Spreading Hope in Latin America

By Jerri Menges   •   June 7, 2005

The Project, called Mi Esperanza in Spanish, delivers the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a three-night series of telecasts on major networks. Volunteer Mateos (Spanish for “Matthews”) invite family, friends and neighbors into their homes to watch the telecasts. The Mateos are so called because in the Bible, after Matthew began to follow Jesus, he held a banquet for Jesus at his house and invited his friends.

The first two broadcasts feature songs and testimonies from well-known artists and a brief sermon by Billy Graham or Franklin Graham. The third night features the World Wide Pictures film Road to Redemption, followed by an invitation from Franklin Graham for viewers to commit their lives to Christ.

Then, in each participating home throughout the country, the Mateos share their own testimonies and invite their guests to make a decision for Christ. They lead their guests through a series of steps to receive Christ, then provide follow-up to ensure that those making decisions are integrated into a local church.

“Last year, in three countries, we had about 15,000 churches participating,” said Greg Matthews, who manages the World Television Project in Latin America. “We could have in excess of 25,000 churches this year. And with an average of 15 homes per church, that could total about one-third of a million homes. Of course it all happens one church and one home at a time.”

Although the broadcasts are still many weeks away, Christians are hard at work preparing for the outreach.

“It is about a 10-month process, from beginning to end,” Matthews said.

It starts with finding the right coordinators to build the national organization. The coordinators share the vision with pastors, who then present it to their congregations. The pastor asks for 15 or more volunteers–the Mateos–to open their homes to guests on telecast nights.

“The key is getting the Mateos trained well,” Matthews said. “We begin with the burden to pray. We get them praying for their family, friends and neighbors, then they invite these people into their homes. The telecasts present the Gospel; the next step is in the hands of the Mateos. They are trained to share their testimony in three minutes.”

Forty to 70 percent of those making decisions are integrated into a local church, according to Matthews. “The churches explode in growth overnight, and in some cases new churches are planted, with 40 to 80 people in one week.”

Volunteers are impassioned about the upcoming telecasts, going the extra mile to spread the Gospel–even up and down the Amazon River.

“One coordinator learned of a group of about 70 or 80 churches along the river in Peru,” Matthews said. “He asked for boat fuel, so we bought the fuel and he headed down the river to share the vision of Mi Esperanza with those churches. They’ll have dozens–no, hundreds–of homes opening up to share the Gospel as a result of that boat ride.”

At the same time the telecasts are being shown in homes, some villagers will be watching the programs on sheets hanging from trees.

“Some parts of our target areas don’t have the TV broadcast signal,” Matthews says. “Our desire is for Mi Esperanza to be a national effort in these countries, so in cases where there is no signal, we send a coordinator out with a video projector. The coordinator sets up the projector so people in these areas can see the same telecast as those watching on network television. We will be doing that in Peru, in the high Andes where the Quechua people live.

“This is a place where no crusade will ever come. In fact, Mi Esperanza is making history in Peru, much like it did in Bolivia last year. It’s the first national evangelistic telecast to be broadcast in the country’s native language.”

The far-reaching results of Mi Esperanza are unprecedented, he said.

“We go into a country, and all the denominations work together to tell people that Jesus died for their sins, that He was buried and rose again. That’s the simple message that Mr. Graham has stuck with through the years.”

And each time the results of the project are reported, Matthews is amazed.

“I pinch myself every time I realize I have the opportunity to work in such an effort,” he said. “And I am so thankful to God for providing the vision and the means to spread the Gospel in this way.”

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