Luz de Vida’s new building in Ecuador

2015-06-11 12.05.01When the Luz de Vida congregation in Quito, Ecuador, needed to find a new worship location before July 15, 2015, God provided one on July 13—only two days before the deadline. On Sunday, July 19, the congregation began services at the new building with morning worship at 10:00 am and an evening prayer service at 5:00 pm.

As in many large cities, meeting space in Quito is rare and expensive. Church leaders were thrilled to find a reasonably priced building that fits congregational needs in a more centralized location than their previous meeting site.

One of the group’s two pastors, Rev. Pablo Landázuri says, “We know that a church building is not the church. However, from a witnessing perspective, having our own building helps to change Ecuadorians’ perception of non-Roman Catholic churches as informal or ahistorical. Having our own building is also a witness in itself that shows our commitment to be ‘salt and light’ in the midst of the community. Besides that, we now have more room for different activities that we were not able to have in the past. Now we have four Sunday school and catechism classes at the same time, a small library, nursery, and a study that are a great blessing for the members and visitors.”

Pablo and Verenisse Landazuri-cThe congregation welcomes a steady stream of visitors looking for a confessional, reverent, loving, and gospel-centered Christian church. Luz de Vida celebrated its tenth anniversary on September 25 in its new location.

The building is in a residential area on the north side of the city, only two blocks from a main avenue. Public transportation and parking are available. It has a large room that works well for worship, a cafeteria, and several smaller rooms. Because it was originally a house that had been renovated for commercial use, its cost per square foot was significantly lower than similar buildings.

The purchase price of $300,000 USD was negotiated down to $270,000. The small Luz de Vida congregation raised an initial payment of $130,000, but the remaining $140,000 needed to be paid by December 1, 2015.

At an October 5 congregational meeting, Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Pella, IA (who ordained Rev. Landázuri to serve as a missionary to Ecuador), approved a plan to provide financial support for the building purchase. An individual gift of $25,000 has been designated for the Luz de Vida building, and Covenant will borrow the rest of the required amount from its existing building fund. The church will pay back its building account as gifts are received through congregational fundraising efforts and support from other URCNA churches.

worship“Above all, we are humbled and thankful to the Lord for Covenant’s generosity and their commitment to support the Ministry of Luz de Vida in Quito,” Rev. Landázuri says. “God has provided in ways that seemed impossible in our eyes. Once again, God has shown us that ‘with God nothing will be impossible.’ This commits Luz de Vida to remain faithful to the Word and the Reformed faith.”

Churches or individuals wishing to contribute to Luz de Vida support may contact Carrol Hol, cjhol@mahaska.org or Covenant Reformed Church, 2805 Fifield Road, Pella, IA 50219; 641-620-1777.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the October 28, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

Advertisements

Ordained to serve in Ecuador

Pablo and Verenisse Landazuri
Pablo and Verenisse Landazuri

Pablo Landázuri’s ordination marked the conclusion of one chapter in his life and the beginning of another.

“I feel that this milestone was the end of a long and intense process,” he says, “but mainly the beginning of a great task.”

That great task is bringing the Reformed faith to the people in Pablo’s native country of Ecuador, where Pablo and his family hope to return in June.

The consistory of Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA, has called Rev. Landázuri as an Associate Pastor to serve as a Minister of the Word and Sacraments and church planter in Ecuador. His ordination and installation service was held in the church on Friday, April 25, 2014.

Rev. Mark Vander Hart, Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN, preached from 1 Timothy 3:1-7 on “Noble Men May Desire a Noble Task.” He noted how Paul stresses personal Christian qualities for those who aspire to lead the church, and pointed out that these qualities should be manifest in any believer striving to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord.

“Pablo’s personal growth and ministerial gifts have been observed by the church of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he says, “and the church celebrates the call to the ministry in his life and in the life of his family, as God will open the proper doors in Ecuador.”

Rev. Vander Hart also read the Form for Ordination and called the elders of Covenant and other ordained ministers forward for the laying on of hands.

Rev. Todd Joling, pastor of Faith United Reformed Church in Beecher, IL, gave the charge to the minister from 2 Timothy 4:1-5. He encouraged Pablo to fulfill his ministerial calling as Christ prescribed: remembering the weighty motivation (a servant answerable to God), the mandate or main task (preaching the Word), and the appropriate manner (with persistence and patience).

