Recently I had the pleasure to travel to Bolivia to teach the CCEF course, ‘How People Change’ in Spanish to a group of over 250 pastors, lay and secular counselors and various non-profit workers. Over a period of 3 days, I taught through the curriculum and discussed several case studies with the participants. CCEF’s Spanish language curriculum, ‘Como Cambia La Gente’ provided a much needed vehicle for training and equipping people for the work of biblical counseling in this small Spanish speaking country.
It was a true joy to work at a local church in the capitol city of La Paz and share the truths, mission and heartbeat of biblical counseling. Bolivia is not a highly therapeutic culture like America where people receive counseling and therapy for multiple problems and often from multiple counselors and therapists. In Bolivia, people seem to deal with things internally and as a family unit somewhat isolated from the church.
The church in Bolivia is at a crossroads in terms of counseling. Do they as a church provide care and shepherding to the hurting people of their congregations or do they cede that role over to the few secular practitioners in the more urban areas of the country?
United in Heart
As I was flying back to the States I was struck by several things, one of which was how so many of the various problems the Bolivian people face are similar to what we too face in the States. Issues of depression, abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics, anxiety and abuse were all present with these people. While the similarity of issues being faced was in and of itself not encouraging to me, what was encouraging was the fact that the message of hope that the Bible presents to hurting and struggling people transcends language and culture.
The message that every believer who is in a relationship with Christ has positionally been changed by the power of the cross and that they also need to be changing progressively into the image of Christ was both an encouragement and a call to spiritual maturity that many needed to hear. This clarion call of hope visibly lifted many in attendance as they saw God’s greater redemptive plan for their own lives.
United in Cause
Many of the people who attended the conference were from major cities across the nation. Counselors and workers from organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, International Justice Mission, Serving in Mission (SIM), and Equipping Servants International were all able to come to train their people for the work of meeting Bolivians with the life-changing truths of the gospel.
It was truly humbling to see people united from a broad spectrum of organizations and missions coming together to understand how the biblical process of change is described in God’s Word. Not only did they learn, but it was evident they embraced the hope of change which the Bible portrays. The few secular practitioners in the country are not helpful when it comes to aiding people where change is truly needed: the heart!
United for the Future
In the first lesson of ‘Como Cambia La Gente,’ we discussed the fact that understanding our final destination provides insight and counsel to living in the present. The Christian’s final destination of heaven is his most fulfilling destination and should be a focal point of conversation for us as we counsel and interact with others.
I was reminded of the Apostle John’s words in Revelation 7:9-10:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
There will be a day in the not so distant future, when together with all my Bolivian brothers and sisters in Christ, we will be standing fully changed and clothed in the image of Christ alongside the great multitude of believers from across the world. What a humbling and encouraging message of God’s redemption across cultures and across the globe.
Join the Conversation
How can the truths of biblical counseling be communicated in cross-cultural situations? Am I reminding myself that I’m part of a larger community of Christ that spans the globe?