Monday, December 26, 2005

Friday, August 26, 2005

En el Aeropuerto

En el Aeropuerto
Originally uploaded by juanjsarmiento.
Pilar, Maricela, Andres y Juan

In Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos II
Originally uploaded by juanjsarmiento.

A trip to Remember...

There are events in everyone’s life that leave a special taste in our mouth. The couple of weeks Maricela and I spent in Cancun was one of those...
Last minute changes in our flight itinerary gave us the opportunity to visit Atlanta for the first time together. MARTA (local train system) took us to some of the city’s landmarks in an only three hours!
Pilar (Juan’s mother) and Andres (brother-in-law) were waiting for us upon our arrival at Cancun International Airport. It had been five years since we had seen them last. After felt hugs and kisses we transited through the picturesque streets of Cancun on board the family car, listening to the tunes of U2’s “How to Disarm an Atomic Bomb”. Arriving at the Zambrano’s home was indeed disarming: Last time we had spent time with them (including Thania -Juan’s sister- and Mayela - niece-) was in Margarita Island in the Venezuelan Caribbean. And now, here they were, settled and prospering in a whole different country !
Cancun is a unique place. Its beaches with turquoise waters and white sand. The majestic natural beauties of the Riviera Maya with its cenotes, (sink-holes) thick tropical jungles side by side, the incredible coral reefs where schools of multi-color fish allowed us to dance with them. The quiet spirit of the local Mayan people. The awe-inspiring ruins that testify to one of the most sophisticated and long lived civilizations in human history. The glamour of the Zona Hotelera with its fancy malls, restaurants and hotels in Las Vegas style. (Juan had a great chance to reflect on his background in the hotel industry during those days). We had never seen any other place with the tourist infrastructure of the area.
In many ways, Cancun has more of what is commonly perceived as an “American feeling” and less of a “Mexican feeling” than, let’s say, East Los Angeles. We did, however, have the privilege of visiting villages in the Yucatan area that did not look like anything you would find in this country. We also got to savor the rich typical food . By the way, you may know that “burritos” are actually an American creation and not commonly found in typical food restaurants.
What we enjoyed the most was being able to spend time with our family. Although Mayela is now a very beautiful and bright young lady she preserves the sweet personality of the nine-year-old we once met for the fist time. Along with Thania and Andres, she is part of one of the most loving families we have ever seen . We were also impressed by how much all of them (including Pilar that is currently residing in Venezuela) are into health and wholeness. Not only are they in great shape but they talk as fitness and nutrition gurus.
Either watching a gorgeous sunset, enjoying an “Asadito” (Argentinean Barbeque), at a bohemian winery or simply in the Zambrano’s living room (with the loyal company of Sheri, an unforgettably smart Venezuelan poodle?), our conversation was always captivating. We recounted our memories with deeply felt gratitude to the One that made the beauty of those moments possible. Stories of people being transformed by the testimony of Christ through Thania and Pilar gave us a fresh appreciation of the powerful ways the Spirit moves:
• A single mother of two lives in desperate emotional and financial conditions. She puts her trust in Christ and regains emotional and financial stability for the first time in many years.
• A young lady is dying hopelessly in a hospital. Through intercessory prayer she instantaneously recovered in a misterious way.
• A mother that that desperately saw her son drawn into apparently hopeless drug abuse. They both find abundant life.
The gentle of breeze of Cancun… and then, the gentle breeze of the Spirit: We overheard people talking about the Way in stores, restaurants and on the beach. Beautiful praise and worship music could be heard at the “Mercado 28” (A souvenirs’ open market). As we drove in Yucatan we saw how, very often, the largest buildings in the area’s small villages where Presbyterian Churches. Worshipping at First Presbyterian Church of Cancun we learned that they have a big problem: In each of their three Sunday services their 400 seats sanctuary is filled to capacity. Theirs is only one of the seven Presbyterian churches in that town of around 800,000 people!
It’s hard not to get carried away with what God is doing among the nations. As members of a family that is scattered around the globe we are truly excited to have opportunities for witnessing of the all embracing love of the One that has called a people through which “all the families of the earth” will be blessed (Genesis 12:3, NLT)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta

Woodruff Arts Center
Originally uploaded by juanjsarmiento.
En nuestras recientes vacaciones a Cancun nuestro vuelo hizo escala nada mas y nada menos que en Atlanta. Que buena oportunidad de mostrarle a Maricela un poco de los encantos de la ciudad a la que viajo con frecuencia

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Andrew Walls on the Conversion and Christianity....

