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Pt 3. Latin America: The Places, the Pastors, the Possibilities and the Pandemic That Changed Them All.

Apr 12, 2022 | Missions Articles

Article #3 : The Possibilities

We’ve become good friends with an amazing couple that transforms run down homes into beautiful spaces. They’ve been doing it for years. What they see when they enter a space in dire need of just about everything is very different then what most people see. Where others see damage and decay, they see potential. Several months ago, I went with my friend to one of their new properties. I was taken aback just by the smell. The carpets were worn down to the fibers that hold them together and the bathrooms were downright scary. The kitchen seemed like a storm had passed through and the chimney had some sort of craggly porous stone that made it look like it was straight out of some dark wizard’s den. Where does one even begin? The studs.

I’ve learned from my friends that potential is hard to see when you focus on all of the ugly stuff.  The wear and tear has a way of inviting you to look away and move on, when it’s the structure itself, its location, and the solid foundation that make what looks like a pit an actual gem of a find.

Latin America has been through a tough season. The wear and tear is there. There is Venezuela’s steep tumble from being a wealthy second world country to becoming one of the poorest countries in the region. And then there is the massive social unrest in Chile that erupted in October of 2019 and continues to rattle the socioeconomic structures of the country. Or how about the skyrocketing inflation in Argentina that is devastating its middle class?  Wherever you look––Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia––they all had significant challenges before the global pandemic created havoc on the continent. As one of the hardest hit regions in the world, the pandemic only further deepened the hardships this region had been facing, while creating new ones in its path. And yet the possibilities. 

 

For those who have the eyes of those who are rebuilders of walls, those who can see beyond the formidable challenges, there is an excitement of what God desires to do in a region where everything feels like it’s been stripped back to the studs.

 

I just got back from a three week trip to Peru, where I had the honor of connecting with many pastors, those who I have the honor of serving on the same team with, as well as others who we are in relationship with. They all have eyes like my friends who flip houses do. Though tired and worn thin from years of being in church-survival mode, they all seem to know that a season of new opportunities of doing things in new ways has arrived. As my Pastor, Robert Barriger, has been repeating over and over again to his staff and the congregation of Camino de Vida, “We are in a season of rebuilding.” There are new tools, new blueprints, new people in this season of rebuilding, and that sense of possibility is so strong in them all. 

 

Let me suggest one new opportunity.

One arena of missions that represents a great place for new possibilities is mission trips. They came, almost entirely, to a screeching halt in March 2020, when country after country shut its borders to international travel. The once typical strategy of gathering a team of 8-15 people and traveling to a country to serve a church or mission for 7-10 days now increasinging feels like a distant memory. And although these kinds of trips are beginning to slowly start up once again, there will still be a lot of work to be done for people to feel safe enough and to choose to cooperate with much stricter vaccination and mask mandates than perhaps they are used to in the United States. 

This opens up a fascinating new possibility for missions trips––trips where people pack bags and get on planes to encounter ministry opportunities for 7-10 days in another country. What if we reexamined the who going where

 

What if raising funds for a mission trip wasn’t only about “us” getting “there” but also, from time-to-time, including “them” coming “here?” 

I keep dreaming of the impact it would have to bring pastors and their families––those who have served so sacrificially and intensely over the last two years––for a mission trip up to the States. And instead of them doing a building project, or hosting a summer camp or doing an evenagelistic outreach, their vital missions would be to breathe. To take a deep breath and recharge. To reconnect as a family outside of all the non-stop demands of ministry. Where they could feel the love of God through families coming around them to take them on a boat ride, or through the woods on horseback. Families that would pray for them and allow them to tell their stories perhaps around a bonfire under the stars. 

There is a lot of work to be done in the space of keeping pastors and their families in the race. So many know that the road of rebuilding ahead is a long and hard one. And it would be such an experience of grace to be invited into a legitimized space of self care to replenish. The missions trips where people go will always have their place and always be important. But with the unique and extenuating circumstance the pandemic has created, I believe there is an exciting possibility to sow into the lives of church leaders who have a hefty task ahead of them, one that will require them to be brave and well rested. In this way they will be able to see beyond the rubble and fallen walls all the beautiful possibilities that God has with their churches and the cities they find themselves in. 

 

Interested in seeing how you can help keep Latin American pastors and church leaders stay in the race? Send me an email and we can get a conversation started. 

 

danny@gsoverseas.org

By: Danny Gutierrez

To find out more about Danny Gutierrez and his ministry, click here.

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