Winfrees Going South

Nueva Providencia

esta-1024x653This past week I had the incredible privilege of visiting Instituto Bíblico Reformado Nueva Providencia in the mountains outside of Medellin, Colombia.  My friend, Pastor

Pastor Hector Romero Director

Pastor Hector Romero
Director

Javier Muñoz, was teaching a week-long class there on Missions and the Sovereignty of God.  Nueva Providencia is a wonderful school that is training young men for a year to go out into the world and help pastors plant new churches.  The students live and learn together for a year.  Some may go on for further training and ordination to become pastors.  Most will go out into the world as very well trained helpers and leaders in the church.  Most of the students are from either Baptist or Presbyterian Reformed backgrounds and have a deep passion to grow in Christ and in service to the church.

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Javier teaching with me on the sidelines.

The training for the week was pretty intense.  Javier taught basically 6 classes per day with each one hour section ending in prayer.  This teaching was on top of the regular devotions and chapel services that are part of their schedule.  On Sundays the students attend churches in Medellin or the surrounding area.  I learned a lot from sitting in on Javier’s classes.  He is a wonderful teacher.  We had students from various parts of Colombia (Cartagena, Santa Marta, Bogotá, Cali, Medellin…), Venezuela and Bolivia.  Between sessions the students had a ton of questions for Javier (and a few for me).  My role for the week was more one of observation, but I learned a lot and was blessed with a great time with Javier and the people there.  Director Pastor Hector Romero and Javier have asked me to teach there next year.  In the meantime I need to submit to them a list of courses that I would be interested in teaching.  They have used pastors from the US to teach using a translator, but I plan on teaching the classes in Spanish.  I have a lot of time to prepare.

The Lord is at work in Colombia and I am so thankful to be getting a broader view of His work here.  So many people are hungry for the Word of God.  They love Jesus and you can’t ask for more than that.  My role here seems to be growing.  But really, my main role seems to be to just help in what the Lord is already doing throughout Colombia and the rest of Latin America.

I would encourage you to visit their website to learn more about the history and the work there.  I am including more pictures below.

IMG_1226Nueva Providencia 2IMG_1224IMG_1232IMG_1231

 


The Body of Christ

We are so privileged to be working with the church here in Colombia.  The denomination that we are working with is Iglesia Reformada Evangelia Presbiteriana (IREP).  It is a small denomination, but the Lord is working through it in wonderful ways.  There are churches in Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Cucuta, and a few other places.  Most of our work is with the churches here in Bogotá, but we have had the privilege of also working closely with the churches in Bucaramanga.  Last year we spent several days in Bucaramanga training potential leaders in the church and their wives.  It was a great time and we were able to develop some great relationships with the church there.

DSC_0070-2John Sandoval and Andrés Suárez are the pastors of the two churches in Bucaramanga.  Recently they finished all of the work and exams needed for their ordination so many from our team went in January for their services of ordination.  We had a great time seeing how the Lord has continued to work in the churches there and seeing the joy in the faces of the church members as their pastors were ordained.  I (Ambrose) was able to take part in the ordination as aDSC_0037 visiting pastor (I am there, but a bit hidden behind the guy in the yellow shirt).  These churches are growing and they are starting to plant a new church in a neighbouring town.  Each pastor had his own ordination service (John in the morning and Andrés in the afternoon).  The last part of each service was the Lord’s Supper where each pastor was able to serve communion for the first DSC_0146time.  That evening we had a huge dinner where both churches gathered together to celebrate the ordinations.  Becky and I have grown to love John and Andrés and we look forward to continuing to work with them over the coming years.  They are solid in so many ways.  They love the Lord Jesus; they love the truth; they love the people of God; and they love their city.

P1000314After the ordinations some of us travelled through the Chicamocha Canyon to the town of Barichara.  Much of the time that we are in Bogotá we forget that we are in South America.  Yes, everyone is speaking P1000322Spanish, but it is a big city.  However, we always love to travel outside the city and really get to see the rest of this incredible country.  Many say that Barichara is the most beautiful town in Colombia.  I don’t know if that is true, but it certainly is beautiful.  The town was very quiet on the day that we visited, but we enjoyed the tranquility and beauty.

