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TRIP TO SURESTE SEMINARY IN VILLAHERMOSA, TABASCO, MEXICO
FEBRUARY 16, 2011 TO FEBRUARY 21, 2011
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in Christ in the state of Tabasco and especially from our friends at the seminary in Villahermosa, Mexico.
Tom Andrews and I departed RDU airport in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 16, 2011 for a short visit to the seminary in Villahermosa…Tom was representing White Memorial Presbyterian Church here in Raleigh and I was representing The Outreach Foundation of the Presbyterian Church. We were joined by Clarence Shepherd in Houston, Texas. We were met at the airport in Villahermosa by 4 students from the seminary. They drove us to the seminary where we met Abimael, the administrator and Moises the new President and his wife Perla.
On Thursday we met with the new officers of the Synod and reviewed a number of items including the progress on the legality and non-profit issues for the seminary, projects that were in progress, and some of the officers’ ideas on projects to be completed at the seminary.
After our meeting with the Synod, we met with the new construction committee. They reviewed the progress on the storage building being constructed at the rear of the property and ideas they had for improvements to the campus.
One of these ideas was the renovation of the chapel. One part of the renovation has already been completed. They scraped all the steel beams in the ceiling, cleaned and then repainted with a rust resistant paint. The committee is also planning to have new flooring installed in the chapel and new wiring installed.
The former President of the seminary, Huascar de la Cruz was in attendance at both the Synod and construction committee meetings to translate for us. Later in the day we visited his family in their new home. It was good to see him, Fulvia and the children.
On Saturday we attended the 25th anniversary celebration ceremonies held in the chapel. There were approximately 2000 in attendance with dignitaries from various parts of the country of Mexico and several other countries. The keynote speaker was Dr. Guillermo Green from Costa Rica. He is a board member of CLIR, which is an accreditation organization for seminaries in Latin America. Dr. Huascar de la Cruz is also a board member of this organization. Several members of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico were in attendance including the President, Pbro. Danny Ramirez and the Secretary, Pbro. Armado Lopez Hernandez. Many former students of the seminary were in attendance. It was good to visit with old friends again. The seminary provided a meal for everyone. They processed 7 cows and prepared Bar-be-Que, Mexico style. The J.S. Bach Choir of Tabasco, the seminary choir and a number of church choirs provided very inspirational music during the service. These choirs totaled about four hundred members. In closing they sung the alleluia chorus of Handel.
Sunday we traveled west of Villahermosa about 60 miles to a small town called Macuspana. There we attended the local Presbyterian Church called Monte Sinai. The pastor, Pbro. Ricardo Perez was a 2000 graduate of the seminary. His wife, Betty was a 1999 graduate of the seminary and is the music director at the church. This is also the home church of Marco Bocanegra, the engineer that has supervised most of the construction of the seminary since 2000. After the worship service we were invited to Marco’s home for a meal.
We returned to Villahermosa and then traveled east about 40 miles to a small community called Poblado C-32 in the community of Huimanguillo Mexico. There we visited the local Presbyterian Church called Jesus of Nazareth. The church was having a music concert and the evening worship service.
Before the service, we were invited to enjoy a meal at the home of one of the elders of the church, the Garcia family. During the service the Pastor, who was a former student of the seminary, preached. Leydi Garcia, the choir director is also a graduate in music of the seminary. The music concert that she led was very inspiring. The church is in a major building program. We reviewed their plans and observed the construction that was already underway.
We returned to Villahermosa late in the evening and prepared for our return flight to the United States.
It is always great to visit our friends in the state of Tabasco, Mexico, yet it is always a joy to return to our home soil.
I guess the most impressive experiences for me during this trip were to see the seminary at work everywhere. All of the new Synod officers and the new construction members were former students at the seminary. They all seemed very interested in the seminary and the opportunities to improve the campus. Each church that we attended had former seminary students as pastors and music directors.
All the hard work and financial support from everyone in the United States is evident. There is amazing growth of the Presbyterian Church in the state of Tabasco. Each person that has traveled and worked at the seminary and has provided financial support can feel a great sense of accomplishment in helping to further our faith in Jesus Christ and building His Kingdom in this part of our God’s world. The seminary is very blessed because of your generosity. We Thank you!!
Photos of our recent trip are posted on the seminary website for your viewing…Go to www.seminariodelsureste.com and click on the photo link…
Your friend in the faith,
Hola mis amigos en Cristo.......