The nature of conversion is not a matter of content, but of direction, not of substituting something new for something old, but about reordering the elements that are already there so that they may face toward Christ. Christian history takes its significance from the totality of cross-cultural expressions, not from any one of them, and from the totality of historical expressions, not from any one of them. Christianity is of its essence incremental and cross- generational; a multireel cinema film, not a studio portrait.
Andrew Walls is Professor Emeritus at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, Edinburgh University

Quartz Hill Presbyterian Church recently celebrated the "Jerusalem Marketplace", a five-day event with for families pointing to the Messiah. Maricela had stellar participations in the skits and Juan thought at the "Synagogue School" and / La Iglesia Presbiteriana de Quartz Hill recientemente celebro un evento de cinco dias titulado "El Mercado de Jerusalem" con la intencion de invitar a familias a experimentar el amor del Mesias. Maricela se lucio con sus habilidades teatrales y Juan enseno en la "Sinagoga" Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 15, 2005


I found the reflection below at the web log of Rick Ufford-Chase , the moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly. Are we willing to learn from what the Spirit is doing in other parts of the world?
Posted by Picasa
Evangelism and Church Growth in the Congo


After dinner, our conversation broadened to include the rest of the group, and Jean Marie (Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly) asked her favorite question. Though their church obviously faces many challenges in a country that is both unimaginably poor and caught in seemingly never-ending cycles of war and conflict, their numbers continue to grow. What advice can they offer their sisters and brothers in the Presbyterian Church (USA) about evangelization and church growth?

In response, Pastor Chibemba offered these suggestions:

He said that we must start and end with prayer and that everything we do must be reinforced with prayer. “When we confront great challenges in my church,” he said, “we begin by forming groups to be in prayer about that matter, and we pray continuously for God’s intervention.”

Second, Chibemba suggested that we must share with people in their hardships. We must be with people who are in need and let them know that the God loves them, Jesus Christ died for them, and the Church cares about them. This is the work of accompaniment with God’s people who are most desperate and most in need.

“Next,” Chibemba said, “we must commit to real evangelization – the kind that trusts our lay people in the church to invite others to know Christ. We must give them more responsibility, not less responsibility.” Later, in another conversation, he elaborated on this theme by suggesting that if a pastor doesn’t train the lay people to share their faith with confidence, the church can only grow by the number of people the pastor can get to know personally. However, if the pastor commits to trusting the lay people, the work grows exponentially and the possibilities for church growth are limitless.

Chibemba stressed another important point that I think our pastors could learn a great deal from. He said that when someone leaves his church, he goes to meet with that person. He asks why they are leaving, and if they are angry, he tries to reconcile with them. He insisted that no one leaves his church without his following up to find out what has happened to cause them to do so.

“Another thing to remember is that one of our greatest strengths can also be one of our great weaknesses,” Chibemba added. “We are a church of tradition, and that can help us to survive over long periods of time. However, it is also a great danger. The danger is that many will block innovation, especially in worship, and our liturgy will become routine and boring.” Chibemba said he is constantly challenged, especially by the young people in his church, to keep worship alive and vibrant and interesting. He said that in his experience, renewing our worship will threaten many people, and they will oppose our efforts. “We must have the strength to overcome their opposition,” he said. “We will have to be strong in prayer, extremely wise, and strong-hearted if we are to keep our worship full of God’s spirit.”

Finally, Chibemba suggested that we should travel and experience other churches in order to find our own renewal. He said that their children were being brought up to be good church members, but they were leaving for more exciting churches and those other churches were reaping the harvest that their church had sown. “We had to try to understand what the kids needed, and then we had to be willing to change,” he said.

Wisdom from under the Mango Tree! Please continue to hold our delegation and the people of the Presbyterian Churches of the Congo in your prayers.


Maricela y yo celebramos el 4 de Julio (Dia de la Independencia) navegando en el velero de nuestro amigos los Hoeys. Fue un dia maravilloso Posted by Picasa

Maricela and I celebrated the 4th of July sailing with our friends the Hoeys along the Rancho Palos Verdes coast. It truly was a marvelous day Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 30, 2005

Stuff that has influenced me recently

- Entreprenurial Faith. Kirbyjon Caldawell & Walt Kallestad
- A Scandalous Prophet. The Way of Mission after Newbigin. Foust, Hunsberger, Kirk, Ustorf. (Editors)
- Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. Walter Brueggemann

Several lectures by N.T. Wright

Thursday, May 12, 2005

On being church...

