Very dear praying friends,
A personal perspective…
Several weeks ago now, Chile was under a serious threat of massive social upheaval with a popular protest movement that affected our transport system, surprising the government (and everyone really!). We have been aware for some time now of the political movements and their undercurrents that are attempting to destabilise our fragile Latin American democracies. It began on Tuesday with an invasion of the Metro (Santiago’s pride and joy and symbol of free enterprise development), calling on people to evade payment. Suddenly three elements combined and set off a flashpoint.
On the one hand, fares have been rising as a direct consequence of the economic war between USA and China, affecting the cost of petrol and of public transport. There has also been a growing move among university students to resort to Marxist and anarchist political action, so that behind much of the violence that flared and provoked over $200 million worth of damage in the Metro, the very careful orchestration of such forces was clearly discernible. But there is also a deep underlying social dissatisfaction with the free market system among a large percentage of the population, which erupted with social demands in relation to a poor healthcare system and miserable pensions, demanding economic equality and a new constitution. Riots, looting and the final declaration of a State of Emergency with a curfew have provoked a sense of deep unease and imminent chaos.
In response to this, we started praying every day between 5 and 6:30pm and have discovered that the church fills up surprisingly! People arrive a few hours before the imposed curfew (10pm-7am), pray and then rush away to get home in time! God’s presence has been very marked in these moments together and I remember what our persecuted brethren say, that under pressure God carries them and they are never far from his whisper. There has been a wonderful sense of peace and certainty that even this turmoil will pass soon; it’s a peace that descends as soon as we pray and we receive prophetic words that encourage and edify us and leave with great joy filling our hearts. Our youth are out evangelising and helping clean up, repaint and pick up debris in the main locations where there has been manifest violence. And as we pray every day, we receive wonderful reports of how the Holy Spirit is working in the public areas, even in the midst of such chaos. One of our young people even bumped into a Christian in the crowd who had once been a member in La Trinidad and cajoled her into returning!
The situation has developed since then to an unexpected parliamentary agreement that will work towards a new constitution incorporating the just social demands. We still have many problems. The economy, the price of the dollar with corresponding inflation, and the unjustified and continual daily violence still need to be managed as jobs are being lost, small businesses have been burned out of existence, tourism has all but vanished and morale is very low beset with the daily violence.
Nevertheless, given the latest advances, we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel – social peace and a national conversation that will lead to a more equal and evenly distributed prosperity. We are believing for a happy Christmas!
Our recently opened Bible college (“Escuela de Líderes y Minsitros Laicos”) has flourished beyond expectation! We have remained stable at around 25 students and this has ensured that we have been able to finance ourselves well. However, what we value most is that we can now see a path ahead to train future students who cannot commit to a full-time course. This means that we can take men and women up to a lay ministry level and through them plant new churches as well as help lead many ministries.
Men’s retreat – “Retiro de Leones”
It began as a joke – that men would go on the retreat mewing like little cats but that they would return roaring as lions. In fact, that has actually happened. This year we had more men than ever – over a 100 – come away with us to a centre some 200km from Santiago where we encountered the Lord in his transforming power. Men left addictions behind, learned to love their wives and children better, became better workers and prospered in the process through taking on the identity of a child of God.
We continue to run Marriage Encounters, Cursillo, Women’s Encounters, Children’s Encounters, Youth Encounters, SHOC (Seminario de Hombres Cristianos – Seminary for Christian Men), Jesus Workshops, Alpha and Marriage Courses, all of which have come to an abrupt hold on account of the imposed curfew. However, I have to admit that it is a bit of a respite and relief although we miss the constant ministry of the gospel and the changes it brings to people’s hearts!
I have also taken up of late to preaching the gospel on buses and the Metro and am amazed at how well people respond. I say something like: “We are the League of Preachers in Transantiago. We don’t ask for money but we do bring a Message from Heaven for you that may bless you today… God never changes his attitude towards you and he loves you with a constancy… Cross… resurrection… receive him… read your Bible…”. I mention all of this in case you want to start a similar ministry in your part of the world. I usually end with a loud “Amen!” and the whole bus says “Amen!” in response. We must share the gospel outside our churches!
A testimony to close…
As everywhere else in the world, our country receives many immigrants. One such couple came to church facing a disastrous situation – their Uber cab had been confiscated, they had been turned out of their apartment and they had a sick mother. However, they showed up at church and immediately were surrounded with helpful, loving care to sustain them while they were in crisis. They were also invited to attend a Marriage Encounter course where they met the Lord and were enriched in their relationship. Someone in our congregation then gave them a job, their apartment situation turned around, the mother was healed and they now have their car back! God is good, all the time!
Our love and best wishes for you at Christmas,