“The burden of his words was on the charge that Paul gave to Timothy to preach the Word and nothing else,” says Rev. Landázuri. “It made me reflect on the need of always being ready and prepared for any occasion. Also the need for patience due to possible disappointments and sufferings. However, all that we endure like soldiers and athletes because of the hope and prize we will have on ‘that Day.’”

Rev. Doug Barnes, Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, presented the charge to the congregation from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, urging the audience to pray for the ministry in Ecuador.

“Throughout the evening, God blessed us with wonderful reminders about the significance of the ministry and about His power to raise up servants for His Gospel,” says Rev. Barnes. “At every point, He has been preparing Pablo for this work. Seeing that, we prepare for his departure confidently, knowing that God will continue the work He has begun.”

While Pablo attended Mid-America Reformed Seminary, he was under the care of the consistory at Faith URC in Beecher, IL, and assisted with a church plant among the Hispanic population of Chicago Heights.

“Our council is delighted to see how the Lord has brought Rev. Landázuri through seminary, blessed his relationship with Covenant Reformed Church, and opened the door to minister in his home country,” says Rev. Joling. “We greatly enjoyed our time with the Landázuris while Pablo was in seminary; he and his family were a great help in our Spanish language ministry. We rejoice with them and eagerly look forward to seeing how the Lord will use Pastor Landázuri in the work to which he’s been called.”

Rev. Landazuri and Rev. Donoso
Rev. Landazuri and Rev. Donoso

Following Pablo’s graduation from Mid-America in May of 2013, he and his family moved to Pella, IA, where he has served the last year as a pastoral intern. During this time, the church’s Missions Committee and Consistory have developed a Joint Venture Agreement for sponsoring Pablo’s ministry and church planting efforts in Ecuador.

“We continue to covet the prayers and support of our sister churches for this work in Ecuador,” says Rev. Barnes. “God is doing something exciting in Quito! Come join us in witnessing His work!”

Among those traveling to Pella, IA, for the ordination service were Pablo’s parents and his pastor, Rev. Donoso. Speaking after the worship service the following Sunday, Rev. Donoso grew emotional as he explained how he and his small congregation had prayed for assistance and God had provided Pablo. When the doors opened for Pablo to attend Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Rev. Donoso wondered if God would choose to put Pablo’s gifts to work elsewhere and he feared Pablo wouldn’t return to Quito. Rev. Donoso rejoices to know that, as he approaches retirement, Rev. Landázuri will continue ministering to the fledgling congregation and proclaiming the Reformed faith in Ecuador.

Reflecting on his ordination, Rev. Landázuri says, “It has given me the conviction that this is what God wants me to do, now that through His Church I have been officially sent to preach the gospel. That gives me comfort and the assurance that I am not going on my own but sent by Him.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-13 of the Mary 28, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Short meeting for URC Classis Central US

DSCN3737
Pablo and Verenisse receive congratulations.

In contrast to the September meeting of Classis Central US of the URCNA—which ran out of time to discuss the four overtures on its agenda—the March 3 & 4, 2014, meeting was the shortest in most delegates’ memory. A contributing factor was an abbreviated exam with a prompt decision. Another reason was that discussion on five overtures was not protracted. But the primary factor was the unusual absence of credential requests for advice, which can be a time-consuming activity conducted in executive session.

Delegates voted to revise the agenda in order to accommodate the candidacy examination of  Pablo Landázuri on Monday evening. Because he’d already sustained the other six portions at the September Classis meeting, this exam consisted of only two sections. Rev. Jacques Roets (Redeemer URC in Dyer, IN) examined Pablo on Bible Knowledge and Rev. Simon Lievaart (Doon URC in Doon, IA) questioned him regarding Confessional Knowledge.

The consistory of Faith URC in Beecher, IL, supervises Pablo. Following the time of questioning, the Faith URC consistory determined, and Classis concurred, that he had sustained the areas of biblical and confessional knowledge.

Pablo later reflected, “My main thought is that God, once again, has shown me how his fatherly hand works in all situations. I have had the great privilege to have the time to study the Scriptures and the Three Forms of Unity in a detail that I wouldn’t have had in any other situation, for which I am thankful. Also, I have learned that the result of a Classis examination is not only an intellectual exercise, but a spiritual one by which God has molded me and shown his will for the future. This is a very comforting feeling.”

Since June of 2013, Pablo has been serving an internship at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA. He has assisted Rev. Doug Barnes in a variety of pastoral duties, regularly taught fifth grade catechism, provided Spanish instruction at a local Christian school, led Bible studies in Spanish for some area families, and frequently preached at Covenant or other churches. His wife, Verenisse, volunteered in the Spanish language immersion program at Pella Christian Grade School.

