, the work has grown to four stores (soon to be five) and a thriving distribution center that supplies Christian literature to many other bookstores and ministries. What a joy it was to see how God has blessed their work and how the gospel is reaching into the far corners of Ecuador including indigenous peoples through their efforts.
Our theme for the week was Preparing for the Future. As I sat through the meetings, I could not help but wonder how the future will unfold for our ministries in these very different contexts. Our North American and Caribbean teams have been dealing with a declining Christian retail market, a challenging economic environment, increasing competition from the internet and now e-books. Our South American teams, on the other hand, are experiencing the fruit of decades of ministry and are now flourishing as the evangelical church is growing by leaps and bounds. This explosive growth of the gospel was evident in the dynamic, growing and youthful CLC teams and increasing sales in every country they represented.
On Wednesday, we actually got to visit a museum that sits on the equator and I got to stand on both hemispheres at the same time. It struck me that while we live in very different worlds; things are beginning to overlap in some fascinating ways as well. There is so much that we can learn from each other. Interestingly, internet sales have begun to take off significantly in the last year for the CLC Latin American teams even though they are working in a culture that is still fearful of buying on-line for security reasons. While dedicated e-readers do not seem to have made any in roads yet, IPads certainly have and e-books are already available from several Spanish publishing houses.
The main speaker for the week was Chris Shaw, a gifted teacher, a renowned trainer for pastors in South America and a CLC author. His messages really hit home, particularly his emphasis on personal transformation. We are certainly at a pivotal point in the history of our ministry around the world as the tectonic plates of technology keep shifting. There has never been a more important time for us to understand that real and lasting spiritual transformation will only take place as we draw closer to God. What an encouragement it is to know that even when we stumble like the prodigal son, we serve a heavenly father who draws close to us anyway.
I certainly don’t have any special insights into the future or a magic crystal ball, but I do know that transformation at all levels will be essential. How good it is to know that as we draw closer to God, he will be faithful to give us his wisdom to navigate the journey ahead no matter what circumstances we face.