By LAC Regional Director Dave Ellis
Of the 640 million people in Latin America Caribbean, 550 million have yet to encounter the grace of Jesus Christ. In light of this unfinished task, a question has often been raised: Does God want us to continue to plant the church in this region, or to mobilize missionaries from these nations to reach the world? The issue is certainly not black and white as some may think, but the answer is an unapologetic, Yes.
Over a period of seven decades, the Spirit has entrusted to us a progressively expanding stewardship for the development of His Church among the nations of Latin America Caribbean. Today, our stewardship includes planting churches and mobilizing missionaries — both of which find their roots in our apostolic function. Not only are these maturing expressions of ministry non-competitive in nature, they are mutually inclusive, as each necessitates and enables the other.
On the one hand, we continue to operate with apostolic grit to bring the gospel to those who remain unreached and unknown in the region; the 550 million spiritually lost, from those who are hidden in the jungles of the Amazon Basin, to those who are hidden in plain sight — such as the nearly five million Muslims, Jews, Hindu, and Buddhists that make their homes in the nations of LAC.
On the other hand, the handling of our stewardship to plant churches among these people would be incomplete, even negligent, if we ignored the command of Jesus to equip and send Latin laborers into the harvest field (Matthew 9:37-38, 28:19).
While these two gospel activities may seem to be on opposite ends of the ministry spectrum, they are by no means mutually exclusive. We do these things simultaneously because the Spirit has called us to do both. We simply cannot wait until all 670 unreached people groups have a witness of the gospel before we mobilize our Latin brothers and sisters to respond to the call to take the gospel to “regions beyond.” (2 Corinthians 10:16) This is a snapshot of what partnerships looks like.
What this means is that in Latin America Caribbean we pray and work hard to discern the balance of the Spirit to plant the church, train workers, and raise up missionaries who will obey the call of the Spirit to go. Our mission is defined by these three initiatives as we strive to complete the unfinished task. What a joy it is to hear of all God is doing as Latin missionaries return from home countries. We may now begin to discover they are able to help LAC missionaries train nationals to reach these same peoples who now call the nations of our region their home.