After fifteen years of service at FamilyLife specifically ministering to Latin America (and seventeen years total on staff), Gabe and Nancy Buchholtz retired in March. The Buchholtzes recently took time to look back on their early days at FamilyLife ministering outside the US.
Piles of tortillas, hot and steaming, beside a sizzling griddle; open charcoal fires in the cookhouse with a dirt floor; people sleeping on the church floor for three days . . . It doesn’t sound much like a Weekend to Remember®, but it certainly was a weekend Gabe Buchholtz would never forget! The year was 2011. Gabe was ministering for the first time to the Kekchi people, descendants of the Mayans now living in Guatemala. The no-frills hotel did have a water heater, but it was nicknamed “the widow maker.” (It may have been a good thing Gabe and Nancy didn’t know that at the time.) The hotel was a mere half-hour drive from the mountainside church that was hosting the event. The cinderblock adobe church sat in the midst of cornfields that were planted here and there, not in rows. The middle of nowhere for a gringo was an especially sweet somewhere to the 27 indigenous languages represented in those who walked an entire day or piled into the back of pickup trucks to attend the Weekend to Remember.
This particular Weekend to Remember hardly resembled what is known in the US as the Weekend to Remember, but Gabe says, “It seemed to have deep value . . . perhaps a greater impact in Latin America than anywhere else. There was a great willingness to respond to biblical truth.”
FamilyLife in Latin America has grown rapidly in the years since this trip. The Latin American Weekend to Remember has since morphed into a Day to Remember, which has made it easier for small churches and communities to reproduce and sustain. The Art of Marriage®, originally with subtitles, now has excellent dubbing. HomeBuilders® small-group Bible studies have taken off lightning fast, creating relationships and accountability for tens of thousands. Stepping Up® is changing things for men from Mexico to Argentina. Meanwhile, the launching of FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting initiative in Spanish is close enough to taste.
It took dirt roads and hungry listeners ready to hear God’s Word to impress upon Gabe the necessity of launching a ministry into the depths of the dark places and the well-lit cities of Latin America. Gabe and Nancy Buchholtz, along with the Mottas, have worked tirelessly to teach and train a veritable force of volunteer servants throughout Latin America. The Vida en Familia (FamilyLife) team throughout Latin America is made up of 575 volunteers and 181 trained speakers (no fulltime staff). They continue to multiply the reach of what was once a couple of people driving a jeep into the remote mountains to now reaching tens of thousands of people—stretching across two continents from Canada and the US all the way to Argentina and Chile at the tip of South America. It’s now time for these faithful volunteers to take what was started and carry the message of hope for families to more couples, churches, cities, and nations.
Gabe recently said to the Mottas, “You said with the prophet Isaiah, ‘Here am I; send me!’ You were willing to go and it has been my privilege to go with you these past fifteen years.” We thank Gabe and Nancy for their years of dedicated service to the Lord and to families throughout Latin America. Only God knows the lives influenced and marriages saved because of their faithfulness.