Classis decided to waive Pablo’s ordination exam, should he accept a call within Classis Central US. That is likely, given that Covenant Reformed Church has been working to develop a Joint Venture Committee to support his work when he returns to Ecuador.

Rev. Barnes said, “We’re delighted at how well our brother did on his examination. Our Council plans to meet within the next few days, in part to finish laying the groundwork for holding a congregational meeting to extend a call to Pablo. Lord willing, we hope to ordain him before his return to Ecuador in June. There’s a lot to do between now and when the Landázuri family leaves, but we know that God is entirely able to ensure that it all gets done well. We urge the churches to keep Pablo and his family, along with our Consistory, in prayer as we seek God’s help in bringing a strong Reformed witness to Quito, Ecuador.”

Classis met earlier than its regularly scheduled date in order to vote on five overtures prior to the deadline for synodical materials. Three came from Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, one from Covenant Reformed Church in Kansas City, and one from Grace URC in Waupun, WI.

Revs. Spencer Aalsburg, Bradd Nymeyer, and Keith Davis enjoy a break.
Revs. Spencer Aalsburg, Bradd Nymeyer, and Keith Davis enjoy a break.

The first overture from Pella would request Synod Visalia 2014 to editorially revise Classis credentials. URCNA Church Order stipulates that Consistories delegate two of its members to attend Classis and Synod meetings, but the approved classical credential uses the word “council” rather than “Consistory.” This overture requests editorial revision of the current classical credential to replace “council” with “Consistory” throughout the form. After little discussion, the overture passed.

A second overture from Pella and the one from Kansas City both suggested the appointment of a synodical committee to study the matter of resignation. Brothers from the churches made clear that neither had been aware of the other’s work on the overtures. Classis delegates considered the two overtures separately because each had its own nuances.

In discussion regarding the Pella overture, concerns were expressed regarding adopting a blanket approach that failed to consider each unique situation of individuals. After some discussion, the overture passed with only a few dissenting votes.

The Kansas City overture generated more discussion, related primarily to terminology. Several brothers felt uncomfortable with the word “desertion,” which was used in this overture. Rev. John Vermeer said, “It sounds like the word already is presuming culpability.”

Although Rev. Harold Miller expressed the belief that the overture primarily spoke to the issue of a person already under discipline, Rev. Bradd Nymeyer felt that was not clear. After another concern was expressed relating to possible legal ramifications, the delegates amended the overture with a question relating to that matter. The revised overture passed, but with many dissenting votes.

The third overture from Pella requested clarification of the status of the Three Forms of Unity and consisted of two affirmations that delegates considered separately. The first called for Synod to affirm the Three Forms of Unity as they appear in the 1976 version of the Psalter Hymnal. The second called for Synod to affirm the “substitute statement,” which appeared as a footnote in the 1958 version of Belgic Confession Article 36, “as part of its confessional binding.” Rev. Barnes explained that the footnote had been approved by the CRCNA Synod of 1958, but the temporary footnote was used while awaiting feedback from other Reformed churches.

The first affirmation passed with a few negative votes, while the second passed without dissent. The above four overtures will now be forwarded to the federation’s Stated Clerk for inclusion on the agenda for Synod Visalia 2014.

The overture from Grace URC in Waupun requested revisions to Classis Rules of Procedure and consisted of three requests, considered separately. The first would allow the Clerk to update the Rules of Procedure when changes are made to the Church Order that require revision of corresponding citations in the Rules, as long as he reports such changes to Classis. The motion was adopted. The second suggested the Clerk remind consistories that seminarians under their care be encouraged to attend Classis meetings at which candidacy exams are scheduled. That motion was defeated. The third suggested changing the word “delegate” to “member” at two points in the Classis Rules of Procedure, and it passed unanimously.

While a total absence of request for advice is extremely rare, this doesn’t mean that the churches are not dealing with many pastoral concerns. It simply means that no consistory felt the need to request advice at this time. Some have recently moved beyond that point and others have not quite reached that point with discipline problems.

DSCN3722Before lunch, delegates finished their business: re-electing Rev. Jody Lucero to serve on the Missions Committee, continuing the Clerk’s current $1,200 annual remuneration, appointing the consistory of Sioux Center United Reformed Church to supervise the Classical Treasurer, and electing elder Martin Nuiver (Faith URC in Beecher, IL) to serve on CECCA.

