Graduation time at Paradise Bound Ministries

The Lay Pastor program works with the pastor so they're not taken away from home responsibilities. (Photo Courtesy of Paradise  Bound Ministries)

The Lay Pastor program works with pastors so they’re
not taken away from home responsibilities.
(Photo Courtesy of Paradise Bound Ministries)

Guatemala (MNN) — Imagine entering a remote village of only 10 families. You’re in an area where people may worship the gods of their ancestors. The last thing you expect to find in this village is a church, yet there it is.

Now imagine the pastor receiving training that helps him teach his flock more effectively. That is exactly the purpose of the Paradise Bound Ministries Lay Pastor Training Program. It began two years ago, and today is graduation day for 25 pastors.

Dan Smith of Paradise Bound says, “These are not lay pastors from…a city or from an area that is doing fairly well financially. These are the poorest of the poor of Guatemala. We find these lay pastors when we are in the remotest villages that you can imagine in Guatemala.”

The scene is the same as described, and the potential for God’s kingdom-building is immense. Smith says, “Sometimes there’s a church. And in that church is a pastor. And that’s just a pastor who has known that he’s got a call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But he’s got zero education, or very little education. Sometimes [pastors] can read, sometimes they can’t; but they have no biblical training whatsoever. And those are the types of lay pastors that we’re taking into this program and that will be graduating on April 11.”

Smith recognized great blessings from the first moment of the program: “The first time when they walk into our facility– which isn’t even that great of a facility but so much different than what they’re used to–it is amazing to see their eyes. And as they sit through that first program and…understand where this is going to go, and what it’s going to empower them to do and equip them to do, and how they can share the Gospel better among their community: it is amazing! We see just a fire begin within them.”

Smith says they watch the Holy Spirit build that fire.

The program involves four different sessions a year, taking place from Thursday to Sunday to enable the pastors not to be taken away from their families and their farming responsibilities.

To transport the pastors to the training facility, it costs $250 a session–a grand total of $2000 for the complete program. If you want to contribute, click here.

Smith says that while it is a big investment, the fruits are already being realized. For one thing, the program is growing. Another group of 35 pastors is graduating next year, and a whole new group is starting in April.

“What we see coming out of this is just a tremendous, tremendous amount of souls coming to know Jesus Christ. Already there are over 600 souls that have been documented coming to know Jesus Christ that can be attributed to the training of these first two groups of lay pastors going through the training right now. [They are] just being equipped to share the Gospel in a better way, in a more powerful and authoritative way. People are coming to know Jesus Christ already, and they’re not even fully graduated,” Smith says.

The word is spreading throughout Guatemala and even beyond. Hundreds of pastors are on the waiting list to start the program. Others are begging Paradise Bound to start the training in their country. Two places in particular are Chiapas Mexico, where 40 pastors are waiting, and El Salvador.

“It just continues to grow,” Smith says. “There’s such a hunger for this, and they know that if we can provide them with this [training], they are so equipped to share the Gospel. We know that churches throughout Latin America are going to be expanded. So please pray for discernment.”

Paradise Bound has coupled with Timothy Leadership Training Institute, an organization based in West Michigan that works around the world to train pastors. Once Paradise Bound was trained by them, they were able to train their new pastors who in turn train even more pastors.

As the program sees new trainers multiply, they ask that you pray for guidance for where they should be focusing. Pray that God would provide for their needs.

Look for upcoming stories about how these pastors are now becoming missionaries for Paradise Bound.