Very dear and faithful prayer friends,
Christmas in Chile is very hot with temperatures beating 30°C. So packed Christmas Carol services usually take place outside in the cool of the evening. In La Trinidad, Christmas is also a time when we bring in all our contacts from a year’s programmes, of Marriage Encounters, Youth Encounters, Children’s Encounters, Cursillos and men’s and women’s retreats that have been reaching out to people all year. Please pray for us as we seek to consolidate via Alpha, beginners’ groups and Bible cells the initial discipling of all these people. It is also a time of special outreach to one of our poorest church links in Cerro Navia. Please pray for a special outreach this year to an area which is a drug dealers’ paradise and a sector where families often struggle with issues and can end up unstable and dysfunctional.
We have been celebrating exciting developments lately! One was an amazing three-hour funeral of Daniel Lencina, Chile’s top jazz player and member of our church. We have never had a funeral like it! The whole of Chile’s bohemian crowd seemed to congregate and jazz our way to the cemetery!
EMA Mexico is now a reality. We have been so impressed by the wonderful fruit of Marriage Encounter down the years (Encuentro Matrimonial Anglicano – EMA) that we are always praying that we may give it away to other church denominations and other countries. Over the past year we have been working hard to give EMA to Mexico as the Anglican Church there has expressed their sore need of good methods of evangelism.
Our lovely people here, usually at their own expense, plus offerings we give from the church, have been travelling over to Mexico and preparing the teams there. So just recently they were able to hold the second EMA Mexico (the team isn´t even back yet from their mission although at tonight’s Las Condes EMA meeting we will remember them!). These fragile beginnings usually end up as very fruitful ministries if they are well followed up. Please pray that we can help them continue on into the future with this vital refreshing ministry that serves to reach into the confused and hurting families of today, persuading them of Christ’s solutions.
As a bishop now, I have the constant joy of holding confirmations, ordinations and other celebrations in our new cathedral (you will remember that Archbishop Welby designated Saint Paul’s as a cathedral during my and Nelson’s consecrations last year). Recently we had the visit of a very important person, Archbishop Josiah Fernon, a delegate from Canterbury and general secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council. He came to oversee our transition from diocese into a province over the next few years.
We held a great 500-year celebration at the cathedral at which Archbishop Josiah spoke very powerfully. While he celebrated with us a diocese that was biblical, orthodox in line with Anglican traditions and healthy in our sustenance and projections, he challenged us as he found our growth to be uneven, very strong in places and very weak in others. He also made a general comment with regard to the main problem arising from the Reformation – division. He challenged our Anglican Church in Chile to be a major worker for unity among Christian churches here and to preach the gospel in unity with all Chilean Christians. So we were thrilled to take part in this year’s Jesus March held in Chile, and probably the largest ever. Estimates say we were over 200,000 in Santiago alone and which drew people toward the centre where Alberto Motessi (an Argentinian-born evangelist) was the main speaker.
Since the presidential and parliamentary elections are coming close, this show of strength from evangelicals has fortified the cause for values in our country. We have said that we would only vote for those who uphold biblical values. So the scramble is on to catch the large evangelical vote. We are expecting a believing and God-honouring President to fill the void here, and if the polls are correct it will be Sebastián Piñera again.
This 500-year anniversary has opened many doors to evangelism, not least among universities. In little more than a week I have spoken at three universities: La Universidad Católica, La Universidad del Desarrollo and La Universidad Miguel de Cervantes. I have been amazed at the good response to a Protestant proposal, that we turn to Christ and not churches, seek him to fill the aching loneliness and confusion of a secularised society. The Reformation lives on even if in different expressions today.
And, of course, these are more great opportunities to sell my book, Desde el Palacio (From the Palace)! The book is selling very well and will soon be translated into English. My friend Peter Grimsditch, translating at 100 miles per hour, wants it to be ready by our UK visit.
Talking of our visit...
Yesterday I had my interview for Oxford (the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies linked to both Oxford and Middlesborough Universities), and it seems I may end up there, although nothing official has been said yet. So by faith we booked our flights for the UK on 18 December, flying first to see Mark and Dani in Bethel Church at Redding, California. That was a miracle how we got a very cheap flight! Then we arrive in the UK on Christmas Day and spend a week with Jahnn and Ara before hunkering down in Oxford until the end of May. Some of that time would be spent in Oxford studying, but from mid-January to the end of March we will be able to visit churches again, especially churches that were skipped in our last visit!
Please take note and contact CMS now to book a visit! We are not retiring from CMS as some thought, but staying on as mission partners for a few more years. Because we need to get to Oxford for six weeks a year (presuming OCMS accepts us), it will be a welcome pattern into the future as we go into another chapter of ministry. The rest of the time we will continue to exercise oversight of La Trinidad as a team is built up and, of course, carry out the episcopal ministry.
As our Yuletide prayer letter is our last one in the year we usually try to give you more family news.
Ryan, Marianita, Nicolás, Cata, María and Felipe are still living with us as they gradually get into new areas of work. They are rejoicing in God’s good provision for them and now need only the certainty of a good job which will give regular substance to their financial needs. Ryan is sought out by governments and big companies in different parts of South America to do assessments on their development programmes, but the payment of such contracts is distant. Pray for that final step.
Jahnn and Ara are still working at St Augustine’s, an active church in Broxbourne, and are now looking to the Lord for their next steps. They have been well trained now and are experiencing the joys and frustrations of growing churches in the UK! They have helped start a new service and their role in worship has been central and key. Pray for them as they will probably be able to accompany us on some mission projects while we are in the UK. Can you imagine how much we will enjoy being with them!
Melanie and Alan now have five-month-old Benjamín and are loving him! They are extraordinary parents and as Melanie is savvy in relation to developmental psychology, Benjamín is constantly blessed with outings and fun, colourful and sonorous stimulus. What a baby!
Mark and Dani are in Bethel Church training for future ministry. Mark took with him his low whistle and was instantly taken into the Bethel worship family. We are so looking forward to seeing them again after nearly six months without them here!
Everything is rushing past at an incredible pace: political elections, provincial status, La Trinidad ministries and during this month of November we are in two Cursillos and a Marriage Encounter, a Pastor’s conference and three confirmations in different churches. So we are glad that we have already managed to buy our tickets and will soon be on our way to see many of you.
The only reason for doing anything is Christ himself! To think it was actually the Son of God who came for us! I remember translating for James Irwin, the astronaut who stepped onto the moon on the second journey there. He told me privately how on the moon he came back to Christ when understanding that far more important than his journey through space was that of the Saviour to our world.
Happy Christmas to you all and all our love to you in Jesus,
Alf and Hilary
The Call in Action