When Paul Bourman first arrived at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., he opted to take Spanish courses in addition to biblical-related languages. With eyes set on being a pastor, “I wanted to pick the language that would be most useful in a future ministry,” he explains. After studying Spanish at MLC as well as in five other countries in Latin America, Bourman, who is heading to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary this fall, came across a unique way to combine his Spanish training and ministry. This opportunity came in the form of participating in Whatsapp, a phone messaging app that facilitates group texting. The feature is widely used in WELS Latin America outreach initiatives, and students such as Bourman are using it to help spread God’s Word to Spanish speakers on a regular basis.
Whatsapp is one of the main ways individuals in Latin America communicate. This free app allows users to create groups and then send messages that everyone in the group can easily see. From sports activities to school classes and social groups, Whatsapp provides a space in which everyone can stay connected and be included. “Keeping everyone involved goes along with Latin American culture,” notes Mike Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America.
Whatsapp is used in connection with Academiacristo.com (Christ Academy). This site provides free Spanish video and audio resources that share the gospel message and teach lessons on Christianity and the Bible.
When visitors to Academiacristo.com sign up to access these free resources, they are invited to join a Whatsapp group. Participants in each group receive a daily devotion from Cristopalabradevida.com (Christ Word of Life), a site with Christian resources in Spanish.
During the last year, 4,500 individuals have signed up for Academicristo.com, explains Hartman. Of these, 400 people have joined a Whatsapp group as well. “If people visit your website and leave, they might forget about it,” says Hartman. “But if you can get them to join a Whatsapp group, you can share God’s Word with them every day and you become known as an organization that is serious about sharing what God says.”
To facilitate discussion, Whatsapp groups are limited to 25 participants. When a person asks to join a Whatsapp group, Bourman assigns the individual to a group. He also helps oversee a Whatsapp group. Nearly every day, “I post a devotion and then people react to it,” he says. “Sometimes people post a video or share things they’re struggling with.”
He continues, “Everyone in the group feels free to talk about things. A lot of times the devotions will bring up questions. Once, for instance, we had a really great discussion about baptism.”
Each Whatsapp group has an overseeing pastor as well. The main goal is to share the gospel, stay connected with individuals using Academiacristo.com, and encourage those interested to study and learn more about the Bible.
In addition, “It’s a chance for MLC students to gain experience in letting their light shine in the world,” notes Hartman.
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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 06
Issue: June 2016
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