The Dawn

Culture Shock

While talking with Mike this morning he mentioned that recent studies say that culture shock actually comes and goes in waves through the entirety of one’s life as opposed to the previous opinion that it came for a time and eventually went away. Over time as you develop some center the waves become less and less strong. A wave recently passed, and still my “center” is becoming more defined and steady.

Detatched

Recently Dani and I have discovered that we need to be in more structured community and will begin looking for a home church to spend at least half our time in.

Abandoned

It would appear that past missionaries came to Chile, planted churches, and left never to be heard from again. It seems some have kept in better contact than others. It would appear that the past missionaries left some pastors in charge with inadequate formation (preparation), because—in Chile—some Restoration Movement Churches teach Calvinism, others speak in tongues, others perform miraculous healings regularly. In some the men sit separately from the women and in others strange legalistic traditions altering many parts of the service have emerged. Some take communion every Sunday. Most don’t. Some believe baptism is essential for salvation. Some don’t. Certain pastors warn us not to work with other pastors for varying reasons, most of which include warnings that a pastor will take advantage of us. Orthodoxy is David in the Chilean Christian Church and factionalism is Galiath.

So, we have begun to reach out to past missionaries to get a better understanding of the history, so that we can serve the Chilean Church better in the present and future, because if you’re going to climb a proverbial rock wall, it is best to ask the person at the top where tricky situations might be and how they maneuvered through them than to try to do it on your own. If you are reading this and you have been a missionary in Chile, please help us serve better by reaching out to us with your experiences. There are always many sides to the same story and we want to learn from you in humility. BUT WE DO NEED YOUR HELP to be better servants to the Iglesia de Cristo in Chile. cornerstonechilemission@gmail.com

Transparency

I have a great conviction that part of the work we do in Chile is to communicate everything well to our community in the United States as well as with locals in our neck of the woods/field. Over this past year we have started from scratch for developing CCM as “Plan A” obviously didn’t work out. The elders of Cornerstone Christian Church and other mentors and ministry contacts have helped us to find ministry opportunities and now god is blessing much trial and error experience with fruit. We’ve gone back to the Bible and talked about what it says—and does not say—about missions, and have created a solid foundation from which we are now able to work more productively.

I have tried to communicate where we are and where we think we’re going as the ministry was (and is) forming. It seems good to me to share obstacles that we have had, have now, and will have in the future… even when we don’t have the answers. Now Daniela and I are married and growing stronger and closer together everyday because of God’s blessing on our life. We are getting very busy with ministry opportunities. We want to share where we are with you consistently so that you have a better idea of the mission you are supporting and praying for, even if we can’t tell you what’s next. Although we are excited about God’s plans for our future.

God Leading???

What does that mean? How do we know where God is leading and what his plans our for our life. My first thought is, “We don’t.” How could mere men know the entirety of God’s plan for us when His ways and thoughts are higher than our own? Well then, how do we follow God’s will for our life? How do we know which direction we should go?

Here’s what Dani and I are doing to follow His lead: We’re making contacts and pursuing ministry partnerships with anyone who seems to be of a genuine and humble heart; and yes, even if we have some minor doctrinal differences (I promise you won’t find two Restoration Movement churches in Chile that are the same). We’ve been getting to know the nation as a whole, the capital of the country where we reside (Santiago), and more specifically the southern half although we have begun to branch out to the north a little more as well. We are also specifically concerned with the community of La Cisterna that is our local community. We’re working with a lot of people in a lot of different ways with our eyes pealed for any ministry opportunity to pray about.

You’ve probably read that an excellent ministry opportunity in Osorno has presented itself. Yes, the time with Edio and Emma was very VERY good and yet we will still continue to pursue the ministry that God has blessed us with in Santiago. No matter what happens, the time spent with Edio and Ema and the churches of Osorno was a blessing. There church and ministry is so active, Edio and Ema and others do an amazing job of pastoring the community and promoting deep relationships not just with Christ, but with one another as well.

So how do we follow God’s leading or plan for our live? By using our minds to think logically, plan ahead, give ourselves time to pray about and evaluate options way ahead of time, and give God time to open and close doors as He wills. Talking it out with people also helps (wise counsel). No big changes coming soon, but we are planning ahead.

