A few months ago, a colleague from his denomination told Juan Cahuasiquita from El Alto-La Paz, Bolivia, that at the end of August there would be an evangelism summit in Quito, Ecuador, organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
The pastor’s heart was filled with longing when he heard that hundreds of pastors from various evangelical denominations from all over South America would attend in order to be trained and encouraged to proclaim the Gospel.
But how could he attend? Quito is more than a two-day bus ride from his home in El Alto, and he couldn’t afford the bus fare. Much less a plane ticket.
Like Cahuasiquita, hundreds of pastors faced challenges that stood like tall walls in front of them, threatening to make it impossible to attend the evangelism summit, “Cumbre de Evangelismo,” held August 29–30 at a hotel near downtown Quito.
But they all held on to their faith, knowing that nothing is impossible for those who walk hand in hand with God.
Pastors and evangelical leaders from all the Spanish-speaking countries of South America were present. Even some Central Americans set out for Quito several days before the event, not knowing that they needed to register in advance.
“I came here by faith, because I had to sell my car to pay for the plane ticket,” shared Cahuasiquita. “I had to do it because I had nowhere to get money for transportation, and the brothers and sisters of my congregation don’t have the means to finance such a high expense either.”
Faith that Transcends Borders
Two groups of pastors and ministry leaders from Venezuela longed to attend the event, but the appalling cost of passports and long wait times made it virtually impossible to leave their country. So, taking a step of faith, they grabbed their luggage, prayed for God to open the way, and headed for the Colombian border.
These men of faith not only made it out of their country, but also made it through Colombia to get to Ecuador, taking as many as eight transfers until they made it to the summit.
“I think it is the hunger and the thirst for God’s Word, the need to keep growing in the Lord’s work, and the desire to learn from what is happening globally,” said Pastor Jaime from the state of Lara in Venezuela. “One sometimes gets stuck in the context of their town or city, and doesn’t know what God is doing in other environments, which can enrich them greatly.”
Viktor Hamm, vice president of Crusades of BGEA, attended the event and proclaimed that many Christians have forgotten that the call of the Gospel carries a very high cost, that it requires sacrifice and humility, but that those who have heard the call do so in the strength that God gives, for Christ’s Name’s sake.
The six messages presented during the event by pastors and speakers revolved precisely around this theme: the proclamation of the Gospel for Christ’s Name’s sake.
‘A Great Need for the Gospel’
Dr. Harold Segura, from Colombia, opened the summit with a message in which he reminded those present that Billy Graham always advocated for unity within the church for the sake of the Gospel, despite denominational differences.
“The Lord showed me that it is true that the church is divided, we are divided by denominations and doctrines,” said Cenaida, native from Ibarra, Ecuador, near the Colombian border. “Even within each church we are divided by social status or levels of education, and God is calling us to unity around the Great Commission, because in the world there is a great need for the Gospel.”
Throughout the summit, the presentations continued to speak to the hearts of the attendees.
“Are you looking to be popular? Being a Christian will never be popular, because the values of the kingdom of God are not the values of the kingdom of darkness,” Wendy Bello, a Cuban-born writer and speaker, reminded the audience. “Trial and persecution should not seem strange to us; we should expect it if we truly follow Christ.”
“We give all the glory to God for bringing us to the summit,” commented Josué, one of the 12 attendees from Venezuela. “We are organizing an evangelistic event for young people in my country that will take place in October, and I believe that we will apply all that we are learning here effectively in that event. I take in my heart the message that we must be bridges for the Gospel and not walls.”
Carrying Encouragement to the Indigenous Communities
Ecuador’s indigenous churches suffered persecution during most of the 20th century, so they united and created the Federation of Indigenous Evangelicals of Ecuador and the Association of Indigenous Evangelical Churches of Cotopaxi in order to protect their religious freedoms.
César Cuchiparte is a pastor in a Kichwa indigenous community near the Quilotoa Lagoon and came to the evangelism summit with more than 10 members of his association.
“We are here with great joy. As the Word says, ‘God shows no partiality.’ It is the first time for us to be with many brothers and sisters gathered together. We came with much joy, with much longing … [this] renews our minds and we want to help our brothers and sisters who did not come, we want to take these messages to them. We will be proclaiming them in our church.”
A Christian’s True Value
With great wisdom, Dr. José Luis Navajo of Spain encouraged the pastors by reminding them, “Your value does not depend on how you feel, or the position you are in,” he said. “They can humiliate you or they can exalt you, but your value remains the same because your value is given to you by the mark of Christ’s blood in your life.”
Lead by the Spirit of God, Dr. Navajo made an altar call, inviting all pastors to come before the Lord and pray that He would help them see their true value, and to confess anything that has stained their integrity and commit to live holy lives for His Name’s sake.
“It is such a blessing to come and hear these messages, and to know that there are many churches and denominations that are hearing the same. There is a great need to reunify our faith and the mission to which the Lord has called us to,” Pastor Jaime said.
“I believe that coming here was worth every effort, because it is important for me to train myself as an evangelist, to be able to fulfill the purpose that God has for me,” Cahuasiquita said. “This is the only way the Gospel can spread throughout the world. We pastors need to receive this knowledge.”
At the end of the event, Chris Swanson, director for Latin American Crusades for the BGEA, addressed the audience saying, “Some of you came in saying, ‘I’m ready to throw in the towel’. But now you’re coming out saying, ‘I’ve been renewed, I’m going to continue the race.’ Glory be to God for what He has done in this place.”