The most important contribution that the Church can make to a new social order is to be itself a new social order.
-Bishop Lesslie Newbigin

The church is the church only when it exists for others.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

A homogeneous church in a heterogeneous society is an ecclesiastical heresy.
-Jorge Lara-Braud, Church & Society Magazine, March/April 1986, p 20

Africa, el ultraje del cual has sufrido solo se compara con el amor de tu Creador. De algun lugar de tus tierras vinieron algunos de mis antepasados. De ellos guardo tu ritmo y tu color, de los cuales hoy estoy orgulloso. Gracias! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Thoughts I came across

  • "Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living" (Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan. Professor of History at Yale Univerity. Recently converted from Lutheranism to the Easter Orthodox Faith)
  • "Skill is what a man possesses. Genius is what possesses a man" (In a documentary on Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • "Christ is not just a man doing human things divinely, like any saint or seer, but a man doing divine things humanly" (Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra from Sri Lanka , in a recent lecture)

Monday, March 14, 2005

I recently received this insightful cartoon made by my artist cousin that works for a newspaper called "El Diario de Caracas": "Hunger is the worst weapon of mass destruction"- Recientemente recibi esta inteligente caricatura hecha por mi primo artista que trabaja para El Diario de Caracas. Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Rick Ufford-Chase (General Assembly Moderator, at the center) and my friend Ricardo Moreno (Previous Moderator of the Nat'l Racial-Ethnic Cross Caucus) Posted by Hello


On Tuesday March 22, at Newhall Presbyterian Church, I had the pleassure of presiding over the installation of John Fuller, the Presbytery of San Fernando's new moderator. As outgoing moderator, it was an opportunity for me to reflect upon last years' activities. No doubt the Presbytery took a serious risk in having a moderator like me!
Well, my term is over but I am still really excited about small but encouraging signs of how the Spirit of God is renewing our old denomination. . If anything became clear to me during those twelve months is that there is no way back to the "good old days" of the Presbyterian Church. Major changes in society make us almost object of archaeological interest. (Can I say this kind of things without ceasing to be considered a "true Presbyterian"?) I do, however, perceive a renewed confidence in the power of the gospel and willingness to live it out in fresh and creative ways. I also sensed that in the opportunities I had to attend the 216th General Assembly (Richmond, VA) and the National Hispanic-Latino Caucus (Orlando, Fla), both in 2004.

Old Time Friends

On Saturday, Mach 19, Maricela and I had joy of attending the moving wedding ceremony between our friend Steve Scharf and his bride Sandy at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. What a moving ceremony! (You may have read about Steve in my "Mission Statement" posting). We also enjoyed getting to visit with John and Jude Tiersma-Watson , John Shorack all the way from the great Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela (que la llame asi no quiere decir que soy "Chavista"!) and Chris and Roxy Alvizures. Paul Smith's violin's performance of "Jesu, Joy of Mens' Desire" was phenomenal. It's amazing how our lives have been enriched by our frienship with you guys.

"Senor" John Shorack  Posted by Hello

John Watson (Center) and Chris Alvizures (Left)  Posted by Hello

Monday, February 14, 2005

Comida Oaxaquena! Posted by Hello
Neither Maricela or myself had ever tried it but we loved it!

At the Los Angeles Convention Center Posted by Hello

How American? Very American!

Last February 11th I became a United States citizen. What an occasion to reflect on the great experiences I have had during the almost 13 years of living in this great nation. I am proud to say that this country’s true strength has and will continue to be in the contribution of people that, like me, have come from other lands. Something I am glad about is that my newly acquired citizenship does not make me any less Latino than I have always been: Maricela and I made it barely in time for the ceremony and celebrated eating authentic food from Oaxaca (Mexico) in downtown Los Angeles!

Monday, January 31, 2005

Uma olhada ao campus do Seminario Columbia Posted by Hello

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's clergy robe on display at the Atlanta airport Posted by Hello

Na Atlanta

Recentemente estive na Atlanta. De volta no avaio escrevi o siguinte relatorio das minhas atividades. Pensei que o botar no "Atrium" seria um jeito de re-lembrar e compartilhar as boas experiencias vividas nessa terra abancoada...

From January 2 to January 14 I traveled to Decatur. GA, as part of my Doctor of Ministry studies to Columbia Theological Seminary

The course I took was titled “Bridging Gospel and Culture” led by Dr. Stan Wood, who prior to his appointment at Columbia was the national staff person for evangelism in the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Like in my previous study leave (April 2004), the class was a very intense combination of lectures, readings, case studies and dialogue with fellow students. All this was enhanced by much prayer and daily worship services.

I presented a ten-pages paper outlining a strategy that can help us at QHPC engage a broader segment of the unchurched population in the area by engaging the consumerist “spirit of the season”.

In addition to the academic responsibilities, I became involved in some other ministry related activities:
· Led worship and preached a sermon titled “Mysterious Light” on Epiphany Day (January 6) at the Seminary’s chapel.
· Worshiped at Intown Community Church, a Presbyterian Church of America congregation that with good taste integrates a worship band into its distinctively classic stile of worship. Through a small groups strategy this 20 year old church has a membership that averages around 35 years old (similar to the community around QHPC) and has already daughter another church in the Atlanta area.
· Worshiped at historical Peachtree Presbyterian Church and was able to observe the progress of its contemporary service that now averages about 750 in attendance.
· Collected material in preparation for worship and preaching in 2005 at QHPC.
· Compiled Annual Reports for QHPC's congregational meeting on January 16.

