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Latin American Baptists take aim at evangelization

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (BP)–Meeting under the theme “Jesus Christ is the Hope of Latin America,” 300 Baptists from almost every Latin American nation kicked off a three-year series of crusades as they gathered in Guatemala for the third Congress of Latin American Baptists.
The campaigns, the first continent-wide Baptist effort since the Campaign of the Americas in 1968, will be held before the next meeting of the group in 2001.
Only representation from Peru was lacking as the delegates shared fellowship, heard inspirational messages and attended workshops on evangelization.
Brazilian evangelist Nilson Fanini, who is midway through his five-year term as president of the Baptist World Alliance, challenged Latin American Baptists to renew their commitment to evangelism.
The BWA president has been crisscrossing the world holding evangelistic crusades since his election in August 1995. In April, he was to preach a campaign in Bolivia, where Baptists are celebrating 100 years of work.
“The Great Commission is not an option; it’s a command,” Fanini told the delegates. “The church must evangelize or die.”
At the end of Fanini’s address, delegates came to the front of the auditorium and knelt in prayer for their countries. One Guatemalan boy came forward to receive Christ.
The rich diversity of Latin American Baptists was reflected in the Friday evening program when the delegates heard the choir of the Gethsemani Baptist Church, a congregation of Tzutuhil Indians, followed by the testimony of an Uruguayan pastor-rancher and a message on evangelism in the family by a Colombian psychologist and pastor’s wife.
Another highlight of the gathering was the networking between International Mission Board strategy coordinators and emerging Latin American mission boards and their missionary candidates.
Five IMB strategy coordinators from the Last Frontier — those ethnic people groups with little or no access to the gospel — stressed the needs of the peoples with whom they work. A growing number of Latin American Baptist conventions have international missionaries, or are working toward it.
“Latin Americans can go where North Americans are not welcome,” one strategy coordinator explained. “The 700-year Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula gives Latin Americans a cultural tie to the countries of northern Africa we Anglo-Saxons don’t have.

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  • Wally Poor