Redeemer URC in Orange City, IA, convened this meeting, but had asked Covenant Reformed Church in Pella to host it. Rev. Todd De Rooy served as chairman, Rev. Doug Barnes served as vice-chairman, and Rev. Talman Wagenmaker is currently Classical Clerk.

The date for the next meeting of Classis Central US was set for September 15 & 16, 2014. Covenant Reformed Church of Pella, IA, is next in rotation to host and convene.

A slightly edited version of this article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 13 & 14 of the March 26, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Word & Deed ministry expands it borders and broadens its reach

Rick Postma photo courtesy of Word & Deed
Rick Postma
photo courtesy of Word & Deed

Word & Deed has a holistic approach to child sponsorship that addresses the physical and spiritual needs of the entire family. But it is much more than a child sponsorship organization. It also promotes Christian education, orphan care, disaster relief and vocational training as it addresses the spiritual and physical needs of people in the developing world. And it does all this according to biblical principles.

W&D communicates needs and opportunities to North American Christians, while providing accountability and encouragement through partnerships with Christian organizations in other countries. In its work with indigenous organizations, it focuses on the gospel and emphasizes self-sufficiency.

Recognizing its steady growth and increasing network of connections in the Reformed community, Christian Renewal talked with Word & Deed’s Director of Public Relations, Rick Postma, about the organization and its decision to merge with another ministry.

Christian Renewal: Rick, some of our readers may not be acquainted with Word & Deed Ministries or its history. When was Word & Deed organized?

Rick Postma: The Canadian arm was started in 1994 and the US arm in 2001. We work together as Word & Deed North America with sub-committees consisting of board members from both sides of the border overseeing our projects and promotion activities.

CR: Who or what was the driving force behind its organization?

RP: Woord en Daad (Word & Deed in The Netherlands) which began in the 1970s in response to the major earthquake in Guatemala, planted the idea of starting a sister organization in the 1992 timeframe. Key founders of Word & Deed Canada included Rev. Cornelis Pronk (of the Free Reformed Churches) and Bernie Pennings (our Project Director). Key founders of the US arm included Peter Van Kempen and Heidi Pronk.

It was recognized early on that Word & Deed should be a cooperative effort involving like-minded churches and individuals. From the beginning, the board consisted of United Reformed (URC) and Free Reformed (FRC) members with Heritage Reformed, Canadian Reformed and Orthodox Presbyterian board members joining us since then.

L-R: Bernie Pennings, Kara Luiting, John Otten, Heather VanMeppelen-Scheppink, Rich Postma, Hanna Korvemaker, John Kottelberg photo courtesy of Word & Deed
L-R: Bernie Pennings, Kara Luiting, John Otten, Heather VanMeppelen-Scheppink, Rick Postma, Hanna Korvemaker, John Kottelberg
photo courtesy of Word & Deed

 

CR: How long have you been involved with the Word & Deed team?

RP: I had the privilege of joining in November, 2005. I visited Colombia one week later in what I have called “a tour de force” as far as an introduction to a new job is concerned, including a heart wrenching visit to a home for abused girls just outside Bogota. I haven’t looked back since.

Bernie Pennings, our project director, has been involved since Word & Deed’s inception and John Otten, who ran a hospital in Cubulco, Guatemala, for 17 years before returning to Canada and joining our team is our administration director (he is also project manager for the majority of our Latin American projects).

CR: Word & Deed recently announced its intention to merge at the end of this year with an organization called Children of Light (COL), which is a Canadian charity supporting needy children in Indonesia. In what ways will this merger benefit both organizations?

RP: We have been delighted to welcome a number of organizations to the Word & Deed family over the years. Many readers will recall Adoration Christian Centre (Haiti) joining us in 2011 as well as the St. Luke Hospital Construction Project in the Dominican Republic, earlier this year (CR articles covered both developments).

COL had grown to the point where Andy & Gerda Vandenhaak, founders of the Canadian charity supporting the work, along with their board, realized that it was exceeding their capacity as volunteers to shoulder the workload.

CR: The leaderships of both organizations have met several times and W&D made two investigative trips to Indonesia prior to finalizing merger plans. What led to these meetings exploring merger options and how will the merger work?

RP: Word & Deed’s approach to having other organizations “join the family” includes ensuring that our respective mission and mandate align; that there is agreement on the why/how/who of running projects and that a strong relationship has begun to develop.

