After 20 years of providing online Bible courses to more than 43,000 Christian leaders throughout Latin America, the Luis Palau Bible Institute is planning an historic gathering in Cuba this November. The program, which will focus on live training for hundreds of local pastors, will be a first for the region. It is being accomplished in partnership with the International Bible Society (known as Biblica), Logos Christian University, the Luis Palau Association, and local leaders.
The Spanish-language news outlet Noti-Prensa recently held an exclusive interview with Pastor Arcadis Solano, Cuba Coordinator for Luis Palau Bible Institute who is in charge of organizing the on-site classes in Santiago, Cuba; and Dr. Carlos Barbieri, director of the Luis Palau Bible Institute since its inception in 1995.
Noti-Prensa: For years, we have closely followed the work of the Luis Palau Institute in its mission to “serve those who serve.” And now, after 20 years of offering classes via video, you announce the “onsite” class model. Will this change affect the courses online, or is just an added option?
Carlos Barbieri: Definitely it is an option that is added to what we have online. And, of course, it comes about because of an immediate and strategic need. The Luis Palau Bible Institute was born out of a pressing need, and it has adjusted to new needs several times in the past two decades.
Noti-Prensa: Explain to us in more depth how you have “reacted to the need,” and in what way you have changed in the past.
Carlos Barbieri: I remember in 1994 we received a serious report from an organization that studies churches and their growth in Latin America. It said that in one country in South America the growth of believers in Jesus Christ had exceeded the infrastructure of the church. In that year, in that country, there were at least 13,500 pastors and ministry leaders and only about 400 of them had had formal theological teaching.
Upon seeing the need, the Palau Association decided to do something. A year later, in 1995, we began filming a 60-hour course that we called “Ministerial Self-improvement Course.” For the next year, we made available a huge package of 30 videos with a heavy manual. After the VHS tapes came CD’s, and later DVD’s. Later on, we continued adding more courses, and some years later, the Institute was born on the web. Now it is all digital, with new and expanded courses, manuals, and many more options. We have simply been adjusting to the need and to the new times.
Noti-Prensa: What compelled you to create onsite classes?
Carlos Barbieri: To offer Bible study options in Cuba, we need to be creative. The internet is not widely available yet. The costs are too high for most of the population of the island. So we need to advance another step and prepare a live training, with professors from the Institute who travel to Cuba and offer their knowledge in a completely free event.
Noti-Prensa: Pastor Arcadis, what is the state of the church today in Cuba? Tell us how this effort will help the Cuban church.
Arcadis Solano: After some 25 years, the church in Cuba is experiencing exponential growth. Hundreds of churches have opened along with thousands of homes where the Gospel is preached and where help is given to families in need. The Gospel is spreading and reaching daily more people who give their lives to Christ. But as with all growth, this is also bringing its pain as we pastors see the great spiritual need of the people, and it hurts us to not have all the tools possible to help, to encourage, and to counsel.
On coming to our city to offer almost three days of intensive classes about pastoral counseling, the Luis Palau Institute gives us the tools that we are needing at this crucial time in our history.
Noti-Prensa: How many pastors do you expect in the city of Santiago for the onsite classes, and what kind of enthusiasm is there in the city?
Arcadis Solano: We hope to have 220 pastors in these first classes on the subject of Pastoral Counseling, the maximum space available. The enthusiasm generated is such among the leadership that we have already asked the Institute to consider the possibility of a second series of classes!
Noti-Prensa: Carlos, tell us about the organizations that will support you, and the professors who are confirmed for this event.
Carlos Barbieri: We are very excited for the Ministerial Alliance, which has come about with the object of blessing the Cuban leadership. One of our professors will be Dr. Roberto Sanchez, Director of Logos Christian University. Dr. Sanchez will award 16 university credits in counseling on behalf of the University. We will have a graduation with diplomas from Logos University as well as the Luis Palau Bible Institute. It will be a very moving time and will help support our Cuban brothers.
Another part of the Ministerial Alliance will be Biblica director Dr. Esteban Fernandez, who will teach a class. We will also be accompanied by invited professors Dr. Rubén Proietti, who is the current director of the Alliance of Christian Churches of Argentina (ACIERA) and international events director for the Luis Palau Association. Dr. Luciano Jaramillo, coordinator of the translation committee for the New International Version (NIV), will also join us. Pastor Edmundo Gastaldi, general coordinator of events for Dr. Palau in Latin America, and I also will have the privilege of teaching a couple of classes.
Noti-Prensa: Undoubtedly, there are leaders who desire to accompany you in this effort. Where should they write to get involved, or for students to reserve a spot in the class?
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