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Alf and Hilary Cooper link letter no.19 Christmas 2016

Dear friends,

“Lift up Jesus and all men will be drawn to him.”

The “Marcha por Jesús.”

October 31 is a special holiday in Chile; together with Austria and Germany, it’s one of only three countries that celebrate a Protestant religious holiday. We marched for Jesus this year again and there were at least 200,000 Christians marching in 24 cities throughout Chile. I was part of the organising committee and was particularly involved with the public statement and related public relations. The press turned out en masse and from the early morning to late at night we received huge coverage on TV, radio and in most national newspapers the next day. Why was this important? Because we had recently held municipal elections a week before and had given the warning that from now on evangelicals would be voting with a “values” intent. In essence, this meant that we would deliberately call on people to change their habits, to go out and vote and for those who were pro-life and against abortion, same-sex marriage, gender identity laws, legalising drugs and euthanasia.


The Marcha por Jesús

Christians and politics

This new aspect of evangelical activism in the political sphere is one I have tried to help with. Sometimes it feels as though there is an “inevitable” slide in the direction towards more liberal values. However, this is proving to be false in Chile and as Christians pray and speak out, God intervenes. Coming up to the municipal elections, a week before the Marcha por Jesús, we had given notice that this time evangélicos were marching and voting with intent. The results were as surprising as Brexit and Trump. Hardly anyone who supported the liberal agenda/project got elected, and this has affected   the journey of these laws through Parliament. Planned Parenthood, prominent in the US, has attempted to get a foothold here and suddenly President-elect Trump appears saying he will slash their funding. And yet we cannot slow down but need to keep a watch over these things. We now have four new evangélico mayors and 24 city councillors. I have been asked if I could stand for next year’s parliamentary elections but have gone on the record to say that I would not depart from my clear calling to preach the gospel! So, although elections seem crazy and unfathomable and people seemingly get the rulers they deserve, we can begin to see God´s hand over the affairs of men.


Reading the statement to the Marcha por Jesús

Our journey to Britain

We brought forward our 2017 May-July leave and should be in the UK for Christmas. For several reasons, my mum´s health, Trinidad activities and our Ometepe mission in March (see page three), it seemed wiser to go now. Several lovely churches rushed to book us so our timetable looks like this:

• January 8: All Saints, Woodford Wells

• January 15: All Saints, Sidmouth

• January 22: St Mary’s, Wootton (tbc)

• January 29: Crossroads Christian Centre, Seaton

• February 5: St Andrew’s, Chorleywood

• February 12: St Giles, Northampton

We are trying to get some more family time in, to be with my mother and, of course, look forward so much to sharing again with our champions, Jahnn and Ara, now working in a church plant in Broxbourne, Herts.

Bishop travels

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the new job as bishop is that I get to travel all over Chile with Hilary, visiting young pastoral couples and helping them plant their churches. We often find extraordinary people who are struggling with the loneliness of ministry and so we find ourselves in a new role of encouragement and blessing. Recently we have been back to Punta Arenas and revisited the church plants in Natales and Porvenir, travelled up to Antofagasta for an evangelistic mission and confirmations and are soon off to Araucanía, working amongst the rural churches where Anglican SAMS missionaries first worked.


Chilean bishops and their wives in the newly consecrated cathedral in Valparaíso

La Trinidad

We have announced our impending retirement from La Trinidad in 2018 so the search is on for my replacement. I can continue by canon law as a bishop until I am  70 but I am already past my sell by date for parish work! Recently our church has been filling up like never before so we need wisdom on setting the next growth lines. Our new “120” seminars (because it was 120 people who took on the small group discipling after Pentecost!) held every two months gather our leaders of small groups. We were surprised to find that we had over 150 such groups of all types, including SEAN study groups, discipling groups, Marriage Encounter growth groups and so on. Groups vary in size from 5-20 people so we can tell that we have over 1,000 adults and youth in cell groups. We need to keep a close eye on this area as we know that we lose people who we cannot provide for.

Ometepe

Next March, one of the 33 rescued miners and I are scheduled to journey to Ometepe, the Nicaraguan island which I recently visited. Dick Bell, OBE, a committed Christian who has developed a large social work programme on the island wants us to “evangelise all 40,000 people on the island”. Still under Ortega rule, we sense that the population is spiritually hungry and are praying for a huge harvest.

Caminemos Juntos consultation

We recently held our first Caminemos Juntos consultation (grown out of past Creciendo Juntos weeks) in early October and rejoiced as a whole new perspective has opened up through this wider Hispanic mission movement. Organised in great part by Jonathan Kindberg, himself a SAMS missionary kid, we have now contacts in USA and Central America and a vision to share Anglican mission via the new San Pablo mission. Recently we sent a team to Mexico with Marriage Encounter and a missionary couple to Texas, our beloved Cris and Evelyn Zúñiga.

Reminiscing, how quickly the years slip away, especially if every day is full, we are thinking of the work to be carried on by others. So we ask special prayer for the Church Planting Guide that we are producing within the Anglican Church of Chile. We need a few more days of filming and writing to get that totally finished. I would love to finish it this year before we leave for Britain and leave the summer for editing the videos that accompany the teaching. There is also my book “Secretos del Palacio” that I now must finish. Please pray that the coming home leave months may put a full stop to that one and that I can dedicate myself to other books in the pipeline.


People at the Caminemos Juntos consultation

We will leave our family news to our next letter as it will probably be exciting! But all are well and thriving, despite work and housing challenges.

So we embrace you all with the love of Jesus and Happy Christmas!

Love, Alf and Hilary