Today God threw down a gauntlet and watched to see who would accept the challenge. This final day of the conference had 3600 people jumping for joy and down on their knees in the aisles. The commitments made here will take many of them down roads they had never dreamed. The world, and if Loren Cunningham is right, particularly the Muslim world, may also walk a new road because of the work God did here tonight. Tonight the Latin Church was set on fire for evangelizing the world. Let the strongholds of the enemy tremble.
Today was a day of stories, and there were so many great ones today, I want to share several with you.
Victor Koh, regional coordinator for NE Asia for the AD2000 and Beyond Movement, Chairman of the Saturation Evangelism and Small Group Leadership Development track led by Paul Eshleman, and Director of Affairs for East Asia with Campus Crusade for Christ, Intl., came from Singapore to challenge the Latin American church and share some of the ways that the Church in China has overcome its Jerichos. China and Latin America share many of the same obstacles: financial need, unsympathetic government, religious antagonists. When China closed its doors to the West in 1940, there were about 1 million Christians. We thought that without outside help, it would be dying, but after 40 years, it had grown to perhaps 50 million believers. Since then, it has continued to thrive to 75 million. In China today there are more Christians than Communist Party members.
Government rules in China are big strict Jerichos. In the late 1980's when the Soviet Union fell and Tienamen Square protests provoked a massacre, the Chinese government decided that two groups were destabilizers: religious groups and ethnic groups, particularly educators to those groups. But even though life became more difficult for some Christians, in some areas, God has given favor with local officials. Now in China, at least 5,000 people per day come to Christ. But it is not without much creative witness.
Christians not only live for Christ, but they die for Christ also. They record their testimonies on cassette tape. After their deaths, the tape is played for all the guests: "Dear friends, thank you for coming to my funeral. I want you to know Someone very important in my life, Jesus Christ." They go on to tell how Christ changed their lives and blessed them. "It is my greatest wish that you should know Him also. Therefore I want you to watch this movie." The family then shows the Jesus film. Victor knows of 7,000 of these evangelistic funerals. The superstitious authorities leave funerals alone.
God has performed signs and wonders both small and large. In one instance, a government official was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His wife asked the Christians to come and pray over him. He was healed and the whole family has received Christ.
In another area, a pastor asked permission to register her house church, but instead, members were sent to prison where some were shot, but the Christians continued to meet. The pastor went again to try to get permission to build a church on donated land, but permission was denied. The 200 believers would have to travel four hours to reach an approved church. As she was pleading with the officials, they were picking apples to eat. Since Chinese cut apples before eating them, she offered to cut one for them. The official said that if she could break the apple in half with her bare hands, she could build the building. Today that building holds a thousand people.
The evening had lots of jokes about strange foods. Victor kept the crowd laughing with his jokes about Chinese eating habits. He said they would eat anything that flies except airplanes, anything that swims except submarines, and if Adam and Eve were Chinese, we would not be a fallen race, because they would have ignored the apple and eaten the snake! Snake hunting is an ideal vocation for itinerant evangelists, because it gives them a legitimate reason to travel widely.
He invited the audience to dedicate themselves to one of two callings, either full time missionary, or full time marketplace Christian whose purpose is to evangelize wherever they find themselves and support missions financially. Everyone quickly rose to their feet.
One thing that has stood out at this conference is the key role of translators. An excellent translator, who can find? Several of the main sessions have been translated on stage into Spanish by Daniel Bianchi, who was widely known as Billy Graham's translator in Latin America. He not only was able to translate as rapidly as the speakers could talk, but mirrored exactly their tone and gestures. We were all in awe of his skill, especially as the speakers "heated up." There were also English and Portuguese translators who stood behind the crowd and transmitted to our earphones, and some who went to track meetings and interviews with me so I could report to you. Thank God for these integral bilingual servants.
I had several divine appointments today during the breaks, one of which was an interview with Milagros Hernandez, the president of the Baptist Women's association in Cuba, and Vice President for all Latin America. Her presence here was a surprise to many, and it was not originally her plan either. She had wanted to come to a regional conference in Panama last summer, but the visas did not arrive in time. Similarly, the visas for the two pastors, who were supposed to represent Cuba here at LA2000, did not arrive either, so she was able to use her very tardy visa to attend. Her story, like many here, is about the Jesus Film.
The first Jesus Film arriving Cuba was a video, which was quickly worn to shreds. Then two 16mm sets arrived with projectors and generators. Cuba forbids any public gathering, but the church applied for a permit to block off their street to show the film. The answer was no. The screen is transparent so that it may be viewed on both sides. The church moved their pews facing the door and set the screen in the doorway with the door open. The neighborhood gathered to watch from the street. So many gathered, that the street was blocked anyway, so the officials grudgingly gave permission to block the streets for the next four nights so it could be shown. Thousands throughout Cuba have seen the film while standing outside a church watching the back of a screen.
Christians in Cuba have no Christian radio, tv, or periodicals, but she promises that someday she will have the privilege of reading this article. She passionately vows that when laws change (and she has strong faith that they will), the Christians want to rent the largest stadium in Cuba and present the Jesus Film free of charge.