When COL heard about Adoration Christian Centre becoming a project of Word & Deed, they approached Word & Deed about doing the same. In addition to the two visits to the field and discussions with COL, a survey was sent to all current supporters of COL and a strong majority indicated their approval of the merger and indicated that they would continue to support the project through child sponsorship. The continued commitment of current supporters was one of the key requirements for the merger to go forward.

As of January 1, 2014, all COL sponsorships and project oversight will be handled by Word & Deed in partnership with the indigenous COL team in West Timor [West Timor is the western half of the island of Timor and is part of Indonesia].

CR: In the past, Christian Renewal reported how Norlan De Groot was able to fulfill a desire for mission work by writing curriculum for Third Millennium while his family remained in their northwest Iowa home. More recently Renewal reported on the creative arrangement Word & Deed developed with Norlan De Groot, allowing him to continue his existing work of writing curriculum for Third Millennium while also performing public relations for Word & Deed. How is that arrangement working out for all those involved?

RP: Word & Deed is very pleased with the arrangement involving Norlan De Groot. We needed someone to help us in the mid-western states and he is a wonderful addition to our team. I met him for breakfast in SiouxCenter last spring [2012] and it quickly became clear that he would be a great fit. After lots of coffee, we came up with the idea of having his work for Third Millennium become a project of Word & Deed. This proposal was approved by both organizations. As a result, he is spending 50% of his time writing theological curriculum for Third Millenium and 50% doing promotion work for Word & Deed Ministries.

[Editorial note: Norlan De Groot has since reported to supporters that he is now spending about 60% of his time promoting Word & Deed and about 40% of his time on the Curriculum Development project.]

CR: What other creative efforts has Word & Deed made to promote cooperative work in Christ’s kingdom

RP: While we work with indigenous churches and organizations, we also partner with a number of the missions of our supporting churches. Some examples include an HIV/AIDS clinic in South Africa with the Heritage Reformed Mission and several projects in Ecuador in partnership with Ecuador Missions (an FRC missions group) which also involves MINTS (a URC ministry – Word & Deed pays for building rental, coordinator and materials).

On the promotion side, we now have 21 Business Groups across North America with members from Reformed and Presbyterian churches who support projects and then, when able, visit the projects they have supported. There are now almost 400 businesses and professionals involved in these groups which meet once per year. Several new groups are planned by the end of the year. For more information please see our website (wordanddeed.org).

CR: What plans has Word & Deed made for the future or what possibilities is it currently exploring?                          

RP: Word & Deed has positioned itself with NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches) member churches, at least those who attend the annual NAPARC missions meeting in Philadelphia (the URC, HRC, ARP, OPC, RPC, Can Ref) as a potential diaconal partner in their missions efforts. In a number of cases, this is already happening.

CR: Why should Reformed Christians support Word & Deed?

RP: As implied by our name, the boards and staff of Word & Deed North America are committed to maintaining a focus on the need for those we seek to help to come to know the Lord as their Saviour and for His people to grow in their relationship with Him. Sadly, far too many organizations having begun well have lost this critical focus. This is also reflected in our commitment to employing a biblical methodology and worldview.

Furthermore, Word & Deed also puts a great deal of focus on project sustainability and local leadership. If at all possible, we prefer to see local projects run by local Christians from day one. In partnership with Reformed churches in Nigeria, for example, we have two Christian schools which have grown to a total of 2,000 students. The project was run by local Reformed Christians from day one (local leadership) and after 12 years, is totally self-funded (sustainability) from an operating cost point of view. After we finish funding an auditorium construction project (designed and built by Nigerians), our support will end in 2014 and we will pull away (I often use the temporary nature of scaffolding in a construction project to picture Word & Deed’s role).

Word & Deed is careful not to take the role of the Church but rather partners with the Church by coming alongside local indigenous churches or the missions of a number of our supporting churches.

Word & Deed began in 1994 with one project – funding John Otten in his role as director overseeing a hospital in Guatemala (he has now joined our team as noted elsewhere). Today, we are supporting 53 projects in 12 countries. We, together with our partners and supporters are, and continue to be, astonished by what the Lord is doing. What a privilege to be involved in this work.

CR: If you could convey one final thing to readers, what would you like them to know about Word & Deed?        

RP: In addition to the three areas of emphasis highlighted above, we covet everyone’s prayers that God would bless all the projects to the salvation of sinners and the extension of His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria!

The above interview by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 15-17 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.