We left Costa Rica early Thursday morning bright and early for Nicaragua to attend MINT’s second regional conference for Central America. The three of us, Lester Martínez, Jaime Morales and I had a very nice, non-eventful drive up to Peñas Blancas on the boarder between Nicaragua and Costa Rica (about 6 hours from Cartago). Of course, once of the boarder, “non-eventful” takes on a whole new meaning. If you’ve ever experienced a boarder crossing in Latin America, you learn what it means to get nowhere fast, to do a lot of running around without accomplishing anything. Well, to be fair, we got across the Costa Rican side rather quickly. It was in Nicaragua that we ran into the labyrinth of administrative bureaucracy. We had to get our passports stamped. Then we had the car inspected (there were only two inspectors). That would have been easy enough, but because we were traveling with a box of books that CLIR was taking to the conference, they made us declare the two small boxed in Customs. Of course, that meant going to one window with samples, then to another window to pay, then to yet another to get the official declaration and proof of payment to show to the inspector. Then we had to get insurance for the vehicle and FINALLY, we were ready for inspection once again. But now, it was with the other inspector. Once we had been approved by the inspector, we had to take all the paperwork to yet another window where it was reviewed by an immigration official who gave us the permit for the vehicle to enter Nicaragua. But we weren’t done yet! The final step in what according to the Nicaraguan government is a “three step process” (cough cough, nod, nod) was getting that document stamped and signed by a police officer. But finding the police officer was like playing “Where’s Waldo”. It took us over 40 minutes just to locate him (nobody knew where he was) and there was only one! At any rate, with the Lord’s help and little of Job’s patience, we managed to get off the border in just little over 3 hours. YEAH! And we were on our way to the conference. I wish I had taken pictures of the whole process. It would have made for a funny little photo journal.
But now you’re wondering how the actual conference has been going. At the conference, we have a had a wonderful time of fellowship and worship with pastors and professors of theology from all over Central America: Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Belize. We were missing only brothers from Guatemala and Honduras, who had their own conference earlier this year.
Eric Pennings, who is now transitioning into his new position as International Dean of Academics for all of MINTS world-wide, gave two talks: the first was about how to train course facilitators to assist professors in their labors. The second was on being a competent leader. José Jesús Ramírez (from El Salvador, but living in Canada) is the Regional Academic Dean for all of Central America and he gave on how to structure a class for MINTS and a second on how to generate a final report/evaluation after concluding the class. Others, such as Jaime Morales (Costa Rica) and Carlos Coffin (Nicaragua) gave talks about how to prepare for an international trip to teach in other MINTS seminaries and what to expect in a cross-cultural situation, how to prepare a presentation for a conference, and how a course facilitator should use a professors prepared notes.The conferences were well prepared and informative. There is also a very evident desire on the part of the different MINTS seminaries and theological centers to give and receive, sharing resources, professors, courses, both in person and online. The spirit of godly fellowship permeated all of the sessions.
As we develop a program for theological education in Costa Rica, it was of infinite value to learn more about ideas of promotion of our courses, as well as the resources which are available to us. This has also been a good experience for CLIR to make more contacts, cultivate friendships and alliances. From these Centers, CLIR can glean new authors for journal articles and books, taking advantage of the wealth of learning and theological reflection taking place in Central America, applying the Bible to all areas of culture and life.
A final word about our trip. It’s not over yet. Lester and I are responsable to lead worship on Sunday. Lester will be leading the music and I will be preaching. The text I have chosen is James 3:1-12, an exhortation to would-be and actual teachers to not take lightly the great calling to lead others in the knowledge of God and his Son Jesus Christ. I solicit your prayers for the Lord’s blessing on this time. We are only attending, but it was a great honor to be asked to give the final word at this conference, which of course, is the Word of God, living and active. May he bless his Word preached and of course, each heart in which, by his Spirit, it will find fertile ground. After worship, we will travel back. In some ways, I can’t wait to get back home, not just to see my kids, finish the 1000 piece puzzle that Abby and I are working on, but also be have internet again 🙂 There’s no internet here and I think we’ve all been going through withdrawals. Blessings and Peace to each one!