How can we reach the children in our neighborhood? That was the question and prayer of Maria Elena Salas de Guerrero, pastor of the Carmen de Areco FMC in Argentina. The church has a 10 year history of effectively adopting boys who were troubled -- and troubling their larger community. Over 50 have been loved to wholeness in the last decade. The church has housed,
clothed, and fed them. They have taught them to read and write, and helped them catch up in school. But that’s a different story.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest fields.” Mark 9:37-38
Eunice Alvarez and David and Ginegda Lopez are answers to prayer. For many years, the North American church has been sending workers to Latin America. Latin American Area leaders have dreamed of sending people from one country to another.
Things grow wild in the tropics. The soil – often volcanic – is very fertile. Vegetation is lush and thick. There is an amazing variety of flowers and fruit.
The thing is, plants grow really wild if untended. A vacant lot left without care very quickly grows into a dense and tangled thicket – almost impenetrable. Flowering plants get choked out. Trees can be overwhelmed by vines or parasites. An army of leafcutter ants can disassemble and strip a tree, carrying off its entire foliage canopy in bite size pieces.
The Latin American Leadership Summit that was held in Medellin, Colombia focused on community church planting led by Bruce Bennett and pastoral formation under the leadership of Dra. Delia Nüesch-Olver, Dr. Paul Olver, Dr. Ricardo Gómez and Jason Morriss.
After the summit, Area Director Dra. Delia Nüesch-Olver asked the 28 leaders
who represented 9 countries to reflect on their experience.
The summit “strengthened the Latin American vision to plant community churches and fortified the new program for training and forming the next generation of pastors in our church.” – Pastor Dan, Creative Access Country X
J.R. Crouse, a missionary, said, “It was a time to forge relationships and encourage one another to fulfill God's calling on our lives.”
The delegation from Ecuador reflected on how the summit personally affected them. Pastora Eunice Alvarez said, “I was challenged to see beyond what I can imagine with regard to ministry in Ecuador…challenged to trust in the faithfulness and the will of God and to work where He is already working, even if I can’t see it with my own eyes.”
Her colleague, Pastora Mariana Mafla said, “I received many blessings in all areas: spiritual, physical and material. Most importantly, I confirmed that Jesus is interested in multiplication. A good seed placed in good earth will obtain a good harvest.” She went on to outline the many good things she took home to Ecuador with her from the Summit. Her list included:
“- The confirmation of God on my calling to plant community churches.
When asked what their next step in ministry would be based upon their experience, Pastora Eunice said it was to unite with the vision and infect the other leaders to work together in planting healthy community churches. She said she would meet with the national board in Ecuador to come up with a plan and the steps to follow in order to bring about God’s mission in Latin America. “After all,” she concluded, “with God it is easy!”
Hector Perez of Mexico said he would “raise and train leaders on all levels to become church planters and share the vision, passion, and recourses that I received [at the summit].” He concluded that he will restructure “everything that we do as a church in order to focus all of the spiritual, human and material resources we have on the priorities of the Kingdom of God to bring forth a great harvest…And we will gather it in the name and power of Jesus.”
Multiply those responses by 28 and sift in the contexts of 9 countries and you can see a glimpse of how the Free Methodist Church in Latin America is fulfilling the Great Commission.