What is it like to be a Christian missionary in the most secular country in the Americas? Uruguay is unusual in Latin America for its level of secularism, as the Pew Research Center explains here and here. It isn’t just the most secular country in Latin America, it is strikingly more secular than any other country in the region. Many think that is because Uruguay is following in the footsteps of Spain, but in fact as this article in Spanish describes, Uruguay has a much higher percentage of atheists and those who are religiously unaffiliated than Spain or many other European countries. And although Argentina is the close cousin culturally of Uruguay, the religious landscape between the two nations are quite distinct. Continue reading Baptism and New Membership in a Dry and Parched Land
Much of the daily life of a missionary is the same as the daily life of anyone else, but done in the backdrop of another language and culture. This past Christmas, for our family, was a time that combined the sadness of a miscarriage with joy of celebrating the Incarnation with our much-loved and expanding family.
Life in Uruguay can be different from my life as it was living in southern California or in St. Louis, Missouri. Take getting the car fixed for instance. In the U.S., if I needed the car fixed, I would leave it with my mechanic and ask my wife to pick me up. When it was done, she would drop me off and I would pick it up.
Here in Montevideo, we only have one car. The picture to the left is not our car, but I thought it was cool – so I put it here for you to enjoy. The cost of living in Uruguay is very high and the salaries are lower than in the U.S. Also, all vehicles are manufactured outside of Uruguay, which means there is no local Uruguayan car industry as far as I know. The government charges high import taxes, putting the value of even a used car at around double as it would cost in the U.S. Sometimes even more than that. Many people don’t even own one car, much less two. Thankfully Montevideo has a good public transportation system, including buses and taxis. For our first year here we had no access to a vehicle unless someone lent us one or we rented one. Thankfully, our second year we were able to borrow a car and our third year we were able to purchase one due to the generous contributions of several individuals.
But I diverge. What does all this have to do with the mechanic? Because we only have one car, when I take it to the mechanic I usually have to do a lot of walking to get to an appropriate bus stop – unless I want to spend more money and get a taxi. And when one walks, one sees more of the city.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking along and saw a beautiful Mormon building. It was made of bricks and had a great basketball court outside. I’m not sure what they call it. Is it a church? Is it a local meeting place for their ward? I’m not sure. What I do know is that their theology departs from the historic Christian faith. Their conception of God is very different and they deny the Trinity. They also adhere to a works oriented salvation, whereas the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity (Eph. 2:8-9; John 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1).
I have seen many Mormon missionaries and even ran into a whole slew of them while out hiking Pan de Azucar, a small mountain a couple of hours outside of Montevideo. Michele and I also had a couple of young ladies into our home to discuss the true meaning of the gospel. Needless to say they were trying to convert us and we were trying to convert them.
The reason I bring this up is to bring up two points: commitment to evangelism and the need for the true gospel. The Mormons have an army of missionaries. While the evangelical church has a number of workers in Uruguay and the Reformed churches have sent four full time missionary families, the Mormons have dozens and dozens on the ground right now. This is not to mention their continuing cycle of sending more after their terms are up. There is true commitment. We should be asking ourselves this question: How committed are we to working toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, teaching them all that Christ has commanded and baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20)?
The other point has to do with the truth. We believe that the Mormons don’t have it right. They have departed from the Bible and have created a false system of worship. When Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, He said that we should be teaching everything He commanded. That implies the full counsel of God. The whole Bible. In Uruguay and throughout the world today there is a great need for men and women to bring the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The nations need the truth of the gospel, and what they need even more is the Person who is the Truth – Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
So next time you are walking to the mechanic or driving or however you get there, be sure and pray that God will raise up an army of laborers that will be committed to declaring the gospel to the ends of the earth. And pray that God will use you and other Christians to share that message of truth and the Lordship of Christ to all who will listen. Who knows, maybe God could be calling you to be more involved in World Evangelization!
