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Jul 15 / Bill

Surprised by the global-hearted Spirit of God

Part one: birthed anew, Spanish, church-based study course “Misiones Mundiales”, and in addition a few notes on our family pilgrimage                               July 15, 2013

Last month I received notice, and photos, of the release of the workbook on missions that I had first co-written in 1984.  My then-co-author was my friend and colleague, Dr. Eugenio Campos, Nicaraguan born missions teacher at Seminario Teológico Centroamericano in Guatemala.

This small missions handbook was produced in the last months of our 17 years in Guatemala, and was a kind of a departing “gift” from me to the Spanish-speaking world.

However, there is a very significant back-story that returns to two key dates, one remembered only by the year, 1981, and the other one a very specific date, November 8, 1982 (strange how I can remember some dates, but not all of them are as momentous as this one). My long-term mentor, friend and colleague, Dr. Emilio Antonio Núñez, had begun to circulate in broader international arenas, and through the World Evangelical Fellowship (of which I knew nothing at that time and never in my wildest dreams would I have considered that I would have spent so many years with this global network) had met mission leaders from Africa and Asia. He invited two of them to visit us in Guatemala and challenge us beyond our borders: Dr. Theodore Williams of India came with Dr. Wade Coggins, at that time head of the USA EFMA mission network.  Later I discovered that both were also leaders of the WEA Mission Commission. Both Wade and Theodore would become dear friends and mentors to me in my early years of service in the WEA Mission Commission starting in July, 1986. (Both of them have passed into the Other and True World now).  In 1981 Wade (a former missionary in South America with the Christian and Missionary Alliance) came primarily as Theodore’s translator but also as an “interpreter” of what God was doing in the world.

From Theo (as we later called him with affection) we in the SETECA community first heard of what was then called “Third World Missions”. His compelling stories came from the emerging mission vision and force out of India and the broader contexts of Asia and Africa.  Theo’s message was simple: the fullness of the global Great Commission is for all of the church in all times and around the entire world of peoples, cities and nations.  I honestly don’t think I had never heard of that before, and at the time it did not resonate in my heart and mind.

But it would explode in the Fall of 1982.

The November ’82 date marks the point when I was teaching an “Introduction to World Missions” class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.  The 1982-1983 year was really a trial to see whether we would sense the Lord’s direction to teach full-time and long-term at TEDS. But it was exactly on that date, one day after my birthday (perhaps the clue as to how I could remember the date) that the class topic was “Third-World Missions”(now called “Global South mission”).  I so remember quoting the statistics that had begun documenting the growth of the mission movement from Asia, Latin America and Africa, from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s.

As I exulted in class over what God had been doing around the world, the crushing blow hit me and I am convinced the Holy Spirit spoke to me: “But Bill, neither you nor your colleagues in Latin America and at SETECA have done anything to contribute to this movement of mine.” I believe it is Henri Nouwen that once wrote (a loose quote), “Some times the most significant thing that happens when the preacher preaches is that he is converted by his preaching.”  And that certainly happened to me that November.

I actually did not know what to do, other than to return and report my encounter with the Lord to the family. We were ensconced that year (and the very same place from 1985-1986) in a very small two bedroom efficiency TEDS campus apartment (where in February we had ¼ “ of ice on the INSIDE of our windows.  But we were also surrounded by, and suffered together with, international students and their children, godly servants from Asia and Africa who had traveled to TEDS for advanced study. So that wee apartment had become a doorway to heaven in so many ways, and some of those friendships flourish to this day.

As I reported my experience to Yvonne and the kids, the outcome was clear, “We are returning to Guatemala.”  The small living room reverberated with cheers and happiness, because we all really wanted to go back.

HOWEVER, over the subsequent weeks I had made a deal with God (before having to tell the TEDS dean that we were returning home), and in essence bargained with the Spirit:  I would leave Latin America permanently but only on condition, that six changes would have to take place.

First, that SETECA’s leadership would establish a Missiological Center to serve as a holy and passionate advocate for God’s heart for the entire globe.

Second, that the school would change the curriculum to include world missions classes.

Third, that a Latin American faculty colleague would co-write a small work book on world missions for the Spanish-speaking local churches around the world.

Fourth, that our church, Centro Bíblico el Camino would grow a heart for cross-cultural mission, starting in Guatemala but extending to the world.

Fifth (and now I was getting into really high caliber territory) that we would see the first Guatemala-born and driven mission agency.

And sixth, that we would see the beginnings of a parallel missionary training center in Guatemala.

Ha! I just knew that this deal with the Almighty would guarantee us another ten years of service, life, growth, enjoyment of our new home and happiness in Guatemala.



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