Becky and some of the others returned to Bucaramanga that afternoon and then on to Bogotá, I went to a small camp to meet with many of the other pastors and leaders from IMG_1044IREP for the General Assembly (an annual meeting of the leaders of the whole denomination).  This was a wonderful four days of fellowship and learning together.  There was so much unity among the men there.  We laughed and joked together. We worshipped and prayed together.  We talked and ate together.  We hiked together.  I and the other members of our missionary group were only visitors there.  I am in Colombia on my VISA at their invitation, but this is the first time that I have met those pastors outside of Bucaramanga and Bogotá.  These men have lived through some very difficult times.  Many of them and their congregations still are.  One pastor, Jorge, is from the city of Cucuta which is next to the Venezuelan border.  Many in his church live in Venezuela and cross the border to attend church.  This past year the border was closed for five months.  As you may have read in the news, the people of Venezuela are suffering.  Many are out of work, don’t have enough food, and are under threats from the government.  When the border closed Jorge could not visit the Venezuelan members.  The food that the other churches had been sending could not be delivered.  But even with all of this, Jorge was rejoicing at the Lord’s work in the church there.  We are so thankful to be able to serve the church here in Colombia and to help support men like Jorge and John and Andrés.


Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a New Year

P1000076Well, things have really picked up for us over the past few months.  Good stuff.  Our Spanish is coming along, and we find that our conversations are growing in depth.  Our team had a wonderful time together over Thanksgiving.  We can find turkeys here in November.  It was a good time to witness to the grace of God during the time of Thanks.  The Colombians were very curious about this holiday and the Lord used it to share more of Christ and His goodness to us.  United Church of Bogotá, which is the english language churchP1000090 where some of our MTW team works, had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.  Becky and I helped out a bit there.  They had many people come who were not members of the church.  The Pastor, Andrew Lupton, gave a brief devotional where the Good News was clearly presented.  There was quite a lot going on during the Christmas season.  It is as commercialised here as in the States; however, there are other religious holidays for them around the same time.  Again, this was a great time to witness to the grace of God.  We had several parties where non-Christians were invited.

We have enjoyed working with the conversational English classes as a ministry of El Refugio, the Colombian church where we have been working and worshipping.  We are thankful to the Southern Baptists for having some great material that uses the Gospel of Mark for the teaching.  Our conversation class has, I believe, been helpful with the Colombians who speak some English and we have been able to generate some good discussions on Mark.  In our class we have had two teachers, a university student, three high school students, a pastor, and a few young professionals . We have taken a break over the past month, but will pick up again in February.  You know, English is a tough language, especially the pronunciation.  We have gained a new appreciation for people who come to the States and have to learn our language.

Becky and I have been helping with the music during worship at El Refugio over the last several IMG_1004months.  This has been great fun.  We are learning a lot; and we hope that we are actual helping.  I am thankful for all of the thinking that our home church, All Saints, has done over the years about music in worship.  It has been a long time since I have played so much guitar.  I forgot how much I enjoyed it.

This coming week will be busy.  We are flying to Bucaramanga on Saturday.  The two pastors that we have worked with there have passed all of their ordination exams and will be ordained and installed next Sunday.  We love these churches in Bucaramanga and are looking forward to our time there.  This is a very important occasion in the life of these churches and we are happy that we can participate in this with them.  After the ordinations, I will be traveling about two hours by bus from Bucaramanga for the General Assembly of the Iglesia Reformada Evangélia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IREP).  I am looking forward to meeting the pastors from the coast and the border that I have not had the opportunity to meet.  This is the denomination that we have been sent here to help; but all of my time with the pastors here has been such a blessing to me.

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Joe Harrell

In April I hope to go to a conference in Medellín.  Richard Pratt and Joel Beeke are two of the speakers that will be there.  While in Medellín I have been invited to visit two of the reformed seminaries there.  Last week we attended a conference here in Bogotá hosted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  I have enjoyed meeting some of the other pastors in the area and

Javier Muñoz on left. Daniel Lanchero, pastor of Cristo Rey, on right.

Pastor Javier Muñoz on the left and Pastor Daniel Lanchero of Cristo Rey on the right.

hope to continue to expand our horizons here as we meet others and see the work that the Lord has been doing here.  Javier Muñ0z, the pastor of El Refugio, knows so many of these pastors throughout Colombia.  He has discipled and taught many of them over the years, and he is greatly respected here.  He was one of the speakers at the conference here last week.  He also teaches periodically at the seminary in Medellín.  Javier and Joe Harrell (our team leader) have been teaching and discipling in Latin America for many years.  They have worked with pastors here and in Costa Rica, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador.  I am so grateful to be working with them.

P1000263On a personal note, Becky and I got to spend Christmas in Playa del Carmen in Mexico with our daughters and their families during the first week of January.  We are so thankful to the Lord for giving us this incredible week.  Kids, sons-in-law, and grandkids are all doing well.  The week was wonderful, but it was very hard to leave them all behind.