In the Evangelizing Megacities track, leader Otto Kladensky, Hispanic World coordinator for the AD2000 Cities track, challenged the leaders with focus. You can't do everything, he said, but you can do what God is asking you to do. It is your job to determine exactly what He is asking you to do -- a clear vision in sharp focus.
The Bible Translation Track focused on the basics of translation and how a Latin American can be trained for this ministry. It is a new concept here, so it is important to strengthen the networks of information to those who the Lord may be calling, but don't know how to be trained. FEDEMEC a network in Costa Rica, will facilitate training and Wycliffe and the Translation Task Force of AD2000 is inviting any Latin American network to develop a cooperation agreement for training as well. They also discussed the need for culturally proper church planting. As Spanish speakers go out to Indians, they must not plant Spanish churches, any more than Americans should plant American churches. They need to learn to plan Indian churches which reflect the Indian culture. They also said that there was so much effort in the plenaries on ethnolinguistic peoples, that their job was made much easier.
The exhibit hall and registration area has been busy from morning till night each day. One display is an advocacy center for the three New Tribes missionaries, David Mankins, Rick Tenenoff, and Mark Rich, still being held hostage in Colombia. During the weekend, over 2,000 signatures were collected to send to the government, petitioning for their rescue. Brochures showed the three men with their wives, and inside, their children and parents.
After a grand finale two box dinner (a green salad in one, macaroni, and sauteed beef and vegetables in the other) we headed back in for the final plenary sessions.
Pablos Deiros, well known Latin American church historian presented an overview of the history of the church in one hour. He did it brilliantly by using the parable of the master of the house. We don't know when the Lord is coming. Will it be in the first, second or third watch? He related the watches to the ages since the birth of the church. The first watch was the first century church. They expected the Lord to come during the first watch and it was an integral part of the gospel message. By the end of the first century, there was already 1 million Christians, but the Master did not return and the church declined.
The second watch was also called the Midnight Watch. It was the Middle ages, the darkest part with the deepest sleep. During the Middle Ages, the world was without the Bible, except a few in church libraries, and written in Latin.
The third watch was the cockcrow. This was the Reformation. When a rooster crows, it is still night, but it is no longer quiet. It shows the light is coming, the night has ended. Reformers brought back the Bible, teaching and preaching.
But the last was the morning watch, the last of the night. This is where we live. The Master is returning to put His house in order.
One of the highlights was a performance by the children's track. About fifty kids lined up on the stage, singing with choreographed hand motions. A very small boy, perhaps 4, recited I Corinthinas13:1. They did a dramatic reading and then the preschoolers arrived, each carrying a sign representing the big blocks of unreached. Their final exhortation was t o "Wake Up!"
The most riveting presentation of the evening was by Loren Cunningham, the founder and president of Youth With a Mission, which now has 11,000 workers and many short termers in 6,000 ministry centers, as well as four hospital ships. He has visited every country in the world but one (he didn't say which), and most of its major cities and territories.
He "warmed up the crowd" with stories of his last visit to Irian Jaya. The tribe he visited had been cannibals, except that four years before, another missionary came. (He was very glad the other got there first or he would have worried more when they invited him to dinner!) They brought him three large plates of grub worms, each prepared differently. Question: Did he eat them? Answer: would you say "no" to a cannibal? He said that if you took a box of cereal and poured it in a bowl, then ate the box, that's what the grubs tasted like. In his travels, he's eaten just about everything, grasshoppers, dog, cat, rat, crocodile, snake. The strangest was the embryo of an animal in its heart sack. It had been cooked only slightly so that it was still liquid inside and served lukewarm. Everyone squirmed to imagine this odious dish. "What's more, it was served to me right here in Latin America!" A moan went up from the crowd. "They called it a soft-boiled egg. What strange customs you people have!" Everyone laughed. "See", he emphasized, [repugnance] "is all in your mind."
Then he settled down to his central purpose. He related the challenge as given in Habakkuk 2 "The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea." It will be everywhere, but not accepted by everyone, anymore than big rocks absorb water.
We are facing a new year with the moment of our greatest opportunity. Why do we know that we can meet the challenge?
He told us stories about the Anastasis, the first YWAM ship which travels in Africa doing eye and cleft palate surgeries. In Tenerrife, a blind man was brought to the ship. Where the average person's income is only $10 a month, the blind man was incredibly poor. Surgeons not only restored his sight, but led him to the Lord. Within a few days he was leading others to Christ. A little girl, whose cleft palate had marked her as cursed by God, had never eaten at a table before. Her family found her so odious, they fed her with the animals on the ground. Her palate was repaired and she not only ate at the table, but came to the table of Jesus.
