AD2000 International Office
Invited by the AD2000 and Beyond Movement and Campus Crusade for Christ, they came to Panama City, Panama, from all over Latin America: from the coastlands of Chile, to the islands of the Carribean. They were Baptists and Charismatics, black, brown and white, 3600 strong, church planters from Mexico, housewife prayer warriors from Brazil. Children came, tiny ones asleep on their mother's shoulders, teenagers dancing and clapping to the rhythms of Latin praise music.
Leaders well-known in North America came: the founders of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill and Vonette Bright, authors, Josh McDowell and Peter Wagner, AD2000 International Director, Luis Bush, Youth With a Mission founder, Loren Cunningham, Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board Vice President, Avery Willis, Jesus Film director, Paul Eshleman.
Leaders well-known in Latin America came, Campus Crusade for Christ Latin America director, Rolando Justiniano, Confraternity of Evangelical Churches of Latin America Secretary, Ruben Proietti, AD2000 and Beyond Movement for the Hispanic World director, Valentin Gonzalez, Senator and presidential candidate from Colombia, Claudia Rodriguez, and regional coordinators for both the AD2000 and Beyond Movement and from Campus Crusade for Christ.
For four days, from December 27-30, 1996, they prayed, listened, talked, and asked God to show them His plans to evangelize Latin America and the world. They called it Latinoamerica 2000. Like the AD2000 and Beyond Movement's Global Consultation for World Evangelization in Seoul, Korea, 1995 (GCOWE `95), where this idea of a Spanish-speaking world evangelism conference was born, Latinoamerica 2000 focused on the proposal "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000." They asked themselves and each other, "What could Latin Americans bring to the task of world evangelization and what was God calling them to do?
World evangelization was also the theme at two other major missions conferences held in the Americas during the same week, Urbana 96 in Illinois, and Conquista 96 in Mexico City. A phone conversation between Urbana's director Dan Harrison and AD2000 International Director, Luis Bush, broadcast on the PA system in Panama and Illinois, highlighted the common purpose of delegates in both locations.
The Latin American conference was strategically placed in the largest and most centrally-located convention center in Latin America, called Atlapa, for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans between which it is situated. There delegates stood up, kneeled down, and raised hands to show that they were willing to go; both to saturate Latin America and to reach the peoples of the Joshua Project 2000 list of 1739 largest groups which have no church within their own cultures. Many are located in the 10/40 window, a rectangle which stretches from ten degrees to forty degrees north of the equator in the eastern hemisphere.
Bringing them to this overwhelming point of decision were many strong realizations. A drama the first night portrayed the mental struggle of a Latin American "Everyman". He was too busy earning a living and too poor to reach beyond his own sphere. He had too little to offer. Leave the job to the North Americans. But the command to "go" reads the same in Spanish and Portuguese as in English. None of God's people is exempt from the Great Commission, or from the privilege of sending cross-cultural missionaries to a people who have never heard. God's command to Everyman was "Rise up and walk!"
AD2000 Saturation and Evangelism Track chairman, Victor Koh, a guest speaker from Singapore, described how the church in China thrived despite an oppressive government and total isolation from the West for many years. Another speaker shared how, when Korea committed itself to world mission, God raised its economy, so that today, that small nation sends out 4,000 missionaries.
Far from being a fledgling church movement, Latin America is home to 60 million Christians, with thousands of seminaries and megachurches. Many speakers emphasized the Latino gifts of passion, of creativity, of cultural diversity, of faces which could pass as Middle Eastern in a Muslim nation, gifts which bring strong enabling for cross cultural witness. Prayer expert, Peter Wagner, noted the maturity of the Latin American intercessors and their wisdom in spiritual warfare to support the work of missions.
The funding problem is only perspective. Loren Cunningham described the strange food customs he has encountered, especially the animal embryo served to him warm and half-cooked. It sounded worse than the grubs and grasshoppers he had also eaten, until he mentioned that it was called "soft boiled egg". Many times the ability to accomplish new things needs only a change in perspective. If everyone of the 60 million Latin American believers gave $1 per month for missions, it would be $60 million, enough to send many missionaries. God has given the command, only enough faith is needed to "arise, stand up and walk."
Is it possible to achieve the great goal by AD2000? "According to your faith, be it unto you," challenged Dr. Bright.
Will Latin Americans take the torch of world evangelism and run with the passion for which they are known? Every speaker and every delegate at Latin America 2000 said they will.
They put feet to their commitment right away, with 300 remaining after the conference closed to take the Jesus Film to every area of Panama for three weeks.
The Amazon begins as a trickle high in the Andes mountains, but as each tributary rushes in, it becomes a stream, then a river, finally, a mega-river carrying more water and watering greater forests than any other on earth, creating much of the oxygen for the entire planet. As Latin Americans take up the goal of "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000," and build the linkages to channel the energy from Latinoamerica 2000, their streams of effort will water the whole continent and bring life to the parts of the world which are dying in want of the gospel.
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