The Proposal

Tonight at 8pm before the prayer meeting I have a meeting with the pastor of Iglesia de Cristo on Capitán Thompson in La Cisterna. We have been working with their congregation more and more over the past year, but definitely have some doctrinal differences. Most of the consistent members of the congregation seem to be  aware of this as well, though we never teach on the subject and consciously avoid the topic so as not to hinder ministry or create factionalism. Though when directly asked, we cannot lie. For example: Dani and I don’t completely deny that people speak in tongues today, but we both agree that if people speak in tongues, there must be an interpreter. I have never seen anyone speak in tongues as the Bible seems to describe it (with an interpreter) and am largely skeptical of the practice. However, I haven’t studied the topic enough to say with absolute certainty that it does not occur anywhere in the world today. I have seen one lead member of the church on Capitán Thompson speak in tongues without an interpreter and that certainly seems unbiblical to both Dani and I. And there are other differences as well.

All that to say that there are some discrepencies and trust has been difficult to build. But tonight I am going to ask this pastor to trust me. I am going to make my case for him to trust me to help him feed his flock, because of Daniela and I’s faithfulness over the past year. He and his family work full-time during the day in the street market and I imagine it must be hard for him to do that and lead the church with 5 meetings a week. It doesn’t seem like there’s much time for anything, let alone sermon prep. Just because we have some different beliefs, doesn’t mean that we can’t work together. So tonight I am going to ask this pastor to trust me more to help him with pastoring his flock.

He might tell me know. He’s a tough cookie. But the fact is that Daniela and I have been faithful to his church and the youth group—and he has permitted us to serve more and more—even though we both have known that we have doctrinal differences since the beginning. He is an intelligent man. So tonight I am going to ask him that he let me do Bible study a different way than the congregation is used to. I’m going to ask him that he warn the congregation that it will be different, and I am going to ask him that he participate in the study to encourage the congregation to participate as well. Honestly, I’m not sure how this is going to unfold, but If God blesses this ministry with Capitán Thompson it could blow everyone involved away. Please pray for God’s blessing and my own humility.

Awake

Since a child I have not slept normally due to an illness related to my eye condition called Hypopetuitism which also causes hypothyroidism. I get tired easily and sleep irregularly. In college I would go to sleep at 6 and wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning to study. I’ve never recovered from that cycle and this sleeping pattern has been bothersome to me these first two years on the field. Now I am getting help and the treatment helps me to sleep during the night like normal people and have energy to get through the day. This has been a huge blessing because I’m not constantly wondering how much time I put in to ministry, calculating sleep hours and second guessing my integrity to our home churches. Now Daniela and I are getting more in routine, more in sync and spending less time thinking about the most efficient way to complete trivial tasks and more time on how to bring the gospel to people. We are both very thankful.

Youth Meeting

Last night we had a great youth meeting. The first words that come to mind to describe it are “raw” and “straight up” :). When we first started teaching I taught the academic way because it seemed to be the best, but now We’re doing a more practical study outlined below:

  1. Read the passage.
  2. What questions do you have about it’s meaning or content?
  3. What do you think is the message of the passage?
  4. I share some of my personal first thoughts and questions about the text.
  5. Consult other educated brothers and sister to hear their thoughts on the text (commentaries).
  6. Evaluate what we have learned.
  7. Now what do you think the text means?
  8. How do you think the text applies to us now?
  9. Let’s pray silently and ask God what He wants to tell us about the text (3 minutes).
  10. What did God tell you?

It’s pretty intense, but was GREAT!! Only two youth came, and that might be the way it is for a while, but if we can keep confronting them with God’s love this way, it will undoubtedly produce fruit. Hopefully they will keep coming. They left somber. Not judged. Not condemned. But I saw the remorse in them that every Christian must feel at one point or another. I reminded one youth as he was leaving that God meets them right where they are. I always tell them, “It is not your task or even within your ability to do ANYTHING to go (or get) to God. Just collapse where you are and let Him save you.” We’re hoping that they come because of personal desire and not social pressures, and that they desire God more each day. Daniela and I are very passionate about their individual situations and challenges.

