Internet and smartphone usage is on the rise in Spanish-speaking countries; there were more than 70 million smartphone users in Mexico at the end of 2015. World Missions, through its One Latin America team (1LA) and Multi-Language Publications, is using these tools to reach out to Spanish speakers around the world, connecting them with each other and their Savior.
The 1LA team and Multi-Language Publications, with help from national Spanish-speaking church bodies, have developed a suite of websites that functions—as Mike Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America, describes it—as a church does.
● A PLACE TO WORSHIP: Iglesialuteranacristo.com (Christ Lutheran Church) enables people to participate in live-streamed Christ-centered worship. Hartman shares that 95 percent of the people in Latin America never have experienced a Christ-centered church service. Now, through these live-streamed services prepared especially for the online viewer, they can experience Christ-centered worship as well as download resources such as liturgies and hymns for their own use.
The Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia has taken the lead on this project, broadcasting the services from Most Holy Trinity in Medellín. Three different worship leaders—Henry Herrera (see p. 28) from Colombia, Juan Garcia from the United States, and Andrés San Martín from Chile—conduct the service, which includes a live chat window to interact with online viewers. Spanish-speakers from ten different countries have gone through instruction classes with Herrera and joined Most Holy Trinity.
● A PLACE TO LEARN: Academiacristo.com (Christ Academy) was developed in 2015 to provide free Spanish video and audio resources that share the gospel message and teach lessons on Christianity and the Bible. The two most popular resources are Spanish versions of the recent WELS movies Come Follow Me and My Son, My Savior. Spanish-speaking national pastors and missionaries are online for live chats with those visiting the site. The site also directs them to Iglesia Luterana Cristo for online worship.
Leaders’ guides are available for Bible studies so that local lay leaders can take the materials and use them in their communities. “We want to empower people to start churches that faithfully teach Christ,” says Hartman. “Our main focus is working with contacts who reach out to us.” In April, the site began offering live weekly online classes to train leaders how to conduct Bible classes in their communities.
● A PLACE TO REACH OUT: “One of our main goals in Latin America is to become a known entity,” says Hartman. “In Mexico, there are more Buddhists than Lutherans. No one knows who a Lutheran is.” The Academia Cristo Facebook page is used to get the name “Lutheran” out in Latin America as well as to promote resources. With limited advertising, the site reaches an average of 300,000 people a day with Christ-centered messages and links to Academia Cristo.
● A PLACE FOR INFORMATION: Cristopalabradevida.com (Christ Word of Life) serves as a digital newsletter for Spanish-speakers. Meant mainly for those already in our fellowship, the site contains daily audio devotions, Christian resources in Spanish, and news about confessional Lutheranism. This site replaces El Mensajero Luterano (Lutheran Messenger), a printed newsletter that was distributed to Spanish-speaking congregations for the past four decades.
While the Internet is being used to distribute information, Hartman is quick to point out that this doesn’t replace face-to-face communication. It’s actually meant to promote it. “We are seeking to use online means of communication God has given us to empower more people to do on-the-ground ministry,” he says. Several members of the 1LA team live in Mexico and will work directly with contacts to start new churches. Another team member works with Spanish-speaking members in the United States who want to reach out with the gospel message to their families back in Latin America. Connections made through Academia Cristo have opened up new opportunities for church planting in several different areas in Colombia.
The sites also allow any WELS member to spread the gospel to their Spanish-speaking neighbors. “You don’t have to know Spanish,” says Hartman. “We’re giving you the resources to help you share your faith with someone who prefers to speak Spanish.”
Multi-Language Publications prepares the resources for these sites, while the 1LA team makes connections and follows up on contacts. According to Nate Seiltz, director of Multi-Language Publications, this model of using digital media may be used in other areas of the world in the future.
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Volume 103, Number 05
Issue: May 2016
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