translated by Cassie Acevedo
The growing spiritual zeal of Latino youth in the U.S. is being wed with awareness of God's master plan of mission. Is this their time to stand in the gap?
It may sound like a statement of the obvious, but God has accomplished the mission task using people. And, as we enter the third millennium, He continues to use frail, fallen man as purchased possessions to accomplish His task. There is a movement that is rising and a restoration of all things, as is stated in Ecclesiastes 3:15b, "and God will call the past to account."
In the last 20 years, we have seen that God has brought an awakening in prayer and worship. This has been a major contributor to the vitality of the Church in Latin America. At the beginning of the 1900s, there were only a handful of evangelicals in Latin America.
Today, thanks in no small part to the efforts of missionaries who dared to cross our borders, eat our food, and, yes, drink our water, there are more than 70 million evangelicals in the Ibero-American community (Spanish and Portuguese-speaking people whether in Spain, Portugal, or the Americas). This makes us arguably the largest socio-cultural block of evangelical believers. It is a blessing, but also something that has brought us to a place of reflection, which has already resulted in two Ibero-American consultations convened by COMIBAM (Cooperación Misionera de Iberoamérica).
"I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account."
Ecclesiastes 3:14-15, NIV
Raul Ponce a mobilzer for COMHINA's National Youth Board. [email protected]
The first consultation, which took place in São Paulo, Brazil in 1987, resulted in the following declaration: "We are no longer a mission field, we are now a mission force." Later, in Acapulco 1997 an evaluation was made of the results--and the errors which were made in the process. Without a doubt, something is happening among the Ibero Americans.
We can also see that the Lord is bringing renewal here in North America. Latinos here are just beginning to experience the revival that has been going on in Central and South America for some time. The next generation of Latinos is maturing. They have grown up in an environment of revival--and it has become a part of them. When you combine the fruits of revival--passion, commitment, and intense desire to see the Lordship of Christ reflected in each human being--and the cultural realities of the Latino in North America--they are for the most part bilingual and bicultural already--it is clear that God may use this community as a key component in His redemptive plan for the nations. That is in part why we have a deep sense of responsibility and, as Joseph in Egypt, we have to understand that we are a people created with a divine purpose.
In all this, we can see that God has been laying the groundwork to continue His mission: redeeming people from every city, tribe, nation and tongue. For this, He is renewing and raising up a new generation of young people with passion for the King, who will worship Him with all their being, because of all that He is. They are becoming a generation of worshippers that will behold Him with glory and majesty, feel what He feels, cry over what makes Him cry--and commit to extending the worship of the Lord Jesus to all the peoples of the earth.
He is renewing and raising up a new generation of young people with passion for the King, who will worship Him with all their being, because of all that He is.
Perhaps the Latinos in North America are people to break old, somewhat ingrained patterns of ministry. Our White brothers and sisters may have underestimated us. Our brothers south of the border have often misunderstood us. It is true, we are a unique people, but God has decided to use that uniqueness to accomplish His eternal purposes. In a sense, the Lord has invited us to play soccer on the same team together--and score points against the adversary. We understand that we are not the same as our White brothers. Nor are we the same as our brothers south of the border. We are not better. Simply said, we are different. And as we continue to play this game we can see that we are rebounding and making points valuable for eternal life.
In COMHINA our purpose is clear: to cooperate with the Latin Church in North America in developing the transcultural vision. That is why, as we speak about youth mobilization, we must also consider the pastors and the local churches. Together we can work for the extension of the Kingdom. We are not speaking about making short term trips to a mission field to entertain our adolescents in the summertime. This is about something more than that. We can see the importance of short term missions in the ministry of Jesus and Paul. Their ministry trips were for discipleship itself--something not so common in our day. As my friend, Levi DeCarvalho, the Brazilian missiologist, says, "The important thing is that the short-term trips be connected to local church discipleship in order for them to be an integral part of an effective discipleship." That would surely result in a blessing for the young people, for their churches and families, as well as for the mission of God. Short-term missions which are not associated with discipleship produce what we sometimes see: mission agencies disconnected from the local church, and missionaries unfit for the field, and out of place in the churches they came from. It is a schizophrenia that does not serve the Kingdom.
Let us remember precisely, that discipleship is a bridge that unites one generation with another in the pilgrimage of the church. When youth are discipled in this manner--with a mission consciousness--they will not need great seminars to create an awareness. Rather, they will already be aware of God's missionary heart and, we pray, yearning to participate in this reality.
Already, new forms of doing mission are in gestation. High technology has taken us to globalization. We live in a world constantly getting smaller. In the middle of all this diversity we can see a growing unity that will strengthen us all as we undertake the task. And, as Oscar Baldelomar (also affiliated with COMHINA) would say, "None of us is better than all of us together." That is why mobilizing the Latino youth in North America, or any of the immigrant minority groups, could be the key to a new wave in missions.
I hope these words will serve as a stimulant and encouragement to all who work in missionary mobilization; but I also wish that they will serve to move us to reflection.
" and God will call the past to account." "... so that men will revere Him."