Guatemala (MNN) — There's an encouraging trend developing among lay pastors in Guatemala.
"About 25 to 30% of these pastors…are looking to do more. They're looking to reach out to other villages," says Dan Smith of Paradise Bound Ministries.
Paradise Bound works with the Timothy Leadership Training Institute to train 60 lay pastors from the rural regions of Guatemala. They're giving the biblical training these men need to lead a church but could never afford or access.
"They've never been to seminary, they've never been to any type of biblical institute before," Smith explains, "but yet they felt the calling and the need to start a church within their own village.
"When we say 'rural church,' we are certainly talking about very remote churches in Guatemala, in villages that very few people live in or can even get to."
Smith says pastors who work alongside Paradise Bound will travel to isolated villagers, pick up the leaders-in-training, and bring them to the ministry's training center three or four times a year. The Timothy Leadership Training Institute provides training material and teachers.
"They send down wonderful teachers to work with us, work with our facility, and give these pastors the training they need," says Smith.
In addition to some leaders' hearts for the isolated, the training makes them perfect missionaries.
"They already know the language, they know the culture, and now they'll be perfectly trained to be able to go out and either go back to their own village, or go out to another village," Smith explains. And, "it's not just that they're interested: they're already starting to do something about it."
Some lay pastors have already planted house churches of between 30 and 40 members.
"They've been gaining so much confidence in the abilities that they're learning…that more souls are coming to Him," Smith says. "We're just excited about where this is starting to go and what we see as God's work among us, and in these pastors."
The program's first set of lay pastors will complete their coursework in April 2014. Over the years, relationships have formed between pastors-in-training and Paradise Bound. Smith says the ministry recently came to a startling realization.
"Many of these lay pastors are farmers in their village," he explains. "They're trying to eke out an existence and yet be the shepherd of that church. They don't have the time to do both and to do it well."
As Paradise Bound searches for ways to help sustain new lay pastors once their training is complete, you can help them reach the finish line. Click here to support the training of lay pastors in Guatemala.
"None of these pastors have to pay for their training," says Smith. "We're doing this 100% free to them."
With your financial help, the Gospel can keep advancing in Guatemala through lay pastors. With your prayer support, more people can come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Sign up for daily prayer updates from Paradise Bound here.
"The first thing we always ask for is prayer," Smith states. "Continue to pray for souls coming to know Jesus Christ as their Savior."