In 1979, five weeks before the new decade of the 80's, the ship's crew was in Greece near Corinth. A crewmen was walking along the beach and saw 12 fish caught in a tidepool. He asked God to help him catch them and brought them back for dinner. The next day, as he walked the beach, a large fish jumped from the waves to his feet. Then one girl was having her devotions on a rock and suddenly fish started leaping from the ocean at her. She ran and got help. They picked up 200 fish. God was definitely doing something here. The locals said they had never seen or heard of anything like this before. Three days later, it was on the front page of the newspaper and the national television. Loren called for thanksgiving for the miracle of the fish. As Don Stevens led in worship, fish came in on the waves and leaped towards him. He was a fishermen, not squeamish about such things, so he picked it up and threw it back. It turned and jumped at him again. By the end of the day, they had counted, photographed, salted and preserved 8,301 fish. God revealed that this was a sign that they would experience great harvest as never before during the 80's.
Loren also has been able to see political change before it happens. In 1985, he was preaching in Finland. God suddenly gave him a vision of the Soviet Union: free preaching, Bibles coming in, and missionaries going out. God impressed on him that openness was coming to the Soviet Union. It came the next year with Glasnost =openness. And God did as he had revealed. Later he commissioned 42 missionaries sent from the Soviet Union, watched Bibles come in and free preaching on the streets, just as his vision.
In 1987, he was preaching to 8,000 Germans in Frankfurt. God revealed that the two Germanies would become one, and the Berlin wall would soon come down. A public statement was made that it would stand for 100 years, but by the end of the year, the wall was down.
Now God is impressing him with a vision for North Korea, and he was able to visit there. Last July he urged South Koreans to stockpile Bibles, train evangelists, and get ready for the door to open. In 1971, when he spoke there the first time, he urged them to send 3,000 missionaries. They said that they couldn't possibly. They were not rich enough to send missionaries. He told them to obey first, and God would provide. They evangelized in their own country, God prospered them as the percentage of Christians grew, until now they have 3,000 missionaries serving worldwide. He now will be challenging them for 10,000. The church where he preached in 1971 to 6,000 members, now has 750,000, the biggest in the world.
Jesus is also moving in India, Africa, and China. This fight is "fixed". Jesus is winning. Pentecost was just a little foreshadowing of Revelation. He will do it. In 1974, Drs McGavren and Winters present the concept of people groups at Lausanne. This instigated major change in missions. Every nation has believers. We must reach the ethnic groups. Once he was preaching to some young people overseas, challenging them to go out as missionaries. The resident missionary said "You can't do that *we're* the missionaries!"
He countered, "But their Bible has the same commandment that yours does!" Every culture is commanded to go to other cultures where there is no witness. The whole church must be mobilized to reach the whole world. "Latin America it is your time!" He has already lifted up mature leadership from Latin America such as Luis Palau and Luis Bush. He has prepared you numerically, from 50,000 95 years ago, to 40 million in 1990. He wants you to go out to the peoples of earth. A chart in Forbes magazine 1991 showed how evangelicalism and economics have increased in tandem.
The most intriguing presentation was Loren's portion about Latin America's links with the Muslims. Many words in Arabic are similar to Spanish. Where could this come from? In 1492, Spain and Portugal broke free of the Muslim Moors who had ruled for 700 years, but the spirit of Muslim remained. The inquisition was evidence of it. The conquistadors took it to Latin America. It was not the Holy Spirit who raped the native women and lusted for gold, it was the spirit of the Moors, of Islam. But when you take a little of a disease in your blood you become immune to it. Loren believes that the revival in Latin America has released them from the spirit of Islam, and that God will send Latin Americans to the Islamic people to help them to become free of this as well.
You could hear yourself breath, as the huge packed auditorium listened to the story of Loren and his wife's car accident in the middle of the Arizona desert. His wife had been driving and lost control of the car when a tire blew. When he came to consciousness, he was covered with his own blood. He found his wife not breathing, her head laid open at the back, her open eyes fixed. He had never felt so alone as in that moment. God asked "do you still want to serve me?"
Loren replied "I have nothing left." I thought of all the things I thought mine. Nothing was truly mine. Not possessions, not relationships, not even "my" wife. Everything was Gods, mine only to enjoy for a season. I wondered how often I had used His things for His glory or my own. Everything was so clear. I said "God, I give it all to you." He told me to pray for Darlene. At the same instant, he told others to pray for us. Suddenly God gave him back his wife. But my life was changed forever.
After very enthusiastic singing to a favorite Latin-rhythm praise song, each of the organizers gave parting thoughts and thanks to the many volunteers who made the conference possible. Mario Bloise, to finalize the commitments that everyone had made at several points over the last four days, asked everyone to kneel in consecration. He reminded us that we do have the resources to send missionaries. With 60 million Christians in Latin America, if everyone gave a mere $1 per month, it would be $6 million, enough to send lots of missionaries. Even fifty cents each would send many. Latin Americans have thousands of seminaries, hundreds of megachurches. Meanwhile billions live where they do not have a gospel witness. "We can do this. Let us consecrate ourselves to go out to the world."
The delegates responded in every row and seat, kneeling, earnestly doing business with God, some crumpled in submission, their foreheads on the floor--three thousand five hundred delegates and many locals from Panama City. God is calling Latin Americans to go for Him. They will obey.
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