Neve na minha casa! (Nao e pra acontecer no Sul da California) Posted by Hello

Friday, January 28, 2005

How about some cafezinho? Posted by Hello

Declaracion de Mision/ Mission Statement

About 5 years ago, my friend Steve Schaf took the time to lead a group of three pastors in a process of discerment about our sense of vocation. Few experiences in my life have been as enriching. Here is a mission statement that came out of that "refocusing process" and that has guided me since then. (This would be the most recent update)...

God calls me to live in this world continually enjoying my relationship with God-self, my wife, my friends and family. I will join the Holy Spirit in developing the potential that God has placed in me and will cooperate with others as they also develop it through a growing love for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as revealed in Scriptures. Following the example of Jesus I will live in an accessible, honest and compassionate way. I will also live taking risks and committing myself to obeying the voice of the Father so that God’s will be done and others also come to experience God’s unconditional acceptance and justice.
I will take advantage of each opportunity I have to laugh, dream, study and rest. I will strive to influence other Christian leaders to join God in the development, growth and multiplication of churches so that through those churches the Lord of History continue to bring about a Christ-centered transformation of societies

Carta a un primo

Hace poco le escribi un e-mail a Angel, mi primo con quien no habia hablado en los ultimos 20 anios. La pongo aca por que puede ser una manera en la que personas con las que no he estado en contacto por mucho tiempo pueden enterarse sobre como he estado...

Dejame contarte un poco de lo ocurrido en los ultimos 20 anos. No hay duda de que seguir al Senor ha sido lo mejor que ha ocurrido en mi vida. A los 16 anos, después de un tiempo asistendo a Las Acacias comence a cooperar con un misionero americano que estaba plantando una iglesia de las Asambleas de Dios que llamamos “Gran Cruzada de Fe” (Ahora independiente). Esa fue una etapa de tremenda intensidad espiritual. A los 18 me fui a Sao Paulo, Brasil para comenzar mi licenciatura en Teologia en un Seminario Inter.-denominacional con profesores tanto pentecostales como provenientes de iglesias historicas (Congregacionales, Reformados, Presbiterianos, Bautistas, y Luteranos, etc). Durante ese tiempo Dios me dio la oportunidad de viajar en varias ocasiones a Montevideo, Uruguay para ayudar a una iglesia alla y fui ordenado ministro del Evangelio por la "Uniao de Iglejas Evangelicas Congregacionais do Brasil", la cual- junto a la Iglesia Presbiteriana del Brasil- es la organización protestante mas antigua del pais pero es muy abierta a las manifestación de los dones sobrenaturales del Espirito Santo. Fui el pastor fundador de una congregación en una region pobre del Sao Paulo y luego comence a explorar posibilidades de realizar un post-grado el los Estados Unidos.

Luego de unos meses en Venezuela con la Gran Cruzada de Fe y un corto viaje misionero a Bogota, estuve en un congreso misionero en Orlando y predicando en algunas iglesias en otros estados del sur. Al llegar a California entre al Seminario Fuller en Pasadena y estuve cooperando por anos en el desarrollo de una iglesia Bautista carismatica. Lamentablemente tuve una experiencia que realmente me decepciono. Herido espiritualmente y sin dinero para continuar los estudios me dedique a trabajar en lo que me saliera. El trayecto de mesonero a gerente de hotel me tomo casi 4 anos pero valio la pena. Durante ese tiempo no solo aprendi muchas cosas practicas sino que refleccione, Maricela y yo nos casamos y comence a congregarme nuevamente.

El lugar que Dios escojio restaurar mi fe fue una pequena iglesia Presbiteriana. Es verdad, ellos no enfatizaban el tipo de espiritualidad sensacional a la que yo estaba acostumbrado pero me dieron muestras de ser genuinos seguidores de Cristo; no interesados en manipular sino en verdaderamente compartir Su vida abundante a los que la necesitan.

Despues complete mi post-grado y trabaje iniciando una iglesia de habla española por 4 anos. Hace ano y medio vine a pastorear una iglesia de habla inglesa. Desde entonces mi esposa se graduo de la universidad y yo inicie estudios doctorales en un Seminario en Atlanta, para donde viajo con frecuencia.

Maricela and in the mountains north of Las Vegas Posted by Hello


Hi everyone! This is just a way of registering and sharing some of my experiences, feelings and reflections. Let me tell you from the get go: Don't be surprised if from time to time you find stuff in other languages, My family and friends are pretty diverse and spread around the world.The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live" Acts 17:24-26