About 30 minutes into day two of VBS, I looked up to see our big family van pull up to the entrance of the event center where we meet. Ray opened the door and a stream of children came running towards the bounce house we had set up. Continue reading Let the Children Come
The life of a missionary and hospitality go naturally hand in hand. We often find ourselves both in the giving and the receiving end. I think of our times on furlough when members of various churches around the country host us for a meal or over several nights in their home. We may be strangers as we pull into their driveway, but we leave as friends with these brothers and sisters in Christ. I also think of the national church members who have taken considerable time and energy to host us, and also show us how to set up and live life in a new place. We started over twice in a new country-once in Mexico and once again in Uruguay. Both times we were needy and on the receiving end of much Christian love and care. Continue reading Recovering the Art of Christian Hospitality–Book Review
Summer is quickly coming to a close in the Southern Hemisphere. Today was the first day of school all across the city of Montevideo￼. Because our seasons are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere, the school year runs from March through December. Continue reading First Day of School, Missionary Style
We have been in a busy season of hospitality over the past few months. It has been our joy to have had our guest room occupied often and to frequently have visitors around the family meal table. I would like to introduce to you one of these visitors, Vanesa.
Vanesa is a 22 year old Venezuelan woman who is making a new life for herself here in Uruguay in response to the deep economic crisis that her country is experiencing (you can read more about the crisis here). Her and her Venezuelen boyfriend, Manuel, have been attending our church plant for over a year now. She came to stay with us for a few months at the end of the year, as she was looking to transition her living situation and strengthen her walk with the Lord. Continue reading Ministry in the Home
I (Michele) have spent much of my adult life filled with so many dreams and aspirations that I have thought I need several lifetimes to get everything done that I want to accomplish. I’ve dreamed of going back to school for a master’s degree, of learning to play a musical instrument well, of working as a lactation consultant, of devoting more hours to our ministry…the list goes on and on. This doesn’t even touch on the good deeds which I would like to focus on. This past year, with my 8th pregnancy and then time spent with baby Lucas needing to be hospitalized, I’ve actually added a new word to my vocabulary that has revolutionized my dreaming. The word is finite. Continue reading Finite
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
– 1Th 5:16-18 ESV
We give thanks for what our gracious and sovereign Lord is doing. He has called us to plant churches in Uruguay and we are laboring in our first church plant in the capital of Montevideo. IPEM (Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica de Montevideo) has been in existence as a mission church (that is what we Presbyterians call a church which is not yet self governing) for a little over a year now.
Praise the Lord that we are meeting weekly on the Lord’s Day each Sunday evening for our public worship service. I have been preaching through the Gospel of John, which is a great message for our church. At the end of 2016 we started a membership class called “Los fundamentos de la iglesia” each week before service, though we took a few weeks off during the holiday season. There are currently 7 individuals attending the class and we are praying that each one will desire to become a member and join with us in laboring for the glory of God through this church plant.
Please be praying for IPEM and for how God might use this church as a lighthouse, leading travelers through the darkness and fog to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Pray for the effective preaching of the Word of God; pray that the Holy Spirit will attend the proclamation of the truth with power.
- Pray for our membership class: that the Lord will grant wisdom to Pastor Mark and me to lead and teach these classes and that the people will learn and grow in the faith.
- Pray that God will use this church and our mission to be a beacon of light; ask that we will have boldness as we ought to have.
- Give thanks to God for His faithfulness, grace, mercy and power.
From the beginning, we have sought to make prayer the foundation of our church plant. We have no illusions that we bring something new, unique or flashy to this very secular nation, something that would allow us to succeed where other missionaries have failed.
We, along with many other missionaries, have a treasure that is contained in jars of clay. The Gospel is living and powerful and capable of changing lives. But it is only through the power of God that eyes will be opened and people will bow before the Savior. For this reason, our church plant has met every Thursday night for prayer.
Sometimes visitors come. Sometimes church members come. Often it is just the two missionary families. But we come together to pray before our King, that He would be merciful on us, and on the people of Uruguay. There is a spiritual battle, and we feel it each Thursday as we prepare to attend.
Please pray that we would be faithful in making prayer the foundation of our ministry AND please pray that the Lord would soften hearts in Uruguay.