We do want to thank all of you who have supported us in this work.  We could not do this work without you, your prayers and your finances.  If you interested in supporting us financially, please go here.  If you are interested in receiving our prayer letters, please email me at winfreesgoingsouth@gmail.com.


An Incredible Year

Becky and I arrived here in Bogotá, Colombia in the dead of night.  We knew little or no Spanish.  The rest of our team were either stuck in the Dominican Republic because of cancelled flights or were arriving later that night.  So, we waited, sitting by our suitcases and packing crates watching the crowds moving about the airport.  Helpless, but glad to finally be here.  That was a year ago today. Today, our Spanish is much better.  We have grown to love this amazing city with its car alaralg-bogota-streets-jpgms at all hours of the day and night, crazy traffic, broken sidewalks, potholes, and incredible coffee.  We have met some fascinating people and made new friends – both Colombiano and Gringo.  We have moved into ministry – helping the Colombian churches with music, leadership training and outreach.  Every day we move deeper and deeper into the culture.  And every day we learn more and more about life here.  And every day we learn more and more that we know so little.  Cultures are deep things.

It took almost two months to find and move into our apartment.  We had been living at the mercy of others for a long time; and we were thrilled to have our little apartment all to ourselves.  Furnishing it wIMG_0818as fun.  From here we began to work with our Spanish tutor, Martha Ruiz, who has come to our home five days each week for two hours to teach us.  We have studied with here now for about nine months.  There is still so much to learn, but it is coming.  Many have prayed for our none too young brains to absorb this totally new way of communicating to the world.  Thank you.  But, it is one thing to sit in a class and another to venture forth and communicate.  But we do.  Every day.  We talk with grocery store clerks, bank tellers, taxi drivers, neighbors, security guards and the people in the churches.  The taxi drivers are great.  I get into the cab and tell the driver where I need to go.  Often I will then say; “Disculpe, mi español es malo (Excuse me, my Spanish is bad.).”  Oddly, once I say this, the taxistas feel free to start talking to me – in Spanish.  Becky and I have had some great conversations with the cab drivers.

IMG_0406For many months we attended Iglesia Cristo Rey.  These people loved us and were so patient in speaking with us.  A few knew some English and were always happy to practice their English while we practiced our Spanish.  A month ago we began attending another church, Refugio.  Here, I am helping build up the music.  So, I have actually been using my guitar much more than I had anticipated.  Also, Refugio is reaching out to the neighborhood in which it meets by offering English classes based on the Gospel of Mark.  Each week there have been more people and some of them have begun to come to Refugio on Sunday mornings.  Becky and I are working with a group that already know some English and wish to practice and learn a bit more.  We have begun 1280px-United_Church_Bogotáto have some good discussions around Mark’s Gospel.  Tonight I am going to attend my first presbytery meeting here.  I already know many of the pastors and elders who will attend.  Some of the churches in the presbytery are not too close, so those pastors will attend by Skype.  Since we are still working on our Spanish, our work load is definitely increasing as our work with the churches grows.  There are many more opportunities coming as well.  I have already had three opportunities to preach this year at United Church of Bogotá, which is the only English speaking protestant church in the city.  Some from our team work with this church and Becky and I have been blessed to minister there when we can.  But our focus has been the Colombian churches.

In May Becky and I were able to go to Bucaramanga with another couple on our team, Dick and Joanne 621 615 Brown, and the pastor from Refugio, Javier Muñoz, and his wife Sandra.  The church in Bucaramanga is the first IMG_0596reformed church in the city and the fastest growing church in the denomination.  We spent a few days on a retreat with the elder and deacon candidates from the church – working with them on the role of the officers in the church.  It was a great time.  It certainly stretched our Spanish (and maybe their English).  We were able to visit the Chicamocha Canyon outside of Bucaramanga which is the second largest canyon in the Americas.  This whole country is just so beautiful.  Last week our team went on a retreat to coffee country.

Just over a month before we left the States Becky and I had our first granddaughter.  Avie Peregrin Lewis IMG_0336was born last August to our daughter, Noelle, and her husband, Michael.  This past year she has really grown up.  We were able to spend a lot of time with her since we were in Charlotte when she was born and we stayed there for six weeks before we headed south.  We IMG_0651were able to see her last month as well when Becky and I visited the States.  In May we had our first grandson, Ian Ashton Winfree Mendez.  He was born in Cancún, Mexico to our daughter, Laura, and her husband, Jorge.  This has really been a wonderful and blessed year for us.  We spent some weeks in Cancún with Laura and family in May and June.  I can only say that this grandparent thing is not overrated.

