It has been a great privilege for me to be a part of a partnership between Community Bible Church and IBAC over the last two years. IBAC is a mobile theological training organization that connects US churches with pastors and ministry leaders in Latin America for the purpose of providing seminary-like education.
Community Bible began investigating this opportunity back in 2016 after I met Jim Wilson, the Founder and Director of IBAC, while on a short-term mission trip to Costa Rica. Long story short, CBC members and missionaries Gordon & Debbie Crandell served alongside Jim and Melanie Wilson in San Jose as part of the same EFCA missions team, and I was introduced through the Crandells.
When I met Jim he told me about the purpose of IBAC, which involved mobilizing the US church – where seminary education is more readily available – to serve the Latin church – where quality seminary education is not readily accessible. Practically speaking, it means having churches like CBC send teachers who either have a seminary education or similar theological training to equip Latin pastors and ministry leaders who already have influence within their churches, for the sake of encouraging sound doctrine and gospel-centered church leadership in Central and South America. The program consists of 15 one-week-long intensive courses taught over the course of 5-8 years.
Community Bible Church formalized our relationship with IBAC in early 2018 and taught the first course in San Jose in June 2018. Since then, I have been part of teaching teams for courses in October 2018 and February 2019.
The pastors who attend come from at least 5 congregations in San Jose and are mostly bi-vocational. These are folks who are called to shepherd the flock of God, but who have to work another job to make ends meet. For that reason, our IBAC group meets from 4:30-9:00pm Monday thru Friday for each course, giving them time in the morning and afternoon to take care of their paying jobs before coming to study. We’ve seen many of the same people returning course after course, because they’ve enjoyed the training, plus we’ve added some new folks along the way. We started with about 30 people and in February we had 48 on our largest night.
Each night is divided into 50-minute sections. We have times of instruction, followed by Q&A, then we have dinner together, which allows for great times of personal connection, and then more instruction, followed once again by Q&A.
One lady that has been coming to the classes is named Mariela. She has been to all 3 courses and I don’t think she’s missed a single night of any course. She is always engaged, always asks good questions, and she has brought others along with her over time. In speaking with Mariela in February, she told me that she leads a women’s discipleship program in a church where there are 1,000 people. I stood there speechless as she told me how she had desired something like this for so long, but it had been unavailable to her until IBAC. This is a woman who loves the Lord, who already has influence over a large number of women, who is able to apply what she’s learned AND teach it to those with whom she has influence for immediate payoff. I believe that is the beauty of the IBAC model. Not only does it build the US church through study and preparation, but it builds the Latin church by equipping leaders who will immediately be able to invest in others in their churches.
And all of this is made possible because of your support at Community Bible Church. It is absolutely free for each person to attend these Bible institutes, thanks to your giving. We pay for the printed materials for each student, for translation, for dinner each night, for the venue that houses us, and even transportation.
Thank you for your support of this ministry and for your continued prayer support moving forward.
How can you pray for this ministry? Here are a few things that come to mind.
- Pray for the team that is preparing now to teach in October. There is a lot of study and preparation involved in teaching these courses in an effective way.
- Pray for the churches that we’re developing relationships with there in San Jose. Pray that the gospel would have its full effect on the hearts of the Costa Rican disciples who are in these churches. Pray that these churches would effectively & winsomely minister to their communities.
- Pray for opportunities to strengthen our partnership with these Latin churches, even as our CBC summer mission team will be in Costa Rica this Summer (July 13-20).
- Pray for Jim Wilson, who leads this organization, which now has locations in about 30 locations throughout Latin America. Jim does a lot of travel to get to these Bible institutes, so pray for his wife Melanie while he is away.
- Pray that the Lord would continue growing the number of people who attend IBAC each course.