Many friends of BIEM don’t realize that our founder, Ukrainian-born Peter Slobodian, received Christ and began serving the Lord in Argentina. He and his wife Mary occasionally returned to Latin America to visit friends and to evangelize in Spanish. Now BIEM has accepted an opportunity to boost church planting in Latin America, the continent of our roots. The “beachhead” for this evangelistic thrust is Peru. In that country, there are two fundamental Bible schools for national believers. The students receive a solid foundation of Bible knowledge and training in church-planting. However, after graduation these men face an uphill struggle. Despite ministerial training, they must work secular jobs simply to survive.
Enter BIEM. We have experience providing limited-time support to approved nationals to help them plant churches. What we don’t have is a Bible school in South America. Conversely, there are quality schools, but not a program to assist graduates. In this win-win scenario, the schools already there will provide the education, plus recommendations concerning graduates, and then BIEM would financially aid such men for two years while they focus on evangelism and church-planting.
This model is reminiscent of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” When the goal is spiritual fruit for God’s glory, it’s unimportant who planted or watered (or who taught, and who financed). We merely want to see souls saved to the glory of God.
Why limit the support to two years? This time period was recommended to lessen the risk of nationals becoming dependent on American dollars. Another advantage is that U.S. churches who want to take on such a project don’t need to pledge support forever. In 24 months, their commitment is done. Even if the church planter ends up working part-time after the initial two years, in the worst-case scenario his church is two years farther along than it would have been.
The first candidate, Segundo Rodriquez, has already been accepted and is busy on his field in Peru. The second man that we aim to help was saved out of drug addiction. He has already started a church in his mother-in-law’s home, which is in a drug-ridden area of Urubamba. (At the moment, he drives a taxi to earn a living and can’t concentrate on church-planting.) The third and fourth men hope to work as a team in the Peruvian interior.
Of course, accountability is crucial. These church planters will be answerable to a team of five advisors (three Americans and two Peruvians) who teach at the schools in Trujillo and Urubamba. In addition, BIEM board member Pastor Andy Counterman will oversee this program as part of his regular ministry trips to Latin America.
The pluses are abundant: trained workers, endorsements, favorable economics, a system of accountability and oversight, local advisors, and good stewardship. If this program functions as well as we hope, then we can expand it into other Latin countries.
We praise God for another way to serve God and to grease the wheels for world evangelism!
[box type="info"] The church planters in South America will receive different amounts of funding, depending on whether they are single or married, and living in the jungle, a town, or a city. One-time gifts for this initiative can be designated “BIEM South America.” Just 10 churches giving $70/month for two years starts a church. Can you help? (Of course, gifts from individuals are also welcome.)[/box]