In case some people were concerned after the previous post that I had been distracted from my purpose, please understand that it was a JOKE, OK? That wasn’t actually Hugo Chavez with me – just a Peruvian pastor who bears an astonishing resemblance to the Venezuelan president (to the extent that his nickname amongst all the other delegates is Hugo)… Apologies for any confusion caused.
But if I can be serious for a moment, i thought it would be good just to update on how things went. It was a great conference – with around 110 people present (including around 50+ who returned from last year). Particularly encouraging was the national spread, as well as the representation from across Lima – as illustrated by the two charts (set up by the conference organisers Desarrollo Cristiano Peru, headed up by the indomitable and awesome Nelsa & Jorge Zolezzi). What these also illustrate is the reach of Langham Literature in supplying resources to the various theological colleges and seminaries around Peru. Again that is in large part due to Nelsa and her team’s energy and vision. It seems to me that with such great people on the ground, what is going on in Peru fulfils perfectly John Stott’s original vision for the various Langham ministries. Awesome.
This is my stab at getting everyone together in some sort of order at the end of the conference (interesting task when Spanish is not exactly one’s lingua franca). Quite apart from the real joy of renewing old friendships made last year, the central privilege of working alongside Prof Samuel Escobar (a Peruvian who teaches in Valencia, Spain) and Igor Améstegui (in the picture below, on Samuel’s left – a Bolivian who is the new full-time Langham coordinator for Latin America).
I was very much the baby with these two guys around, and I learned a lot from them. Both had bags of wisdom and it was very useful to see how they dealt with questions and issues in a culturally relevant and sensitive way. You can tell that I was not contributing a significant amount to the discussion by their rather glazed expressions, eyes transfixed by the middle distance! Of course, i would never have had a clue what they were talking about in their addresses (though they both speak excellent English) were it not for the incomparable Carla Dongo, who interpreted for me throughout the week. Now that is a work of supererogation.
Igor is in fact a psychologist by background as well as someone who has been involved with university students’ ministry for years – and this came out in one of his talks which has really got me thinking. All 3 of us were focusing our plenaries on the epistles of John, which all clearly teach the strong inter-relationship between doctrine and ethics, between belief and lifestyle. In his address, Igor drew the connection between this inter-relationship and the key premise on which Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is based. As the wiki site puts it, CBT is based on the assumption that
…our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviour, our feelings influence our behaviour and thoughts and our behaviours influence our emotions and thoughts. These modalities are therefore interrelated, and change in one modality will in all probability influence at least one of the others.
What struck me was something I’d never quite seen before, namely the apologetic mileage that this offers – while postmodern thinking progressively fragments society and even individuals, here is a widely recognised theory which clearly points to the old old truth that human beings are integrated creatures. We can’t be compartmentalised; nor can we act in a particular way in one sphere of life without it significantly impacting another sphere (hence the thin ice of claiming that what we do in private has nothing to do with our public face). You’ve probably seen this clearly before – but it was fascinating to me to see how this clearly corresponded to what John explains about life (despite his inevitable ignorance of modern psychological practice).
All in all – a great time. Sitting here in Miami airport waiting to for the flight home. Will arrive home tomorrow after 24 hours of non-stop travelling – exhausted but greatly encouraged!