Smarty Pants

You all know I’ve been studying for a masters degree at Johnson, and it seems that people might get a little too big for their bridges when they use big words. I only want to communicate things the best way possible and apologize if I have come off prideful in the past. Sometimes when I’m explaining concepts that are new to me, I only know how to use the “big” words with which they were explained to me. But we all keep getting better by His grace. Thank you for your patience.

Pride

Why is this post entitled “The Dawn”? Because the past two years have been the night. It has been difficult, dark, and lonely at times, but by His grace we grew through the trial. We started over from scratch and the elders of CCC and others had to be patient with me. Steve Trinkle helped me walk outside and meet people when I was sitting in the apartment, just praying for something to do for God, and ashamed of the lack of ministry that was happening. Steve and others helped me hone in on a specific kind of ministry I’ve always had passion for and gave me tips on how to try things out without damaging relationships after the trial period so that possibilities for future partnership would remain open. None of the ministries we’re doing now were part of the schedule a year ago, and now God is providing opportunities to do ministry specific to the passion God has given me.

But now we have a foundation. Now we have grown in strategy and defining goals. Now we understand the needs of Chileans better and understand that Chileans will always understand that need better than foreigners. Now I’m more confident and capable of teaching by speaking better Spanish and having a solid foundation for accessing modern shcolarship so as not to be led astray. Daniela and I are stronger.

So, this is the dawn. The night has passed for now and Daniela and I are so encouraged by the way God has been blessing our marriage and ministry. The problem is that just when everything is going great, Satan wants to give you a pat on the back and say, “You did it”. Daniela and I haven’t done anything. God is the one who has provided all of the ministry opportunities and mentorship that have helped us get here. So please pray that I won’t become prideful and forget how to rely on our Father.

Daniela

Daniela works 50 hours a week… well actually I don’t know how many hours a week she works. lol. I know I kiss her good bye before the son comes up and she doesn’t get back until it’s down again. So, with a work week like that, how is she supposed to be doing ministry activities all weekend and there not be a missing gringo in Santiago? I’m learning that part of my work is to make sure that we have food in the house so we don’t have to waist time we could be doing ministry activities together, going grocery shopping and running errands. It’s actually even more practical because I just hit the store on the way home from a meeting or activity or something that I’m out doing and that way we don’t take extra trips and we get more out of our time. Please don’t misunderstand me. Daniela does a ton, but I realize that if I take responsibility for more at home we can do more together in the community. That is part of us getting into a better routine and more efficient as a team.

As always, thank you for your partnership. You bless us.

Todd and Daniela

Learning in Osorno

Restoration Movement History in Chile

Edio Carcamo is a seasoned Chilean pastor from Osorno. I believe he was converted by missionaries in the mid 1900’s and he tells me he has learned a great deal from them since his youth. He attended a four-year (I believe) Bible institute in Texas and pastored a church while studying. Since his return to Chile Edio has been living in his home town of Osorno and in full-time ministry. Edio’s connections with the United States and experiences with US culture enable him and his wife Ema to understand my way of thinking better, as I am obviously a Gringo. This enables us to talk about topics that might be culturally sensitive in a way that places what is important to God over our own pre-formed cultural ideals.

For instance, many US churches see plurality of leadership as a set committee of elders, while the term “elder” (anciano)in Chile is often no more than an age indicator, and its more abstract significance as someone of greater spiritual maturity appointed for leading the church is viewed as foreign. Most Chilean churches don’t have elders and the idea of plurality of leadership—as US Americans understand it—seems to be viewed as causing factionalism and hindering the growth of the church.

While conversing with Edio, I noted how the Iglesias de Cristodescribe their pastoral retreats as for “pastors,” “elders” (sometimes), “leaders,” and those “encharged” of the church, and we began to talk about how these terms may—or may not—refer to the same group of people. Let me interrupt the train of thought here to note briefly that the issue of plurality in Churches—and similar culuturally-sensitive topics—is not only Edio and Ema’s concern, nor is it solely my own and Dani’s, but it is the responsibility of the international church. However, I know we all would be honored if God were to use us to reach orthodoxy on a global level—even if we were only a small part of taking one of the first steps in the process.