So many of you have supported us by your encouragement, prayers and finances.  We are blessed to have such wonderful friends and family.  Our work is only beginning.  Our Lord has been so kind to us in so many ways and we are thankful to Him for every single thing.  To God be the glory.

 

 

 

 


Far, Far More

IMG_0056“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”

Ephesians 3:20 (English Standard Version)

Every day I look out my large living room window from the eighth floor of my apartment building here in Bogotá. I can see the beautiful mountains rising just to the east of me. But what so often demands my attention is the incredible expanse of homes and apartments that are spread out all around me. And all of these are filled with people. There are around ten million people here, and most of them do not now Jesus Christ. They are lost. They work and play and raise families, but they are lost.

Any of us can (and should) meditate on the people who live around us. Bogotá is just one city – bigger than most and smaller than some. In my hometown of Richmond, VA I would get the same feeling walking through the city or around the mall. Lives going on all around me with no thought of Jesus Christ or their own need for a Savior – with no thought that they were fallen men and women created in the image of God.

 And so I pray. But my prayers are so weak and dull and unbelieving. My faith is small. I just don’t really believe this verse – at least I don’t pray as if this were true. I get overwhelmed with the difficulty of lives really changing. I see the cultural and particular personal rebellions of myself and the people who live in my world; and I just think that the task of God redeeming this city or this country or this world is impossible.

 But my Redeemer’s vision is much, much bigger than mine. He is not limited by my weakness and unbelief or the world’s sin. He has dealt with it all on a cross. He has lived and died and risen again so that he could redeem a people for himself. Nothing will stop him from accomplishing all that he desires. His vision for Bogotá or Richmond or Seattle or Tokyo or Washington is bigger than we can imagine. Our minds are just too small to conceive what the Creator of the Universe and the Redeemer of the human race has in mind.

 As I look out my window sometimes I have a small glimpse of the vision of Jesus – some small apprehension of the mind of Christ, and I rejoice in the One who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

 


Missing Home

Plaza Bolivar, Bogotà

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…”  Ephesians 2:19 (English Standard Version)

 

The people of Bogotá, Colombia are gracious and friendly. The climate is wonderful and the shortage of oxygen at 8,500 feet is no longer a problem. We love it here and are looking forward to our years here. As we learn to navigate this huge city and struggle to understand the language and the culture, we still have a strong feeling that we are strangers and aliens. We are here on a work visa and we are awaiting our registration card to show that even though we have permission to live here for two years, we are not Colombians.

We are, and maybe always will be, foreigners.

I am reminded as well of the verse in the letter to the Hebrews where the writer speaks of Christians; “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13).” I have felt this way to some extent for a very long time, even in the city and country of my birth – a feeling that, in some way, I belong somewhere else. And I do. We do.

You and I are members of the household of God. Yes, we live here and now. We serve here and now. We grow in the place where the Lord has planted us. But we also, in an even more real sense, are citizens of Heaven. You and I have been bought with a price and rescued for something more. We are heirs of all of the riches of Jesus Christ.

 “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling (II Corinthians 5: 1,2).”

And Jesus said;

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).”


Pray

IMG_0004Our dear friends;
We so appreciate your prayers for us as we have continued on the road to serving our wonderful Savior in Bogotá. Well, we have bought our tickets and we will be flying out of Richmond on October 7th (Lord willing). That is only a month away. Even now we are spending more time talking with the team in Bogotá and putting together the last things that we need in order to leave.

And there is much to do.

Please pray for us as we rush through this last month of preparation.

1. Pray that new support would continue to come in. There are many people who have told us that they would like to support us but have still not sent in any pledges. Also, in line with the support, we do need those who have pledged support but have not started to give would begin to do so.

2. Pray that things will go smoothly this week as we head down to Atlanta later in the week in order to go to the Colombian embassy there for our visas. We are in the process of getting all of the paperwork we need. Please pray that the Lord would give us favor in the eyes of the embassy workers so that they will issue the visas while we wait.

3. Pray that the Lord would give Ambrose help as he preaches at Church of the Redeemer in Charlotte next Sunday and at All Saints in Richmond on October 5th.

4. Pray that we will continue to enjoy our last month in the States and that we would be able to say good-bye to our families and friends. This will be very difficult.

5. Pray that the Lord will bless the Team Retreat in the Dominican Republic in October (7th – 13th). We are excited about being able to attend.

6. Pray that all of the thousands of details that need to come together over the next month and a half as we uproot our lives once again and move onto the field will fall into place. Pray also that the Lord would give us grace and patience.

There is excitement and joy as the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter, but there is sadness and trepidation as well. But our Lord has been so good to us and we are looking forward to the new work.

