Our Life Principles Conference teachers are great difference-makers. Not only do they possess a lifetime of teaching experience, but they’ve faced their share of struggles. The Lord has been faithful to them, and as they train each participant, they’re able to inform the curriculum with this insight. While Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for all training, we learn from one another in community.
They each have a distinct calling from God to serve the Lord through In Touch, and neither has any intention of slowing down.
Joel Zaldumbide and Bill Loveless are two of our most prolific trainers. Joel, who’s originally from Ecuador, has taught pastors in much of the Spanish-speaking world, while Bill has specialized in the African continent. They each have a distinct calling from God to serve the Lord through In Touch, and neither has any intention of slowing down. Here are their stories.
Joel: Leading With a Teacher’s Heart
For Joel Zaldumbide, teaching is something that’s always captured his heart. As a child in Ecuador, he remembers gathering the younger neighborhood kids together for impromptu lessons. And much later in medical school, Joel enjoyed tutoring his peers as he advanced toward his degree.
As the Associate Director of Global Communications for In Touch, Joel has traveled the world the last 10 years, teaching and training pastors through the Life Principles Conference. Across Central and South America, Europe, and Asia, Joel has taught both in capital cities and off-the-map villages.
For Joel, reaching pastors who possess little to no formal training is not only a job—it’s personal.
Joel opens every conference with a confession: “I am a product of these Life Principles,” he says. Though a skilled doctor, Joel received the call to leave his profession and enter ministry. This did not sit well with his unbelieving wife. The Zaldumbide family was living in the United States in order for Joel to pursue post-doctorate hospital training, but in obedience he began to switch gears.
As a new pastor, Joel earned very little, which put great tension on the family. His wife wanted him to get a different job, but Joel was in the U.S. on a specific visa and it was against the law for him to work in any other field. Even so, she gave him a 4-month ultimatum: find a better paying ministry job or enter the secular workforce illegally. Without consulting God, Joel agreed. He figured he would find something in time.
But four months passed with no leads. The last day of her ultimatum was a Sunday, and Joel returned from church dejected. He prayed, “Lord, I feel like this will make you look bad, and it’s my fault. But I gave my word to my wife, I have to do it. Tomorrow I will find a secular job, even if it’s against the law.”
Joel received the call to leave his profession and enter ministry. This did not sit well with his unbelieving wife.
Then he turned on the TV. “I saw an American pastor preaching very eloquently, so I kept listening. And his line was, ‘Obey the Lord and leave all the consequences to Him.’” Immediately the peace of God filled Joel, and he decided he wouldn’t worry about tomorrow. That night the phone rang. It was an old friend of Joel’s from Ecuador, who now lived nearby in Atlanta. He worked for En Contacto, the Spanish-language In Touch program, and he wanted Joel to come work for him. Joel was ecstatic and knew his wife could hear him from the other room. He went in and found her weeping. A few months later, she gave her life to Jesus.
At In Touch, Joel began to translate Dr. Stanley’s Life Principles curriculum into Spanish. As he helped develop these lessons into a teaching module for pastors, he dreamed of leading a training session in his native Ecuador. But the Lord kept closing the door, even as Joel taught the course throughout the world. Then last year, after 11 years of waiting, Joel led the first of two conferences in Ecuador.
“Because it’s my people, I know what they struggle with in ministry,” he says. “Almost all of them are bi-vocational. Things are not easy.” He tries to keep the conferences to two days, so the men don’t have to take much time off from their day jobs. It’s difficult to work one job and prepare sermons for Sundays, but they do it.
Joel loves the privilege of sharing electronic tablets with each member of the conference. Loaded with dozens of pastoral resources like a Bible dictionary, commentaries, and Dr. Stanley sermons they can model, it’s like nothing the men have ever had before. “The people, when they have the tablet, they just cry,” he says. “They can’t believe that this is for them. When you explain what the content on it is, they are just left in awe.”
And now our Global Communications team is looking to expand the conference beyond English and Spanish to other languages, like Russian. For Joel, “The horizon is big. We’re just moving as the Lord leads us.”
Bill: Training New Teachers
Bill Loveless remembers the moment he was assured of God’s calling for him to teach pastors. He still can picture the dirt floors and homemade wooden benches in the modest church in Jinga, Uganda where he taught a small group of pastors, along the shores of Lake Victoria. It was eight years ago, and the contagious energy he felt still lingers.
“I just knew God was saying, This is your home.”
Loveless was no stranger to missions. In the early 2000s, he retired early from a career as an airline pilot to focus his time on sharing the gospel. He directed evangelism campaigns across the globe, led mission trips, and worked with charitable ministries meeting physical needs.
But seeing this small group invigorated to train others was humbling and freeing. By empowering these learners, Bill saw how great the potential for multiplication was if men like these could be trained everywhere. And if they in turn trained more leaders.
It wasn’t long afterward that Bill discovered In Touch’s pastor training initiative known as the Life Principles Conference. Now what he facilitates is much like what he witnessed in that small church in Uganda. The seminars are intentionally small in scale, but immense in scope. He likes to arrange the desks in a U-shape to allow the attendees to easily see each other, and for the speakers to walk amongst them as they teach. They set the class size to 30 or less to foster an atmosphere of intimacy. “We can really fellowship with them, call them by name.” Relationships form quickly, connecting churches and ministries across the region where the conference is held.
Bill likes that the conferences support the second half of In Touch’s mission statement: “To lead people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local church.” The Life Principles bridge the gap between the pastor’s real-world challenges and the wisdom narratives within the Bible, helping them manage the difficult circumstances they face in their church and community.
“If you touch the pastors, you're touching the entire church,” Bill says. His hope is that not only will the pastors be equipped to train their own congregation, but other pastors within their community.
Mathias Sserugo is one of those pastors. He met Loveless four years ago while attending a conference in Uganda. Much like Bill’s experience in the small church in Jinja, Mathias was overwhelmed by the comfort and presence of the Holy Spirit. “When I looked at the Life Principles, and I saw what the pastors needed, I felt that it was a burden I should take on to go on and share what I had learned,” he says.
Now he and six other pastors from the region facilitate trainings throughout Uganda. “Mathias is a much better teacher than I am,” Bill says. “He’s a much more animated speaker.” And even more significant, Sserugo can teach regional conferences much more frequently than Bill, with a far greater understanding of the culture and needs of those he instructs.
Like Paul’s direction to Timothy—to take the gospel to faithful people, who will then take it to even more faithful people, Loveless and Sserugo find inspiration in helping that cycle continue.
Through your partnership, the good news of Jesus Christ is going where it’s needed most. Through the tools of the Messenger Lab, we’re reaching the lost, making disciples, and equipping pastors and Christian leaders as they obey the Great Commission.