It isn't often that Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday coincide. Perhaps it seems like a random or odd coincidence. We don't think so. You see, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the beginning of 40 days of self-denial for many, marked by the example of Christ's self-denial which led to the cross at Calvary. It was a road of self-denial with the hope of resurrection for the purpose of relationship - eternal relationship no less! It was about welcoming more people into the family of God! It was about true love! Love...that's what we celebrate on Valentine's Day. Let's not think of it as just cards and gifts and romance but let's think of it as an opportunity to celebrate true, sacrificial, welcoming love. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13

How appropriate then that Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day fall on the same day. Not only does it serve as a reminder of the purpose of Lent but also links nicely to the ministry being done here in Medellín!
Re-Introducing the Free Methodist Office in Medellin
Maybe the office looks full...but this isn't even half of the new team that has been put together to create the Community Church Planting (CCP) road map that incorporates the pastoral formation curriculum. You may recall that we opened the office specifically to work on that curriculum and then we were sent down a different path. Because of the renewed focus on community church planting, it is a path that will lead to welcoming more people into the family of God!

Just FYI, this new team is international (with members from Venezuela as well as Colombia and the US), multi-generational (well, we might be oldest members), and diverse in both education (theologians, graphic artists, systems engineers, administrators, library scientists, etc.) and gender (we have almost as many women as men).
Making the Theoretical Practical
One of the beauties of the new office is that it has its own accompanying laboratory of sorts. As we develop the road map for CCP in Latin America, we are actually implementing it in Medellin. 14 people meet in person and one person via Skype every Friday afternoon in what we like to call the war room. This is where we pray together, look at the battle field to develop appropriate strategies and then disperse to execute the plan. The next week we come together to discuss our successes and failures and based upon that, develop the next strategy. We are hoping that what we learn here will shape the overall CCP plan for Latin America that is being developed in the office.

We are simultaneously beginning 6 community churches in Medellin and 1 in the city of Pereira. These 14 people are working together to put the true, sacrificial, welcoming love of Christ into practice for the growth of the Kingdom. We invite you to pray for all of these leaders and the implementation of CCP.

The Regional Perspective... This is an important strategy for the Latin American Region because we are fueling and sustaining a biblical movement for the next generation of Latin American leaders to empower them to reach Latin America for Christ through community church planting, through which we expect exponential growth of the Kingdom. We'll be meeting with the Pastoral Formation oversight team (Drs. Delia Nüesch-Olver, Paul Olver and Glenn Lorenz) next week in Bogota prior to the Colombian Annual Conference Meetings.

All of the church planters and pastoral formation team along with several other members of our church will be attending the Annual Conference, Jan. 23-25. We appreciate your prayers.

Creating Opportunities for Young Christian Leaders
Gabriel (on left) is a successful lawyer and realtor and his wife, Angela (on right), an excellent chef. Gabriel was a student in my Cultural Context course at the seminary last year. He also studied Christian Worldview under Dr. Theo Donner (next to Gabriel) and he was challenged to a more integral ministry and a way to invest his financial resources in the Kingdom of God. Since then, he and Angela have created a foundation to invest in young men and women from social stratas 0, 1 and 2 (i.e. the poorest residents of Medellin), who have a proven heart for the Lord and are involved in their churches. Gabriel and Angela will mentor and invest in these people so that they can pursue a college degree and develop leadership qualities to give back to their neighborhoods and serve their churches. They've invited Theo, Douglas (the leader of Teen Challenge in Medellin), Beth and I to be a part of their oversight team. It is exciting to see Gabriel and Angela practicing such sacrificial love!
So as we think about the coincidence of holidays, our hearts are filled with love for both our Savior who called us into this exciting ministry and for you, who have sacrificed much to make it possible. As of today, 57% of our support has been committed for the 2018 calendar year. If you or your church has not previously done so, please register your 2018 Commitment using the button below. You may also use the button to Give Online.
On a personal note. Juliana and Jonathan started 8th and 7th grades, respectively, on January 22. Jonathan started playing soccer again on Feb. 2. Both kids seem to be enjoying the year. However we would appreciate your prayers for our health. Beth spent the whole past week with an intestinal infection. The antibiotics seem to be kicking in today. Likewise, Jonathan has been sick since Thursday with what the doctor first thought was a just a cold. Tonight we will return to his office for the 3rd time and hopefully get the right treatment to help Jon stop coughing and start mending!

As always, it is an honor to be part of your international staff!

Happy Valentine's Day,
Ricardo, Beth, Juliana and Jonathan