By Richard Nicholson
The apostle Peter wrote that God wants everyone to “come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This includes the people of Latin America and the Caribbean. Although more than 27 million attend Assemblies of God churches in the region, millions have yet to hear a clear presentation of the gospel. AGWM missionaries are partnering with national believers to bring the good news of God’s love and forgiveness to those who have never heard.
God’s everyone declaration includes the 20,000 people of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. With its unique ecosystem and abundant wildlife, these islands have attracted scientists and tourists for many years. But 16 years ago, missionaries Bill and Connie McDonald viewed the paradise as a mission field. Today about 800 believers worship at four vibrant AG churches. MAPS Construction volunteers have played a significant role in building or enlarging each facility.
The Lord also did not forget the Nicaraguan police officers. Nearly 10 years ago He burdened missionary Bob Caiazzo to reach this strategic group. Bob has gained great favor, and now every new cadet takes his courses on leadership, values and marriage. My wife, Cynthia — a professional counselor — helps Bob with marriage and family sessions. In a recent meeting, the retired police commissioner told the recruits that Christ changed his life during the first teaching sessions many years ago.
In the 1980s it seemed as if restrictions had cooled the flame of Pentecost in Cuba. As people prayed, God sovereignly moved and thousands have come to Christ. His Word is preached regularly in more than 8,000 churches and preaching points. In 2008 the government officially requested help from the Assemblies of God after hurricanes damaged 500 churches, destroyed thousands of homes and displaced 2.5 million people. Convoy of Hope and U.S. AG believers assisted with relief efforts and opened new doors for ministry.
To reach everyone with the gospel, missionaries are partnering with national believers in soccer and summer camps, television and radio, children’s outreaches, church planting, and compassion ministries. Since its beginning 46 years ago, more than 1 million children have studied in 300 Latin America ChildCare schools. Hundreds of abused and trafficked girls and women in Argentina and Chile have found salvation and deliverance in conferences led by missionary Renay West.
Richard and Sandee Farthing’s ministry to prisoners and children in Bolivia continues to grow as people respond to the gospel. Women in an Ecuadorian prison are finding new life as missionary Wanda Talley shares God’s Word. Hundreds of teens in Guatemala have accepted Christ at school assemblies and outreaches directed by missionaries John and Dina Musacchio. King’s Castle ministries challenge thousands of teens in the region to evangelize their countries for Jesus.
To disciple and train everyone, roving faculties of Latin America Advanced School of Theology, Latin America Theological Seminary and Caribbean School of Theology minister around the region.
While we rejoice in every victory, we pray earnestly for areas where missionaries are ministering under difficult circumstances. Violent gangs in Central America are gaining strength and causing fear. Political upheaval in several countries has brought much uncertainty. A new law in Peru allows missionaries to be out of the country no longer than six months at a time. Since the government raised the minimum wage substantially, businesses in Honduras are unable to afford increased overhead and are laying off workers. People are afraid violence will ensue.
Worldwide economic problems also affect the region. In Haiti, about one-third of workers are unemployed; in Honduras, 30 percent. Underemployment in several countries is near 50 percent. Last year Argentina experienced its worst drought in 100 years. Agricultural revenues fell more than $5 billion, and an estimated 1.5 million head of cattle died.
In the faces of hardship and challenges, we are praying that revival will sweep Latin America and the Caribbean. Jesus said people would experience great distress in the last days, but He also said that the gospel would be preached in every nation.
Missionaries and national believers are partnering to bring the good news of the Kingdom to every person, whether they live in megacities, mountainous jungle villages or island communities.
Richard Nicholson is the Latin America and the Caribbean regional director.
Reprinted from the 2009 Annual AGWM Report
Missionary associates 135
Churches and preaching points 204,248
Members and adherents 27,906,349
National ministers 186,396
Bible schools 584
Bible school students 30,380
Extension schools 733
Extension school students 29,96