The first full day of sessions for the delegates saw the ranks continuing to swell, with lines at registration all day. Estimates are between 4- 5,000 people at present, but the tallies tomorrow should be more accurate. Ill try to get that information tomorrow for those of you who keep track of such things.
The variety of appearances here is certainly a surprise for me, who has never ventured further south than Mexico. Even though the language is Espanol, those speaking it as their mother tongue range in coloring from as blonde as my Norwegian grandma to as dark as our brothers from Africa. I havent a clue, when looking at their features, whether they speak English or not (more often not). Even those wearing the label E. U. A. (Estados Unidos) are likely to be Spanish-speaking, or at least bilingual, while I fumble around with my Sesame Street espanol. (Uno, dos, tres; Mayamo Deborah). Thankfully a handshake and a smile speaks in all languages.
There are also many children here, mostly preschoolers. There is a special program for them. Latino America 2000 was prepared for every age except babies. Despite the extended hours, I have heard no whining, and few complaints from these flexible youngsters. One charming 3-year-old at lunch was so adapted to life in a crowd, that following a few bites of her lunch hot dog and rice, and a shy but friendly greeting to me, she clambered onto Mom's lap and within seconds was fast asleep. Throughout the day, I saw groups of 8-10 kids marching single file from activity to activity, some clutching favorite stuffed animals, all in apparent good humor.
Today's first plenary presenter was Peter Wagner, the coordinator of the AD2000 Prayer Network. He challenged us to sing the new song of Revelation 5:9, with every tongue and tribe. Since there is no way we can humanly fulfill this Great Commission by the year 2000, we look to Scripture for how to accomplish this. In Revelation 5:8 we see the incense bowls filled with prayer. Peter shared his personal conviction that each people has its own bowl which must be filled with prayer so that people may come into the kingdom. Therefore we must pray for each people group.
He referred to a colorful map provided by the AD2000 International Office showing the location of the Joshua Project peoples and urged participants to get involved in the Praying Through the Window III. He reported that more than 36 million are expected to participate in 1997.
Rolando Justiniano, Latin American Director of Campus Crusade for Christ, gave credit to those who laid the foundation in Latin America, then shared new things God is doing to fulfill the Great Commission today. For one, He is raising up unusual leaders. One boutique owner in the "pink" (high fashion) district of Mexico City turned to Christ when his store was cleaned out by thieves. As he knelt sobbing in the broken glass, someone handed him a Bible. He started an informal Bible study among his clients, those in the Mexican movie industry. Currenty 60 adults attend. He also ministers to 200 children.
He proposed several keys to saturation evangelism. Cooperating and coordinating with others is a large key, Baptists with Presbyterians and Pentecostals, Garcias with Gonzalezes. Another is recognizing the importance of the Monday through Saturday church, that is, the church in the world. Sunday is only a training session.
He emphasized that Latins are very passionate people and they must vow to direct all their passion towards Christ and the Great Commission so that even the smallest tribes may have the gospel in their mother tongue.
He confessed on behalf of his people that they have sometimes spoken condescendingly about the Indians and repented publicly. He urged students to spend their vacations going to Indian people, since students are able to learn language quickly. He urged professionals to send and fund missionaries to unreached peoples. He urged pastors to start the new year with new vision for the unreached.
The worship time emphasized "here am I, Lord, send me."
After lunch, I did some exploring. My most significant "find" was the Intercessors room. I wasnt sure whether it was one of the track meetings and when I asked, I was invited inside a small room, where a group of perhaps a dozen Panamanian women, and one man stood before a large world map mural. "Certainly, you may come in and take our picture, but we *must* have something to pray for you." I explained my task as reporter. They began praying rather reservedly, but soon gathered around me and the music of their Spanish prayers swelled as they blessed my hands, feet, and head. One woman brusquely grabbed my camera and laid it aside so that she might rub my hands as she prayed for them. It was almost like getting a therapy massage, only better. I left there as dazed as if I had been caught in a whirlpool of love.
Next I discovered Bill and Vonette Bright tucked away in a quiet hall with a small group of friends. I had always wondered whether Dr. Bright might not be eating at the Westin Hotel accross the street rather than sharing our simple food, but here he was with a styro box and tiny plastic fork in hand. He gave a big bear hug to a friend, but wouldn't repeat it for my camera, although he did give me a "look at the birdie" shot. He then offered a blessing so eloquent and gracious it should have turned the white rice and hot dog into thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. I set off to find the denominational leaders track across the street at the hotel.
The denominational leaders meetings had been going on all morning, with about 100 in attendance from a full range of denominations and non-denominations, from Four Square to Episcopal, from the Evangelical Alliance of Mexico to the Jewish Messianic Alliance of Colombia.
