For Jorge and Gail Atiencia, long-term missionaries, everyday symbols are as important as their bread and butter. If you talk to them about communicating the Gospel, their eyes light up, and a thousand memories come back. Ask Jorge what he does, and he will tell you about the training of Bible expositors, at many levels in many places. They often travel from their home in Ecuador to train leaders in other countries. Ask Gail about their seminars, and she might ask, “How long do you have to listen!”
Latin America Mission’s theme this year is Fruitfulness, which fits hand in glove with Jorge and Gail’s ministry. This couple trains men and women to delve into the scriptures, giving leaders opportunity to deepen and improve their teaching and preaching, making it more faithful to the text, relevant to the reality of the context and clear to the listeners. What an incredible goal! For them, the image of fruit is a beautiful, delicious, and nutritious manifestation of Jesus, the “true vine.”
Take the phrase, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain.” Jn 15:16
Gail and Jorge take these words as a window into a disciple’s life. They write, “With these words, the Lord Jesus creates a 4-fold dynamic of fruitfulness: ‘fruit’(v2), followed by ‘more’ fruit (v 2b), then ‘abundant’ fruit (vv5,8), and culminating in fruit that ‘remains.’”
This couple goes to many places, putting all their energy into stimulating the growth preaching movements in Latin America through the dynamic of escuelitas or mini-preaching schools which have become—like a healthy vineyard with fruitfulness evident through the supernatural. They often teach in regional workshops, like the one Jorge and Gail did a few years ago when, just in the city of Bogotá they were delightfully stressed to be teaching the parables to a group of 240 Assemblies of God preachers, who came to Bogotá from three surrounding provinces. They were eager learners and seriously committed to preaching the Word with faithfulness to the text, relevance to our Colombian context, and clarity for their hearers, of course under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
There are many unreached regions of Colombia. Jorge and Gail support Mercedes Quintero, the Chairperson of the National Committee and other members of the Committee as they plan and implement upcoming training initiatives. ‘More fruit’ and ‘abundant fruit’ are evident in 150 active escuelitas (each with 5 to 8 participants) across the country. Local coordinators stimulate the groups learning and growing over the 3 year period of ‘formación’. Current participants, as well as graduates of the escuelitas, meet annually at the Bible Seminary in Medellín for the week-long Transformational Preaching Encounter, at which Jorge helps to model Bible exposition, leads plenary workshops on how to preach, while Gail often translates for English-speaking resources people and leads a small preaching-practice-group.
This past year, they explored preaching in the Gospels under the theme: “Jesus: Discerning the Signs of the Times.” The Colombian team of 25 ‘Facilitators’ has more than 20 years of experience. They keep growing in their use of adult education skills. These are used when teaching larger groups of escuelitas in their own geographical and cultural regions.
This dynamic “vineyard” currently nurtures more than thirty denominations in Colombia. A recent request was received from an influential group to train more than 300 of its pastors. Their goal is to preach more biblically and form escuelitas in each church.
But pruning is also necessary, involving rigorous selection. Jorge and Gail place a strong emphasis on the spirituality of the preacher. They take the critical national situations into account. Men and women—especially young professionals—face the challenges of their work realities. Worldly values desperately need to be changed by kingdom values.
They hope such change will occur in Colombia and the other 15 countries across Latin America where over 3,000 people were trained in Langham-escuelitas last year.
The influence of escuelitas continues to spread across many regions in South America. Jorge and Gail express their gratitude to generous partners supporting them in this harvest.