Report on visit to the seminary in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
I departed Raleigh on Tuesday with very cold weather, snow on the ground, walkways, and streets. I had to carry my luggage to the car which was on the street because I could not pull the luggage through the snow. I arrived in Houston, Texas and was joined by our friend Clarence Shepherd. Clarence lives in Baytown, Texas and is a member of Baytown Presbyterian Church. We departed at 6 PM from Houston and arrived in Villahermosa at 9 PM. We were greeted by Huascar, Abimael, Santiago, and two students from the seminary. We had just exited the parking lot from the airport and had gone about one half mile where you could see the sign that stated “Bienvenidos a Tabasco” when we were stopped by the police. Santiago was driving and had to give the police information about the vehicle. Then Huascar had to get out and talk with the police. After a few minutes we were allowed to continue. That was the first signs of change in the area. Security was tighter than I have seen it in several years. We arrived at the seminary about 10:30 PM, unpacked and got ready for bed.
The next day Clarence and I were up early and started getting the room ready for the other men that would be arriving at 9 PM on Wednesday. We added beds to the room, made up beds and put towels on each bed. Then Santiago drove us to town to purchase groceries and items for the room. While out we went to HSBC bank to cash traveler’s checks. They told me where to sign and how to fill out the checks. After I had signed the checks on the front and back, they stated they were unable to cash them because I had signed them as John E. Jennings and my passport shows John Edward Jennings. They told us to go to two other cash exchanges, but no one would cash them. We returned to the seminary and I called American Express and they advised me to return to the bank and have the bank call them for authorization. This took another 3 hours. So that day, we spent 5 hours at the bank just to cash traveler’s checks.
The group from Living Waters for the World arrived at 9:30 PM. Three men from West Kentucky Presbytery and one from Coastal Carolina Presbytery. We returned to the room and they unpacked.
Also present at the seminary was Miriam James from Coastal Carolina Presbytery. She had traveled to Villahermosa with a work group from Coastal the week before. They had worked on a project near Comalcalco about 50 miles from Villahermosa. That group had returned on Monday before we arrived on Tuesday. Miriam spent the week working in the seminary library cataloging books.
Thursday we started early and Clarence and I gave the LW group a tour of campus to determine where would be the best place to get water samples. They obtained water samples from a couple of locations. Then we determined the best location to install the water purification system. We decided that the building at the entrance was the best location since the book store that had been there closed.
At 10 AM the six of us met with the Synod members and a couple of people from Luz y Verdad church (this is the church near the seminary). The Living Waters group explained to the Synod how the water system would work and what would be needed from the seminary, the local church, and local members. The Synod gave the approval for them to install the system.
The LW group then met with the 10 people that they would be working with. A covenant was signed between the parties as to what would be required from everyone.
Clarence and I continued to meet with the Synod and discussed the legal status of the seminary and the progress of the medical clinic. I will cover the details of this in a separate report.
Friday was spent traveling about the city of Villahermosa shopping for equipment and supplies that would be needed by the group to install the water system. We visited a number of stores including Home Depot and located most of the parts, supplies, and equipment that would be needed to install the water system. That evening everyone in the group plus Huascar’s family went to El Matador, a local restaurant for an evening meal. The LW group departed early on Saturday morning. After we got them to the airport and off we returned to the seminary and worked on various projects. I worked on the grounds cutting and trimming grass. Clarence worked on repairs to various bathrooms and finally worked out the problems with the water system. We were out of water each evening from Wednesday to Saturday. In addition to finding several leaking toilets and sinks, we made sure that the pumps continued to pump water to the water tower. After the tower was filled we kept the pumps on and they worked automatically and kept the water running the remaining time we were there.
Sunday we attended church at Manantial de Vida and Huascar preached. This is the church that he will be pastoring after he leaves the seminary in June. After church we had dinner at McDonalds which was a real treat for Huascar’s children. Sunday afternoon late I continued to cut grass and Huascar’s two youngest children, Elisa and Cindy helped. They enjoyed using one of the lawn mowers to cut the grass. It’s amazing how young children enjoy doing this type of work and older youth and adults do not.
Monday morning Miriam returned to North Carolina. Clarence and I had a meeting at 1 PM with a group from one of the churches in Las Gaviotas. They presented plans and a model of their dreams for their church. A very ambitious project that will take a number of years to complete. At 4:30 PM a member of a local church (Monte de Sion) came and took Clarence and me to his church near downtown Villahermosa. This was where we talked with a doctor and observed a small medical clinic that was operated from this church. (More about this later)
Tuesday involved more shopping and work around the seminary. One more visit to the bank to finish cashing traveler’s checks. We had purchased lights for the women’s dorms and Clarence installed them. We also bought new desks, office chairs, and desk lights for the women’s dorm rooms. The remainder of the day was spent getting these purchases put together and really for the students. The girls really seemed appreciative and as a surprise had made both Clarence and me large posters with their names thanking us for getting them some light in their section of the dorms. Farewells were exchanged and we packed for our return trip. We arrived at the airport at 6:45 AM and were off on our return trip to the US. It is always great to be back in the states although we really miss our times visiting with our friends at the seminary and the great state of Tabasco.