Community

In general, the Bible seems to promote community and the Idea that God has been in constant relationship (interaction) with Himself as the Trinity since the beginning. We know that “iron sharpens Iron,” “two heads are better than one,” and that the church is for encouraging one another in our walk with the Lord. We know from watching instant replays of the big game that every angle captured adds to the greater understanding of the reality that occurred. In the same way, the church exhorts itself when members share their personal experiences (angles) of God to contribute to the greater—and more orthodox—understanding of Him.

Nonetheless, these experiences must conform to biblical teaching and the orthodoxy of 2000 years of tradition. During my conversations with Edio, Ema, and others I began to understand something a little bit better. I began to perceive more clearly how the Chilean church has something to offer the world too. They have insight into God’s grace as the fruit of the seeds sown by missionaries and native Christians over the past 75 years or so. Yes, I do believe that there are more educational opportunities in the United States—ESPECIALLY biblically speaking. That’s why I desperately want Daniela and I’s children to speak English; so they will have access to greater learning opportunities. However, having said that, academic education is only a pawn to serving the greater goal of maturing in Christ and is not always necessary to achieve this main Goal. Though it is very helpful. Nonetheless, Chileans do have something to say—something to contribute—to the global church.

As such, Daniela and I are trying to converge our privileged access to the vaster theological information and church tradition available in English with our combined (albeit still growing on my part) solid understanding of Chilean culture to equipp us to break down more cultural barriers. We hope to break through these cultural barriers by providing other Chileans with a greater opportunity for participation in the greater—global—body of Christ by providing sound biblical teaching from sermon type to academic, while being sure to focus on the heart of the message of the Bible. That means cross-cultural accountability and working with professionals on both shores to promote generally accepted principals that can be applied to any child of God no matter where they are. Maybe one of Daniela and I’s children will even continue the work one day.

Other Thoughts on International Community

Short-term mission trips are coming to be understood as less and less effective in recent study, but in what sense? It seems that US American Christianity—amidst many other disciplines—is becoming privy to the world-wide sentiment that we haven’t been seen as sharing well with other nations, and now we have begun to rethink our role as the US Church. The idea of planting the seed of the gospel on unsown soil as missions as is being done in other areas of the world—such as the 1040 window—is now incompatible with the Chilean context.

This seed that is still being sown in other parts of the world has already been planted in Chile. But what about watering the seed? This might be described as pastoral care, discipleship, or spiritual formation. Can we put fertilizer on the seed? This might have the form of introducing more academic theological and biblical studies to our brothers and sisters. What about the dead leaves that fall of one plant in the forest and become fertilizer for another? THIS IS PROBABLY YOUR ROLE! These “dead leaves” are our personal experiences of Jesus Christ that fall from our lips to fertilize (produce growth in) the heart of a fellow brother or sister. This might be bilingual church members sharing with one another in person during short term mission trips (Or sharing trips? Or community trips?) and staying in contact through the internet. These trips would still be primarily for producing growth in the church even if the general connotation of “mission” has changed a bit. Interpreters may also be used. The idea of short-term missions might be over as the church has previously understood it, but that does not mean that we cannot have multi-cultural sharing and sharpening relationships with one another in a different context. Even if the community of the international church is more distant and/or more shallow than that which we have with our home churches, the benefits of sharing the experiences are still worthwhile, especially when thinking of long-term global development.

Another thing that comes to mind is sending  young persons to the US to participate in my own—or another church’s—ministry/pastoral internship program where they can get more diverse understanding of ministry to better adhere to the way God prescribes it through the Bible.

Chilean Family and the Church

In the US—and other wealthier countries I suppose—once a child comes of age, they are free to do whatever they want. This is not at all different from the Chilean situation. However, thereisa difference in the child’s ability to be self-sustaining. Chilean—and most of the rest of the world’s family’s—are more dependent on each other to survive. I’ve known this bit for a long time—and maybe the information is not new to you either—but, what I am newly realizing is that different characteristics of society make it easier for US Americans to flee the nest than in most other countries. For instance, houses and apartments in Chile are built with morethan two generations in mind or more than one family in mind, Debt is harder to acquire, and obviously jobs pay less.

