John Stumbo Video Blog No. 55

February 12, 2018


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This month, John is speaking from a Caribbean island where he has joined the 23rd anniversary celebration of the C&MA national network of churches there. He likens the U.S. Alliance relationship with this Body to that of “grandparents,” as there has been no U.S. C&MA presence in the country but where The Alliance is beginning to arise. He also unpacks a five-point agreement of how the U.S. Alliance can best serve the thriving 75 congregations in this island nation that have 90 church plants and a vision to plant 30 more by 2020.


Hey, Alliance family, like you, I have a number of titles: husband, dad, uncle, president. I like it when people still call me pastor. But the title I seem to smile the most at when I hear it is papa. I’m a grandfather. I absolutely love it. I can’t take direct credit for that life coming into the world, but I did have something to do with it. Maybe that’s part of what makes being a grandparent so fun—we are part of the family but don’t have the same level of responsibility as the parents.

Like any metaphor, this one will break down as well if you push it too hard, this metaphor of parenting and grand-parenting. But over the course of the decades, across the globe, through church-sent, GCF-supported IWs, thriving networks of local churches now exist. If you follow these video blogs, you’ve seen me tell some of those stories—Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, France. Many of those networks of churches are now mission-sending churches, and the result of that then is that we’re grandparents. There are expressions of the church that are rising up in places that we have never personally gone as U.S. organized, GCF-sent people—it’s the result, in a secondary fashion. So I’m excited to tell you that there are now Alliance expressions in places like French Guiana, Martinique, and Guadalupe, where no U.S. presence has gone but where The Alliance is beginning to arise.

I’m in one of those kinds of places right now. We can’t take personal credit for what’s taken place here—or at least not direct credit by any means; all the glory goes to God. But the work is coming through the broader Alliance family, and I just want to say, “Bienvenidos!” [Greetings from local residents follow.]

I’m here on this Caribbean island for a couple of reasons. One is I was invited to speak at this nation’s version of Council, a national gathering that they have every year for pastors, wives, families. What a joyful celebration, what fun it has been to be with their expression of the Alliance family. It’s unique. It’s fresh. It’s vibrant. The worship is contagious. You just get sucked into the joy that is expressed in their gatherings. Maybe some of that arises because of the hardship from which their stories arise. It’s estimated that over 50 percent of this country’s pastors come from single-parent families. The level of social and family upheaval through the decades has left a lot of wreckage of humanity, where in that soil the gospel has come forward in a beautiful way in the lives of these young pastors.

The Alliance here is only 23 years old. I’m here for the 23rd anniversary celebration, and it’s the fruit of Peruvian, Chilean, and Canadian Alliance work through the decades when there were international tensions between the United States and this island nation. Obviously, some of those tensions still continue today, but it’s with pleasure that we get to say we have the beginnings of an opportunity to be involved.

The second reason I’m here is because a year and a half ago at our Alliance World Fellowship gathering, if you remember that video blog from Bangkok, I had the pleasure of signing a five- part agreement with the president of The Christian and Ministry Alliance in this country. This was carefully arranged by Tim Wendel, our international worker who has responsibility on a regional basis for this part of the world. But it’s a five-point agreement where we outline how we as the U.S. Alliance can best serve but not mess things up. Over 70 churches are here now, and the vision of planting is to have 120 church plants by 2020.

And so it’s with joy that I say they have a vision, they have momentum toward that vision, God is at work, and they have a strategic plan for fulfilling it. Those five points include church planting—that we could in some ways assist with some church plants. That may be more difficult because friends don’t think in terms of a whole bunch of short-term teams coming down here in the next year or two. That’s probably not going to happen. Their capacity for handling short-term teams is quite limited. The visa situation is very difficult, and U.S. relations with this nation are still unfolding as we speak, but church planting is one of the things.

A second is theological education. Their dream is to have three sites. It takes almost 24 hours of travel from one end of this island to the other. Not a single Alliance pastor here has a car. That’s actually not unusual because a small percentage of the population has a vehicle. The president owns the only one, and his couldn’t come on this trip because it broke down in his driveway before we left. So we rented a bus; we made the event together. But I’m just saying that they want to have three regional training centers so that the pastors don’t have to travel as far for ongoing education. Hardly any of them have a seminary or a Bible college background. They come in raised up through the life of the church, start planting a church of their own, and then have these module courses that are provided to them. So, we want to help establish these three regional training centers.

A third is pastoral care. One of our retired GCF missionaries is ministering in that kind of way. Joel M. is helping them think through pastoral care responsibilities. Joel was actually born here.

Administration is a fourth area—just helping with some of the structures of how to put together the finances and good organization and some of these things, not to tell them how to do it, not to control it. But Joel B., an Alliance layman, who was born on this island, has been on the Board of Directors of The Christian and Ministry Alliance, and he’s helping with that.

Fifth, and finally, is the subject of missions; they want to become a mission-sending church themselves. This moves me.

As I spoke of that at one of the large gatherings, there was just joy in the house, 300 people gathered at this area, a combined worship service, before the big conference began, and the local churches got together for a night of praise and celebration, and we talked about them becoming a mission-sending church, and there was an enthusiasm that you can reach the world from this Caribbean island because there are places that they can go that as U.S. citizens, we’re really not welcome.

So those are the five points of agreement that we’ve signed, and I’m here to learn how to best engage with that, and what is not our part at this moment in time.

A window of opportunity is open, and the local church leaders know that window might close at some point. But even still, there are only so many visas that are going to be available, there’s a limited capacity for this leadership team here to handle short-term teams, there’s various cultural and governmental situations that we have to be aware of. We’re looking strongly to our national leadership team here, and our IW team, Tim Wendel, regional director, and others who understand this situation well and will be advising us as time goes on: when it’s for us to engage and in what manner is that engagement appropriate.

Certainly, your continued support of the Great Commission Fund matters. Because through those funds we are able to do some appropriate things here. Certainly your prayers are essential. Spiritual warfare takes place in this country in very real ways. Forms of Satan worship are very active, and in one of the churches that I was in last night, the pastor testified that in this community that there was various forms of idolatry and Satan worship around the homes of his church that have now stopped, and the light of the gospel has come. That particular church has had the pleasure of meeting for six years, growing each year, and now has eight churches that they are planting. How is this church planting thing going on? Well, let me say this: 75 churches now after 23 years have 90 mission outposts. That’s what they call a church plant before it gets fully off the ground. Seventy-five churches with 90 church plants? Are you kidding? Well, it’s part of the beauty of the house-church movement.

They are legal. They’re legal in the eyes of the government, but they’re not registered. And as a non-registered church, they are not allowed to build facilities, so they have to go house-to- house, and it’s made them nimble. They’ve been raising-up their own leaders from within, and the gospel is spreading in a fabulous way.

I hope you’ve sensed some of the excitement in my voice. Physically, I’m very tired. Yesterday was an 18-hour day, preaching a lot. . . . But the joy of Jesus is in this place, the freedom of the life of the gospel, having come to people that once knew great bondage and difficulty, is truly being expressed in the local church.

So, Grandpa and Grandma, just for this moment, enjoy; celebrate that God is at work. You had a part of it, but we don’t directly control it. Peace to you today.


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