For additional information, photos, videos, and blog information please visit the seminary website at: www.seminariodelsureste.com
Good news on the legal status of the seminary. A civil organization has been formed and all legal papers submitted to the respective governmental agencies. The name of the civil organization is: “FORTALEZA EN ACCION”,ASOCIACION CIVIL…. This thirteen page document was filed on December 7, 2009 with the state of Tabasco, the township of Jalpa de Mendez, Tabasco, and the town of Nacajuca Tabasco. The final certification was finalized on January 18, 2010. This process was started on November 11, 2005 with numerous forms and legal papers submitted over the past five years. The members of the board of Trustees for this civil organization are: Roberto Villegas Cornelio..President, Pedro Torres Mendez..Secretario, Fernando Pulido Garcia..Treasurer, Alfredo Narvaez Cruz..Director. Additional members of this association include..Andres Cornelio Dionicio, Rene Mazariego Hernandez, Isaac Hernandez Velazquez,Jonas Hernandez Zacarias, Ricardo Cruz Lopez, Rosalino Lopez Lopez, Santiago Zacariaz Hernandez, Huascar de la Cruz Angulo, and Manolo de la Cruz Mendez.
A Bank Account has been set up for this association and the seminary through HSBC Bank International. Funds can now be wired to the seminary through this account.
The final action needed for the seminary is for papers to be submitted to the Internal Revenue Service of the Mexican Government. These papers will provide the seminary with Non-Profit status with the government and will allow for the transfer of property to the seminary without having to pay taxes on the transfer. As soon as these papers are received back from the Mexican Government, the land where the seminary is located can be transferred from Educativa Tabscoob,Associacion Civil to the seminary through Fortaleza en Accion, AC.
Not a lot of progress has been made with getting a medical clinic up and going at the seminary. During our meeting with the Synod they introduced Clarence and me to Roberto Madrigal who is a member of the church Monte de Sion. They stated that he would take us to the church and show us the medical clinic that was set up there. The name of this clinic is Fuente de Vida Eterna and is operated from one room within the church. Their hours are from 5 PM to 9 PM daily. It is staffed by one person whose duties including screening those that come to the clinic for consultation. There is a pharmacy within this same area with a small supply of medicine. There are 10 doctors on call and volunteer at this clinic with most of the doctors being members of the church. We talked with Dr. Jaime Escareno Beltran during our visit and he stated that all of the doctors would be glad to help with staffing of the clinic at the seminary and could also be used on a referral basis when American Doctors are at the seminary on mission trips. Dr. Beltran’s wife is also a doctor and she works with two local women’s hospitals and also serves with the Department of Health of the state of Tabasco.
The Living Waters for the World Team visited the seminary and had preliminary meetings with those individuals that will be working on this project from the seminary and the church Luz y Verdad. There is a formal agreement between Living Waters and the Mexican parties that is attached to this report. It details the responsibilities of all parties concerned. Living Waters was to provide a detailed drawing of the building at the entrance to the seminary that will be used to house the water system. After this is completed, the seminary will get estimates on the cost to renovate this building according to the Living Waters specifications. Those estimates and budgets will be submitted to the Outreach Foundation that will provide funding to complete these renovations. Funding for this was made possible by a large donation from White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC that was sent to the Outreach Foundation for distribution.
I bring you greetings from the staff and students at the seminary in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. I visited the seminary from October 21, 2009 to October 29, 2009. The purpose of this trip was to review financial information in relation to the funding provided by The Outreach Foundation of the Presbyterian Church, USA, review progress of the medical clinic, meet with the Synod and Board of Trustees concerning receiving official recognition from the Mexican government for the seminary, and reviewing on-going projects for the campus.
As always, it is a joy to see friends both old and new at the seminary. The new class for the 2009-2010 included 21 new students that live on campus. There are a number of new programs that have been started at the seminary. In addition to the Masters program that now has 26 students, a new associate degree 2 year program has been started with 21 new students. Also 2 new satellite programs have been started in the state of Chiapas. One is a theology class and the other a music class. Although the number of on campus students has declined in music, the Saturday program at the seminary has grown substantially. The reason for the decline in on campus students in music is the result of the presbyteries within the Synod having discontinued providing scholarships for music students. Without these scholarships, most of the students lack the financial resources to attend the seminary on a full time basic. Thus the large increase in off campus students.