Blessings,
Ambrose and Becky Winfree
winfreesgoingsouth.com
ambyblue@gmail.com


We still need your help

We purchased our plane tickets to Bogotá a couple of days ago.  We will leave Richmond on October 7th to fly to the Dominican Republic for the Area Retreat for all of the Mission to the World missionaries.  From there, we will fly directly to Bogotá, Colombia to begin the work that the Lord has called us to.  It has been a long time coming, but the Lord is good and He has been with us each step of the way.  The last few years have been difficult, but we are so thankful that we had the opportunity to be here for our families.

IMG_0319Now, we have one more thing that will make leaving a bit more difficult.  On August 13th our oldest daughter, Noelle, had our first grandchild, Avie Peregrine Lewis.  Becky and I have been staying in Charlotte so that we could spend some time with her and her parents.  God is good all the time.

There are still items that we are working on.  We hope to go to the Colombian embassy in AtlanIMG_0328ta in a couple of weeks and get our visas.  We still need more monthly/annual financial support.  So many of you have expressed interest in supporting us.  Now is the time.  Please click on the support link and give either a one-ime gift or pledge to give annually or monthly.  More importantly, please pray for us and the work that the Lord is doing building His church in Colombia.  Be a part of this work by supporting us both financially and prayerfully.

 


When less is so much more

 

IMG_0011“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 3:1-3

 

Over the past several years my wife and I have slowly divested ourselves of most of our stuff.  All of our earthly possessions, after 61 years of life (38 of them together), are now in a medium size storage unit.  Most of this was done over the last two weeks.  To be honest, it was a bit traumatic.  We had a lot of things.  But the process has been such a good one.  It made us look carefully at what is truly important and the craziness of so much of our drive to accumulate.

As the Lord calls us to leave home and family behind and head to Bogotá, Colombia, we know that we need to lighten our lives.  We need to become less distracted with our accumulation of worldly goods.  Interestingly, we are finding that we really need so much less to live on than we have thought.  And, we feel remarkably free.  We don’t even have our own home.  We are living on the kindness of others.

And we are so thankful.  Our Father in Heaven is so good to us as we move forward.  Of course, we will make a home in Bogotá; but we are learning – learning to look to His hand for provision – learning to be satisfied with Him – learning to pray – learning to believe – learning to follow – learning to trust.  Our lives are “hidden with Christ in God.”  That is a truth of our lives under the Lordship of our great Savior that we have so seldom lived out.

We have been bought with a price.  We who are in Christ have died and been raised again to a new life.  We have been blessed “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).”  We have a Heavenly Father who knows all that we need.  The One who clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air will certainly care for us (Matthew 6:25-33).  The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills will see that we lack nothing (Psalm 50:10).

Our God, the One who sent his only begotten Son, “will He not also with him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32).” 

 

 


Bogotá here we come…

thumb.phpWell, the end is in sight.  Becky and I have set a date for moving to Bogotá, Colombia to begin the work that the Lord has called us to do: helping the Colombian churches plant new congregations (Colombia Video).  Our mission agency, Mission to the World, has been absolutely wonderful in helping us to move forward.  The plan is for us to fly to Bogotá on October 14th.  That is less than three months away.  Also, we have been given the opportunity to attend the Area Retreat for Latin America and Africa the week before in the Domican Republic.  This retreat is only held every four years, so we feel privileged to be able to attend.  We will be flying out of Richmond, VA on October 6th.
There is still so much3691554956_18e59f2a03_z to do in the meantime.  Shots, visas, packing, selling cars, putting things into storage…  Over the last couple of weeks we have really been challenged as we have gotten rid of so much of the stuff that we have accumulated over the last 61 years of our lives.  Actually, this process began a few years ago when we left Richmond to move to Charlotte.  Now, all of our earthly possessions fit into one storage unit.  It is amazing what we do not need.

The biggest thing that we are working on at this time is raising support.  We still need about $3,000 per month in pledges.  This is a lot to raise, but the Lord has been good to us; and our friends, family and churches have been gracious and generous.  We are so thankful.  Do pray for us as we push forward over the next three months.  If you are interested in helping, just check on the ‘How You Can Support Us’ on the right side of this page.  We would appreciate anything you can do.

2697541624_4f7a7586c0_zIn August our first grandchild is due.  We will be spending most of the month in Charlotte, NC so that we can be there for our daughter, Noelle, when the baby comes.  We actually plan on staying in Charlotte until the third week of September.  This is exciting to say the least; however, it will make leaving for three years (or more) even tougher.

Blessings…