In February, representatives from WELS and partners throughout Latin America gathered in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to welcome a new church plant into fellowship. The new church in Cochabamba is the first one planted through Academia Cristo outreach efforts, a milestone for mission work in Latin America.
“The goal of Academia Cristo has always been the planting of new churches, not just offering free online Bible studies,” says Rev. Matthew Behmer, Latin America missionary. “It was a blessing to celebrate the gospel changing hearts of those in Cochabamba, and we’re excited to see who else might learn about grace and what Jesus has done for them through other future church plants in Latin America.”
This new church is led by Dr. Eduardo Milanesi, a surgeon and Academia Cristo student who began studying in the program in April 2020. In less than a year he finished the first part of the program, confessed doctrinal agreement, and started gathering a group in his medical office to study God’s Word using study and worship resources provided by Academia Cristo. This “grupos sembrador,” or church plant group, was also guided by a Latin America missionary. You can read more about the path of Academia Cristo in this article from the January 2022 edition of Forward in Christ magazine.
The church in Cochabamba declared fellowship with Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional, a new synod that was formed in 2021 through the partnership of WELS sister churches across five countries throughout Latin America. This new synod allows these churches to do mission work together, train pastors together, and support each other with prayers and fellowship. It also provides a place to go for new churches formed out of Academia Cristo training efforts, just like the one in Cochabamba. WELS will be affirming fellowship with Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional at the synod convention this summer.
Currently 51 other church planters and 21 church planter groups are on the same path Eduardo and his church took to fellowship. “This seed-sowing path took years to bear its first fruit, and today we see it happen!” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, WELS World Missions administrator. “God has answered our prayers: More member churches are on the way. Church planting groups gathering in hotels, garages, living rooms, and patios are all following this same path. Each of these sites is a lightning rod for the power of Jesus’ gospel as it is preached to many more. God’s Spirit is at work.”
Learn more about Academia Cristo at wels.net/latinamerica.