Avery Willis of the Southern Baptist Convention and leader of the AD2000 denominations track, expostulated that denominations are not abominations, but biblically-based manifestations of the "exhilarating variety in Gods Kingdom." He called for denominations to return to their historical role of leadership in frontier mission.
John Gilbert, of the Foreign Mission Board of the SBC Research Department, presented the latest "Status of Global Evangelization 1996 Annual Report" and explained the terms defining the different levels of reached and unreached peoples.
Valentin Gonzalez, AD2000 Latin American Coordinator and conference planner, described the work and goals of Joshua Project 2000 for Latin America.
Phil Butler, Partnerships Director of AD2000, presented models for partnership and described successful partnerships in frontier mission.
Jim Slack, another Southern Baptist, presented a Methodology to Achieve An Indigenous Church Growth Movemet Among The World's Most Inaccessible And Least Evangelized Peoples.
Participants reviewed the first draft of a Declaration designed to recognize and confirm agreement that denominations and agencies must unite efforts, while still respecting the unique contributions of each one.
Ruben Proietti, the Executive Secretary of CONELA (Confraternidad Evangelica Latinoamericana) acting as Master of Ceremonies, kept the leaders laughing with his quick-witted comments (and he said I couldn't possibly write about him because I didn't speak Spanish and he didn't speak English - Ha!
Avery Willis commented to me during a break that the significance of this gathering is that it is the first time that leaders from Latin America and North America have come together for the purpose of learning to work together. Leaders have high hope for the potential of this meeting to increase the effectiveness of missionary activity through greater cooperation.
I made a brief stop in the large auditorium where Josh McDowell in baggy exercise wear was holding his young audience of perhaps a thousand college students in rapt attention with stories about his courtship and early marriage. He ended with the promise that he would talk tomorrow about - condoms. That is probably a first at an AD2000 sponsored event! (and will no doubt find the kids tuning in tomorrow to hear what he has to say).
Vonette Bright in the family track was speaking to a group of several hundred women about methods women can use for evangelistic outreach. When one woman questioned the heavily male-dominated Latin society, and whether as Christian, they should try to break free of this, Vonette replied with the wisdom of Solomon. She suggested that there was plenty of ministry to do without threatening or competing for the men's ministries. Once a woman has successfully proved that she is capable of managing successful ministry, she will gain respect from men naturally and will not need to fight for it.
The Government track had people packing the doorways and carrying on lively conversation. But alas there was no translator, so I moved on.
Tom Pelton, the Director of March for Jesus in the Americas (North, Central and South), was thankfully speaking English (with a translator for everyone but me). In the audience were the MFJcoordinators of El Salvador, Panama, Bolivia,Venezuela, and city coordinators for Brazil and Costa Rica. But the majority of the crowd had not ever participated in a March for Jesus.
Tom reported that in 1996, 12 million worldwide marched, with 6 million in the Americas, 5 of those in Latin America. People marched (or held prayer rallies in countries where marches are illegal such as in Cuba) in 178 countries. The march began in Tonga at sunrise and followed the sun around the world, to fulfill the verse that from the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The King of Tonga, a believer, set a worthy example by offering lunch to all participants in his country after the march. In Japan 4,000 marched. In Moscow, 5,000 marched and a KGB agent gave his life to Christ. In the Philippines, 100,000 filled the streets. Africa more hundreds of thousands, including 700,000 in Zaire alone. Marchers even spanned from the top to the bottom of earth: 5 marches within the arctic circle while hardy souls in Chile marched through winter snow. When in El Salvador 210,000 knelt to repent before the nation, onlookers began to applaud. Sao Paulo, Brazil had one of the biggest marches with 1.5 million.
Latin America has the most visionary goal for March for Jesus, that not only some, or most, but that every Christian would get up and into the streets to march.
Tom spoke about the future - a birthday march for Jesus in AD2000. The purpose and focus of MFJ continues to be prayer for world evangelization - for all nations to come to Christ. If it isn't on your calendar yet, 1997's MFJ date is May 17.
While Peter Wagner's session was in Spanish without a translator, I walked with him and got his impression of his Spiritual Warfare and Prayer track between sessions. His chief impression was how advanced the intercessors are here. A few years ago there would be few who understood warfare. But today it was standing room only in his small auditorium, with many asking questions which revealed the depth of their understanding and experience in prayer.
He also commented about how conferences such as this have changed drastically in the last few years: today no one would think of arranging a conference without intercessors praying, if not around the clock, then during the meetings.
The evening concluded with an extended time of loud warfare against the barriers to unity in Latin America. We held hands and prayed, chanted, and proclaimed the power of the Lord in overcoming the strongholds of the enemy and in sending the gospel to the whole world. They mean it! Look out world, the Latins are coming!
Stay tuned tomorrow for more of Latino America Dos Mil coming to you direct from
Panama City, Panama.
Director of Publications, AD2000 & Beyond Movement
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