I arrived late on Wednesday evening and was met at the airport by Abimael and two 4th year students at the seminary. Our first stop after the airport was a visit to a Wal Mart to purchase various items for my stay at the seminary.
Thursday was spent touring the campus, repairing weedeaters(I had brought parts for this purpose) and painting. I painted the interior of the main quest room where I was to spend the week.
Friday involved working with the students around the new lake at the rear of campus. We were raking, shoveling, and smoothing out the banks around this new lake.
Saturday was spent shopping and visiting friends. Sunday I traveled to Cardenas and the Huimanguillo areas to visit friends. Our Mexico adopted daughter Yesenia was in Mexico at the same time and I visited with her and her family in Cardenas. Yesenia is married, has two young sons, and lives in the state of Arkansas. I attended church with her family in Cardenas. Then I traveled to Huimanguillo and Poblado # 32 to visit the Garcia family that I have known still I started visiting Mexico 15 years ago.
I returned to Villahermosa on Sunday evening and went to the airport to meet and pickup Ralph Hartung, a member of White Memorial Presbyterian Church. He would join me for the remainder of the trip.
Monday was spent in meetings with the Synod of Tabasco. We attended a student lead worship service in the evening. Tuesday was spent working on various activities on campus including working with the students in cleaning the walkway between the library and lakes, spreading and leveling dirt that had been delivered to the area to the rear of the library, spreading gravel on the main road through campus. A local church had brought lunch for the students and staff at the seminary. We enjoyed this abundant and filling meal and a program by the students to recognize this church group. The seminary is blessed with this event each week and different churches bring in food and prepare a meal.
Wednesday was another day of meetings with the Board of Trustees, the construction committee, and the committee to provide legal and non-profit status for the seminary. This committee is working with two lawyers to deal with the government in obtaining this certification. I had planned to take photos of the campus on this last day, but ran out of time. I have posted a few photos and new videos while we were at the seminary. You can access the website at: http://www.seminariodelsureste.com/ to view.
Highlights of the trip were:
1…working, worshiping, and fellowshipping with the students and staff.
2…learning about new programs being offered at the seminary
a. A new 2 year associate degree program.
b. The master’s degree program.
c. Satellite Theology program in the state of Chiapas
d. Satellite Music program in the state of Chiapas[JJ1]
HOLA MIS AMIGOS EN CRISTO, I bring you greetings from the seminary in Villahermosa and everyone here wishes each of you special blessings from our Savior, Jesus Christ. I arrived in Villahermosa around 10 pm local time on Tuesday evening, April 21st. I was greeted by Abimael, the seminary administrator and two students from the seminary. Wednesday involved meetings and trips to the store. I met with the board of trustees of the seminary and also had a short meeting with the President of the Synod, Samuel Olean. In the afternoon I met with Marco Bocanegra, the architect and engineer that is going to provide supervision of the medical clinic project. Mr. Bocanegra brought detailed plans for the clinic including designs for the exterior that have the same design as the other buildings on campus. 48 loads of dirt had been delivered to the site of the clinic. It will be to the rear of the library and next to one of the central lakes on campus. Footings will need to be dug 2 feet below grade and concrete poured prior to the spreading of the dirt to build up the pad. The grounds of the seminary are very dry as they have not had rain in a couple of months. The lakes are very low and they have sprinklers running each morning and evening to try and keep the grass from completely dying. A very unusual site as when I was here in October the lakes were over flowing. The advantage of the dry weather is that it gives the seminary opportunities to make landscaping changes that are not available during the rainy season. A new lake is be dug at the rear of the property and will incorporate part of the garden area. After completion this lake will serve as a water source for the garden. It is also being designed to handle excess water from run off at the rear area of campus. The garden is in full operation with various vegetables and fruits being grown. Watering is required each day to prevent the plants from dying from drought. Cucumbers, radishes, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, yucca, squash, cilatro, and beans are currently being raised in the garden area. Today I meet with the Synod officers and the construction committee to make final decisions on the clinic and a number of other issues concerning the seminary and the help that is being provided by the US churches. The weather although hot is a welcome change from the cold temperatures in NC. The sweat glands are getting a good workout. Will try and write again later in the weekend. Bendiciones en al fe, Eduardo
I bring you greetings from the seminary in Villahermosa and everyone here wishes each of you special blessings from our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I arrived in Villahermosa around 10 pm local time on Tuesday evening, April 21st. I was greeted by Abimael, the seminary administrator and two students from the seminary.
