Spanish websites expand reach

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. WELS World Missions is using these tools to reach out to Spanish speakers around the world, connecting them with each other and their Savior.

The One Latin America team (1LA) and Multi-Language Publications, with help from national Spanish-speaking church bodies, have developed the following online resources. (Christ Academy) offers free Spanish video and audio resources that share the gospel message and teach lessons on Christianity and the Bible. The two most popular downloads are Spanish versions of the recent WELS movies Come Follow Me and My Son, My Savior. National pastors and missionaries are online for live chats with those visiting the site.

Leaders’ guides are available for Bible studies so that local lay leaders can use the materials in their communities. “We want to empower people to start churches that faithfully teach Christ,” says Rev. Mike Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America. “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. More than one hundred people have already signed up for these courses.

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 more than 400,000 people a day with Christ-centered messages and links to the Academia Cristo website. (Christ Lutheran Church) enables people to participate in live-streamed Christ-centered worship, prepared especially for the online viewer. Visitors can also 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. Spanish speakers from ten different countries have gone through instruction classes and joined Most Holy Trinity. (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.

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 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 to their families back in Latin America.

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. Rev. Nate Seiltz, director of Multi-Language Publications, says this model of using digital media may be used in other areas of the world in the future.

Learn more about outreach in Latin America in the June WELS Connection.