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261 decisions in Argentina launch soul-winning campaign

USHUAIA, Argentina (BP)–On a windswept hill overlooking Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost city, a team of Baptist missionaries and pastors gathered to pray at a monument to pioneer missionary Allen Gardiner.
Inspired by a vision of multitudes coming to Christ in the region, their petitions launched a series of prayer walks, visitation and evangelistic rallies across Patagonia, the vast southern region of South America, whose 800,000 residents are less than 3 percent born-again believers.
In two weeks, churches and mission points in Argentina and Chile saw 261 people accept Christ.
“We are taking up Gardiner’s mantle,” said Moises Riffo, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rio Grande, the principal Baptist church on the largest island of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago.
Riffo, who grew up near Temuco in Chile, said stories of Gardiner’s work with the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego, which he heard as a Royal Ambassador, first interested him in coming to the region. Gardiner, an Anglican missionary, worked in Tierra del Fuego from 1842 until he died of cold and starvation in 1851.
The Ushuaia campaign, under the theme “Hay Vida en Jesus” (“There is life in Jesus”), was the first in a series that eventually will cover Argentina. Baptists in other South American countries are conducting similar campaigns under the same theme.
Some 116 of the decisions were made in visitation and meetings of the Rio Grande church. The church has 26 cell groups in Rio Grande, a city of 50,000 people. It sponsors the Baptist work in Ushuaia, which is only 700 miles from Antarctica.
“The theme verse of our church is Psalm 2:8: ‘Ask of me and I will make the nations your possession, the ends of the earth your possession,'” Riffo said. “The fact that 116 persons in Rio Grande accepted Christ confirms that we must pray to God claiming the city for Christ. The prayer walks, specific prayer and prayers of the cell groups gave their results.”
Pastor Riffo, along with a team of five others, worked the second week of the campaign in Comodoro Rivadavia, the largest city in Patagonia and far north of Tierra del Fuego and 70 persons accepted Christ.
“The vision of a Patagonia given over to Christ is possible,” he said. “The ends of the earth do indeed belong to the Lord.”
At the Rio Grande church, pastor Irvin H. Acree of Poqoson, Va., preached. Acree served as an International Mission Board missionary in Uruguay from 1966-85.
He told of counseling a couple whose marriage was endangered by the husband’s infidelity. “The husband admitted his infidelity and she said she could never forgive him. I was able to share with them about Christ’s ability to forgive us when we sincerely repent and his power to help us build a new life out of the ashes of the old,” Acree said.
The Patagonia-Austral evangelism team led by IMB missionary Richard DeLeon organized the campaign. IMB missionary Grady Milstead and pastor Jaime Sepulveda preached and spoke on the radio in Porvenir, on the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego. IMB missionary Dennis Meilstrup preached in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Hermosinia Zapata, wife of the pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church in Punta Arenas, organized the Baptist women of Punta Arenas to prepare for the crusade. In addition to a prayer chain and special prayer meetings, the women distributed tracts and made evangelistic visits in the midst of the bitter Southern hemisphere winter.
The Chilean pastors and churches were pleased to be included in the activities of the campaign, said missionary Richard DeLeon. Both they and the Argentine pastors in Patagonia often feel isolated from the Baptist conventions and work in the north of their countries.
In addition to conversions, workers also recorded numerous rededications, reconciliations between church members, requests for baptism and dedication to mission service, DeLeon noted.
All across the region a magazine, “Patagonia Hoy” (Patagonia Today), specially produced for the campaign, was well received. It contained articles on how to better family life and presented the plan of salvation. It also told who Baptists are and of their work in Patagonia.
The back cover of the magazine listed 19 Baptist works in Patagonia in both Argentina and Chile, to help people find the nearest Baptist congregation.

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  • Wally Poor