What this means for the church is that the “my house, my rules” mentality—at the least—pressures adult children—and the children’s children—to attend church. In some cases they are outright threatened with eviction if they don’t attend. We know that God doesn’t force us to worship him, but wants us to choose him willingly, so when should Chilean parents stop mandating their children to attend church? At the “age of accountability” (when God sees them as an adult)? At 18 (when the Chilean government sees them as an adult)? Somewhere in the middle? Afterwards? MAYBE A GREATER QUESTION TO ASK IS: Is the forced attendance (NOT participation) of the adults encouraging the church or harming it? It seems that a foreigner—newly introduced to these cultural circumstances—should probably listen more than comment on the subject… especially one who has not even had a child yet. So, I’ll just leave this one for all you more experienced ones to chew on for a bit.

A Great Option in Theory

Edio, Ema and I had a great time praying and talking about these and a slew of other culturally sensitive topics that are best considered with the grace and understanding of Christ. My mind was stretched and my understanding grew notably. And so, it appears that one logical option for long-term service in Chile would be for Daniela and I to work with Edio and Ema in Osorno, and to learn what practices and spiritual disciplines have kept the Iglesia de Cristo of Osorno thriving in God’s grace over the years. If it were God’s will that Daniela and I would work with Edio and Ema in Osorno, we would be a great team and possibly even a contribution to the development of missions—in general—over the long-term. But, the bigger blessing would be the huge boost of acceptance by church members of the Iglesia de Cristo—in the region—from working with Edio as the nationally renoun pastor that he is. Finally, nobody likes to make mistakes—especially when people’s eternity is hanging in the balance—so the idea of learning from an educated native—and listening to him recounting his own culturally-relevant human error to help me avoid making the same mistakes—placed alongside the great mentorships that have already been blessing our ministry—seems to be a strong recipe for success.

Moving in Santiago

But, we feel convicted and encouraged to continue our work in Santiago—for the time being at least. There are some activities that haven’t born as much fruit as we would like, but I’m really growing in being able to gauge an audience—whether it be old or young—to present them with that aspect or prospective of the gospel that will help them most where they are. I refer to ONE aspect because, who could capture the entirety of the gospel in a sermon or day or year, when it takes us more than a lifetime to fully mature in it? What IS good to know is that, Edio and the Iglesia de Cristoin Osorno has offered us a ministry partnership, and we are and will be praying about it in the inmediate future.  Please be praying for God’s direction with us over the next while. More to come on the previously mentioned Bible studies soon.

Right Now

Right now—just to give you an idea of the ins and outs of daily routine, I’m processing the recently-learned information from Osorno and writing to you about it, planning the youth meeting for this weekend, scheduling meetings with ministry mentors to talk about ideas discussed with Edio, trying to fix the internet, and continuing through a book that attempts to capture the great spectrum of ideas that should be considered in extracting theological meaning out of the biblical text (exegesis).

Later I’ll go pay a couple of bills. Then stop by the store on the way home to make room for ministry activities during the weekend so Dani and I can attend and serve together instead of shopping. I just try to do as many things in a loop—or outing—as possible so that we are the most productive with our time. Daniela is at work. She has a big event this week to bake a lot for and her and Tabi Boyce are prayerfully considering a ministry opportunity that we will be exploring in greater detail as family units (the Boyce’s and the Kepschull-Vera’s). This weekend there is a multi-church conference held in the north of Santiago to promote inter-church community and orthodoxy. It is organized by the pastor’s meeting I have been attending. As always, there will be more to share soon.

Lastly

Daniela and I were talking last night about how much we love that—at least in our personal relationship—it doesn’t matter that she is Chilean and that I am a US American. It’s not that we ignore it or try to avoid the difference, it’s simply that God’s maturing love in us helps us see past it or through it to what is behind it or at the center of it (the created person). We talked about how cool it would be if that understanding wouldn’t stay confined within the walls of our marriage but, was a model for us to look at others the same way and for other believers to have that higher quality in their own intercultural/international relationships with one another. It seems that Christianity must keep up with the times in forming these uniting relationships that strengthen the global Christian Church though the idea may seem strange—or even unpractical—in the present.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this longer letter and consider the happenings in this neck of the woods. We are very grateful for your support in every way you give it. God bless you all.