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The 2012 General Assembly of the Baptist World Alliance got underway Monday in Santiago Chile. Santiago is surrounded by mountains, which for the most part have remained hidden by clouds. Monday’s meetings included preliminary committee meetings, a forum on technology and ministry, and a celebration with Chilean Baptists.

The afternoon forum on technology and ministry was moderated by Bob Terry (editor of the Alabama Baptist), and included four panelists: Robert Parham (of EthicsDaily.com), Rand Jenkins (communications director, Baptist General Convention of Texas), Maribel Salamanca (head of communications for the Baptist Union of Chile) and, well, me (representing Baptists Today).

An enthusiastic Chilean volunteer greets BWA guests.The discussion was wide-ranging, including topics from the use of technology in worship to employing social networks for outreach efforts to Jesus as a master Tweeter. The discussion was helpful: technology is here to stay, and both churches and Christian organizations should know how to use it well.

The evening celebration with Chilean Baptists took place offsite, as we were bussed to an inner-city arena that was enclosed, but entirely unheated. The temperature inside was no warmer than outside, where it was in the 40s. That wouldn’t have been so bad, had the service not lasted more than three hours.

I know this is small comfort to readers in the States who are suffering through a heat wave, but we were freezing despite our coats. Long johns, thermal socks, and gloves would have been in order.

The celebration began with some nice refreshments offered by our hosts, before shifting to a worship setting that started with a half-hour of joyous, boisterous, highly-amplified praise music. Chilean worshippers really get into it, waving white handkerchiefs as they sing, occasionally breaking into a chant-like “Ole, ole ole ole, Cristo, Cristo!” A variety of dignitaries brought greetings and we heard a Bible reading in three languages, then were treated to a concert by a group of 18 Baptist musicians who perform together in big-band style as Los Bronces de Jericho.

The band — also amply amplified — played a long set that included everything from a jazzy version of “The Lord’s Prayer” (with an ear-splitting trumpet solo), a boogie-woogie rendition of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” and a swinging solo-punctuated treatment of “Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho.”

After greetings from BWA president John Upton and BWA executive secretary Neville Callam, a dance troupe from the Baptist College of Temuco took the floor with a series of traditional dances from different parts of Chile. They managed to move enough to remain warm, despite some costumes that did not appear to be designed for winter wear.

This dance reportedly hails from Easter Island.The dancers were followed by Osvaldo Quadros, a celebrated singer in Chile, who had the misfortune of beginning his concert more than three hours into the scheduled three-hour program. A number of BWA folk, teeth chattering, began drifting away in hopes that buses would be available for the return trip before the celebration ended. Thankfully, they were (can you guess how I know?).

Tomorrow’s agenda includes a plethora of committee and commission meetings, so there may not be much to report, but there will be plenty to do.

And fortunately, all meetings will be held in heated rooms.

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