The History of Free Methodist Missions in Latin America

Free Methodist Ministry in Latin America began in 1889 when Samuel Mills became the first missionary of any denomination to preach the gospel in the Dominican Republic. In the next 75 years churches were started in Mexico (1917), Brazil (1936), Paraguay (1946), Haiti (1964) and Puerto Rico (1967). During the last 25 years (1984-2009) the Free Methodist Church started ministry in 18 more countries. In each case the work began as Latin American leaders came in contact with the denomination or intentionally went to minister from one Latin American country to another.

A number of Latin American churches in the U.S. are the fruit of Free Methodists emigrating from other countries. New churches in several Latin American countries have resulted from people who became Christians in the United States and returned home or shared the gospel with relatives back home.

Today there are about 715 Latin American churches and church planting projects with 82,000 members (including 135 churches with 15,500 members in 18 U.S. Conferences). Dominican Republic and Brazil are both General Conferences -- autonomous within the World Free Methodist Family. Chile, Haiti, Nikkei (Brazilian Japanese), Northern Mexico, and Paraguay are Annual Conferences - self-governing bodies within the North American General Conference. This document focuses primarily on the three Provisional Conferences and 12 Mission Districts - emerging networks of young churches -- under the direction of Free Methodist World Missions.

The Free Methodist Church began with a two-prong thrust - evangelism and social reform. In its early stages the denomination uniquely balanced personal and social holiness. Latin American Free Methodists are living out the best of this heritage, engaging in evangelism and discipleship through church planting along with relief and development through a variety of holistic ministries (education, health, and economic opportunity). International Child Care Ministries (ICCM - the Free Methodist child sponsorship program) supports over 8900 children in Haiti and almost 2400 children in ten other Latin American countries. Together, this is over half of the children sponsored through ICCM worldwide.
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