Wednesday involved meetings and trips to the store. I met with the board of trustees of the seminary and also had a short meeting with the President of the Synod, Samuel Olean. In the afternoon I met with Marco Bocanegra, the architect and engineer that is going to provide supervision of the medical clinic project. Mr. Bocanegra brought detailed plans for the clinic including designs for the exterior that have the same design as the other buildings on campus.
48 loads of dirt had been delivered to the site of the clinic. It will be to the rear of the library and next to one of the central lakes on campus. Footings will need to be dug 2 feet below grade and concrete poured prior to the spreading of the dirt to build up the pad.
The grounds of the seminary are very dry as they have not had rain in a couple of months. The lakes are very low and they have sprinklers running each morning and evening to try and keep the grass from completely dying. A very unusual site as when I was here in October the lakes were over flowing.
The advantage of the dry weather is that it gives the seminary opportunities to make landscaping changes that are not available during the rainy season. A new lake is be dug at the rear of the property and will incorporate part of the garden area. After completion this lake will serve as a water source for the garden. It is also being designed to handle excess water from run off at the rear area of campus.
The garden is in full operation with various vegetables and fruits being grown. Watering is required each day to prevent the plants from dying from drought. Cucumbers, radishes, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, yucca, squash, cilatro, and beans are currently being raised in the garden area.
Today I meet with the Synod officers and the construction committee to make final decisions on the clinic and a number of other issues concerning the seminary and the help that is being provided by the US churches.
The weather although hot is a welcome change from the cold temperatures in NC. The sweat glands are getting a good workout.
Will try and write again later in the weekend.
Bendiciones en al fe, Eduardo
I have just returned from a visit to the seminary. I arrived on October 4 and returned on October 13. It was good to visit with friends both at the seminary and also in the local communities. This is the rainy season and as usual, there is a lot of water with rivers out of their banks and some areas of the city flooded. Two areas, Las Gaviotas and Casa Blanca had been evacuated with approximately 65,000 people displaced and in shelters. Sand bags were everywhere and they were continuing to fill additional bags. When I arrived, some streets were flooded, however, when I left, the water had receeded and most streets were passable except near the rivers. I was there to check on progress of the construction at the seminary, to review financial information and to attend a conference being held at the seminary.
PCUSA held a Mission Network Conference at the seminary from October 7th to the 10th. Stanley DeVoogd, PCUSA Area Cooridnator of Central America and Mexico and David Thomas, PCUSA Liaison for Mexico were the leaders at the conference. USA partnerships from Chicago, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Nebraska had representatives there to give presentations. Mexico partnerships from the states of Chiapas,Veracruz,Campeche, and Tabasco were present. Rev. Saul Feria, President of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico welcomed everyone and gave some insight on the activities of the Presbyterian Church in Mexico. Three Associations, Movi-Pres, La Liga Biblica, and ACT made presentations about their activities in Mexico. A total of 50 people attended the conference. They were housed at the seminary and the seminary provided 3 meals a day during the conference.
Construction work continues at the seminary. The President's house is nearly completed with the design being the same as the other buildings on campus. The updating of the electrical grid has been completed. This involved installing a larger transformer, larger wiring from the street, and upgrades to wiring and circuit breakers for each of the buildings on campus. Landscaping work is ongoing at the seminary. New palms have been planted between the chapel and dining hall area. New shrubs and flowering plants have been added in a number of areas.
The seminary has been approved by the Living Waters Foundation for installation of a water purification system on campus. This will insure that there is potable water throughout the campus.
President Huascar de la Cruz has just returned from Panama where he was a key note speaker for the "Back to God Hour" radio network in Central and South America.
Miami International Seminary continues to be very active on campus with 20 students studying for Master Degree Program. This ia an extension and resident program with Sureste Seminary working with MINTS to offer a graduate degree for students at the seminary. Professors from MINTS travel to the seminary throughout the year to offer resident courses in addition to extension courses.
A work group from White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and from First Presbyterian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina will be at the seminary from October 25th to November 1st. Medical members of the group will be working in clinics at the seminary and in surrounding churches. The remainder of the group will be working on maintenance activities on campus. Two members of the group will be working with the musical students at the seminary.
Updated photos are available. Just click on the Photo Link on the Home Page to go to the Photo Gallery.
We continue to be very grateful for the continued support of the seminary and ask for continued prayers for the staff and the seminary for continued growth and safety.
Blessings, John Edward Jennings