Very dear praying friends,
I am finishing this letter off on the plane, travelling with Hilary to the UK on Palm Sunday. We expect to spend Easter in Seaton with our family and are scheduled to begin a second stint at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies on Monday 22 April and be in the UK until 29 June. Some of our time will be spent visiting family and friends but mostly I am under a mandatory study period in Oxford (sounds close to heaven to me!). We will be living at the CMS Community House on Iffley Road in Oxford, as we did last year, and visiting churches every weekend. Our schedule from May onwards looks like this:
Sundays booked in May:
- 5: Alpha at Holy Trinity Brompton, London
- 12: St John’s, Whitlewoods
- 19: All Saints, Sidmouth
- 26: St Giles, Northampton
Sundays booked in June:
- 2: St Andrew’s, Chorleywood
- 9: All Saint’s, Woodford Wells
- 16: St Augustine’s, Broxbourne
We will try to take some holiday time during the last week or so of our stay. We may also have a book launch in Barcelona for the second edition of my “desde el Palacio”.
An English version of “desde el Palacio” (called “Inside the Palace”) is at this moment being finalised for print and we hope to be able to take it around with us. We also want to place it with Amazon so that it can be printed on demand. This has ensured a lot of work, trying to work it for a UK audience, as we pitch the same story and struggles but within a very different cultural and church scene. It’s interesting how the gospel wears different clothes around the same message – Christ’s love on the cross and in his resurrection.
The UK will largely be a rest! What was meant to be a year of gentle retirement has turned out to be a very exciting time of refreshing revival in La Trinidad. The plans I had harbored for my succession fell through unexpectedly, but God led us in peace as the Council asked me unanimously to continue for another two years as pastor of the church. Given the confusing circumstances and tension rearing up, I accepted. Since then, we have seen a great blessing on the church. There is a deepening hunger for prayer and heightened sense of the presence of God. A different pastoral team is also now emerging and we feel that my successor must come from within the church. Gabriel and Sonia Bonvalet are showing remarkable gifting and Gabriel will soon be ordained. We are working well as a pastoral team, and Gabriel is ministering closely with us and Juan Luis, Otho, Julio Bustos. La Trinidad has clearly been called to the path of revival and as we obey, God sends in the right people.
If we understand Acts of the Apostles as more than just an historic narrative but also as a missiological proposal to how the church should normally operate, revival will mean getting the church to that place as much as we can. So in its varied contexts and expressions, we see God’s supernatural hand at work in ways that cause us to rejoice. Recently we held a Marriage Encounter, attended by people with particularly complex marriage problems, and yet the Holy Spirit came powerfully. We are now running a Marriage Alpha Course and 17 couples from the Marriage Encounter have joined; this means that there will be 17 new families joining La Trinidad over the next few months.
However, more than fruitful strategies, we have been graciously visited by God’s Spirit for which we can only give him glory and praise. It is difficult to leave for even two months such services full of God’s healing love and power, blessed preaching of the Scriptures and an increasing community spirit among both ourselves and toward the wider world.
A team from Bethel Church in Redding California, where Jahnn & Ara and Mark & Dani are studying and doing mission, recently visited us; it was part of an initiative where Bethel teams visited 60 nations (Jahnn and Ara went to Cambodia, Mark and Dani to Guatemala). We saw packed services, remarkable healings and supernatural expressions of the Kingdom of God. At one point during an evening service, with an overflowing church and people being healed and blessed left, right and centre, I asked myself what this reminded me of? The answer was immediate – the gospels, of course and also Acts, when Jesus continued to do all the wonderful works he had done in the gospels (Acts 1:1–2).
So here we are flying toward the UK. The good news is that I had a good study year and have been transferred to the MPhil stage. This means that there is now no looking back and I need to dig deep with my study of early Pentecostal revivals in Chile, to make a decent contribution to academic knowledge of Willis Hoover’s theology – the Methodist pastor who stood firm when revival broke out. I have been very blessed with two wonderful supervisors who know what they are doing: Dr Max Turner in the UK, well known for his contribution to the theological discourse on Pentecost, and Dr Luis Orellana, probably the foremost authority on Pentecostalism in Chile. Both will push me to the finishing line over the next two or three years.
It was a bonus to have the visit of Gordon and Beryl Whitehead at La Trinidad a few weeks ago. Their emotions ran deep as they saw the church they had started in their home some 47 years ago now full to bursting, producing many missionaries, pastors and new churches down these years. We remembered together that early missionary team: Bazleys, Jacklins, Felicity Houghton, Shiela Baughan, Robinsons, Smiths, who all dreamed and prayed together. Thank you, Lord! To you belongs all the glory!
We embrace you in his love and ours.
Alf and Hilary