Thoughts on Missions and Montevideo 

Greetings from your slightly weary, but happy to be home Pastor. Thank you so much for your prayers for me on my recent trip to Montevideo, Uruguay. The conference went very well. Our missionaries there, Mark and Jeni Richline, and Stephen and Catalina Payson, were very pleased with the turnout. Thank you for allowing me to participate in the mission of the church in this way. 

I’d like to share some specific reflections.

  1. Montevideo is a large city (1.3million) in great need of the gospel.  The nation of Uruguay is strongly atheistic—and the sad fruits are evident.  

    1. The suicide rate is much higher in Uruguay (23 per 100k) than in surrounding nations (9 per 100k).

    2. Everything is locked down in the city of Montevideo. Every window is behind thick bars. Every door is made of impenetrable wood or steel with 2-4 deadbolts. Every yard is enclosed with concrete walls or iron-bar barriers. 

    3. The murder rate in Montevideo (11.6 per 100k) is four times higher than nearby Beunos Aires. However, to put that in perspective, Montevideo is safer than Grand Rapids (13.8) and much safer than our nearby cities of Detroit (50) and Chicago (74.5). 
  2. Though Montevideo’s streets are heavily barricaded, they are also nicely tree-lined and felt quite safe. The street-side markets, fruit stands, and bakeries make it a very livable place.

  3. The strong atheism of Montevideo makes evangelism extremely difficult. People see no need for religion. They approach each day as it comes, have very little concern for death, and aren’t interested in thinking about God or guilt or judgement or any of the spiritual issues that Scripture specifically addresses. The people work hard during the week and Sunday is strictly devoted to family and relaxation.  I struck up a conversation with one of my Uber drivers about Jesus and the Bible—and he was clearly antagonistic to both.

  4. While the work is hard—the fruits are delightful! The church of Christ in Montevideo is growing. The conference was sponsored by our OPC church and a neighboring church plant of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil—both growing.  My interpreter, Andrew Miller, was a pastor of a vibrant church plant sponsored by Parkside Church in Cleveland (Alistair Begg’s church). I met a terrific young couple (Andre and Andrea) from a town about two hours away who have come to the Reformed faith through the internet. They attend the worship services in Montevideo every other week (a 4-hour round trip on the bus). The Richlines and Paysons have taken them under their wings and are hoping to start a Bible study and possible future church plant in that area. The Lord is at work, gathering his elect by the power of the Holy Spirit!

  5. Spending time on the mission field is extremely helpful to remember what we are supposed to be about as the church of Jesus Christ.  We really do exist to “make disciples” (Matt 28:18) both here and abroad!  Jesus has a global mission—and we are called to participate in it. There is something wonderfully refreshing and invigorating about seeing people sacrificially participating in the missionary cause of Christ. The Richline’s and Payson’s have both left their families and friends to serve the gospel mission 6k miles away.  Why? Because the gospel cause matters more than anything. Because Christ commands the church to go to the nations. Because they are confident that those who give up house and family and friends for Christ will receive a hundred-fold more in this life and the life to come (Mark 10:30).

My lasting impression of Montevideo is the tremendous need for the gospel there. As I watched people walking down the street, I was convicted that they were blindly walking down the road to eternal loss.  The vast, vast, majority of them have never heard the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ—and never will. And the world is filled with cities like Montevideo. 

That’s why it is so important that we, here at Harvest, become more intentional about our participation in world missions. I’m excited to see that beginning to happen. Our Missions Committee is growing and seeking specific ways to help us, as a church, become more aware and get more involved in the mission cause. We have more and more youth eagerly participating in mission trips both here in the States and abroad. We have one member, Paige VanderWey, currently in Mexico, preparing to go to unreached people groups.  I can see the Spirit of the Lord at work here! May the Lord give us the joy of participating in the global mission of Christ—because the nations desperately need the gospel, and Jesus Christ is gloriously worthy of praise!  

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