I feel… international. I’m not sure if that qualifies as an emotion, but its what I’m feeling right now.
I’ve crossed by bus through two customs/immigration check points in the past ten hours, traveling form Nicaragua to Costa Rica. My wallet now has three different currencies in its folds; dollars, córdobas, and colones. Bright pinks, yellows, green and blues. I’ve never had such a valuable celebration of color in my pocket. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting on a wad of cash. Its the rich history and the images on the few bills I have that intrigue me.
As I pay for my evening meal, the celebration of culture all around is even more real. The dinning room in Parque Sendas is quickly filling up. Parque Sendas is a Nazarene seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica and right now its sheltering over 100 people, of which I am one. We have come from all over to attend the conference of CLADE V that will begin tomorrow afternoon. Most of those here are planning to stay overnight throughout the week in the cramped seminary doors as conference participants. Quarters are tight with bunk bed type setups and with rooms that meant to hold about 12 people each. There are people of Latin American heritage here from around the globe. I’ve already encountered some from Dominican Republic, Peru, El Salvador, and the United States. In the hallways I overheard Portuguese and traces of European languages. But, check God out. Here, our common language isn’t English. Its Spanish.
About forty years ago La Fraternidad Teologica Latinoamerica or FTL (translated its Latin-American Theological Fraternity) began to organize a movement. They began to provide a platform for Latino American theologians and ministry practitioners to come and form their own theological reflection and responses to ministry in the Latin-American context. It wasn’t a short sided fad or casual gathering. This CLADE has met four times since 1969, and participants thoroughly examined for days at a time issues such as holistic evangelism, incarnational ministry, the value of indigenous perspectives, the role women in theology, political issues, social and family ethics, and justice issues.
Rather than depending on American or European theological thinking to inform their practice, these theologians have taken it upon themselves to be proactive and enter the global theological discussion. God has created a diverse community of believers and the Latino people, among ourselves, are extremely diverse. The Latino peoples have something to share and contribute theologically with each other. We have come together to better understand what God is saying to us as Latinos. In turn I believe that we will be able to share that with the world so that God’s community of believers will be better shaped in the unity of diversity. I am blessed to be a part of the fifth gathering of the CLADE, to be counted among the hundreds who are coming.
Holistic ministry, social justice, ethics … These are buzzwords that we now keep hearing in the churches in the states. Its interesting to me that while churches in America are just waking up to some of these principles, the church in Latin America has been on the move with these concerns for half a century. God is speaking through the Latin-American church. I pray that God would give us ear to hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to the churches, in Latin-America, the States and the world.
If you’d like to read more about the FTL, here is the story in English.
R. R. Tavárez