During the last weekend in March, La Misión Cristiana had their annual General Assembly, the meeting where delegates from churches around the country gather to vote on the business of the church. Every three years (and this was one of those years), the church undergoes a lot of changes in leadership. They hold elections for the national board and leaders of each of the 5 regions, and many pastors are moved between churches within regions. (A pastor may serve a given congregation for 3 or 6 years (one or two terms), but has to move after that.) It's also a time for celebrations of the church -- they baptized a lot of people last year, but this year they held an ordination for a group of nine ministers. Ordination has a lot of requirements in this church, including 6 years pastoring *before* one is eligible, so it was a very special recognition of the dedication of these servants.
We were observers of the Assembly, and found it very interesting. I was invited to give a devotional each of the two mornings (Saturday and Sunday), on the Assembly's theme: "May we be stones of help in the altar of the Lord" (based in 1 Samuel 7:12). Tim provided technical assistance to me in my presentation, as well as to the national staff, helping them use Power Point and the projector to show pictures that brought the reports on the church's projects to life. For Quinn, the coolest thing was that a lot of the kids she has befriended in our travels around the country were together in one place. For several days afterward she kept asking "are we going back to the church to play with the kids?"
Based on our experience of the elections, the church seems to have a vigorous democracy. Although the majority of delegates did usually vote for the recommendations of the national board, there were a couple surprises, and some heated discussions (all of which seemed within the bounds of appropriate conduct).
The vote that was closest to unanimous was for the new president of the national board, the Reverend Rolando Boniche. This office, as you might imagine, carries a lot of responsibility and quite a bit of power. Rev. Boniche was the secretary of the national board for the last 3-year period, and the former president, Rev. Maria del Pilar Ramírez Obando (Doña Pilar), was elected to the post of advisor on the national board. So, there's quite a bit of continuity in the leadership, and these two individuals, both of whom have served the church faithfully for many years, share a vision of the identity of the church, its commitment to service and celebration of its Nicaraguan context.
The thing that affects our work most directly is that Rev. Boniche decided to keep the same staff in the national office (the president has the *right* to hire new people), which makes our work and our lives much easier. The official transition was a week and a half ago, April 26, a month after the Assembly. So far, it seems to be going smoothly. It was a real pleasure and privilege to be received as missionaries by Doña Pilar, who has a very warm and spirit-filled presence, but I have confidence that Rev. Boniche will also be a strong and significant leader for the church, and think we are going to enjoy and learn from working with him as well.