Iam a Reformed missionary living in Villa Carlos Paz. This is a city in Cordoba province, a nine-hour drive into the interior of Argentina.
I am now seeing a different kind of Argentina – a nation whose landscape is as varied as its people and culture – from the one I studied (or envisioned) before arriving on 11 September 2001.
It is also different from the one I experienced when living for 10 months in the grand city of Buenos Aires.
The fact that we arrived from a country ‘under terrorist attack’ to join a people who had been under siege from economic and political woes for four years meant we were faced immediately with a string of questions.
‘Why would you come to Argentina?’; ‘How long will you be staying?’; ‘What brought you to leave a country of such affluence and opportunity to come to a country of dismal hopes and uncertain futures?’
For us, each of these questions had a gospel answer. There is nothing else that can explain our living here than these little recognised facts – the fame and glory of God reside in Christ, and are seen supremely in his work in saving sinners.
This answer is not one that most people understand, so we explain simply that we believe the Lord has sent us here to testify of his goodness and grace to people who need to hear of him.
I arrived here with my wife of 26 years and three children, and with no idea where the will of God would lead us to settle to begin planting a Reformed Baptist church. Our desires to come to Argentina were born over 20 years of longing to serve the Lord as missionaries.
In the goodness of God, these desires survived many hardships, and a refining process that made our coming the culmination of multiple joys and an anticipation of God’s blessing.
We know there are no guarantees of instant success, but there are rich eternal joys in living in the Lord’s presence.
Our time in Buenos Aires gave us experience of the best kind of Argentinian church. Iglesia de la Puerta Abierta manifested few of the spiritual excesses of other Argentinian churches, and contained many of the best aspects of Argentinian culture.
After ten months practising Spanish and researching the country and its needs, we found a home just outside the city of Córdoba, in the centre of Argentina.
Córdoba is the second largest city, with a population of 1.3 million. Villa Carlos Paz, where we now live, lies west of Córdoba and has 50,000 people.
The Córdoba province, like many of the other 23 provinces, has few churches, and few opportunities for theological training. In this province alone, according to a study done by an evangelical group, Alcanza Córdoba, there are more than 150 smaller towns and cities with no gospel witness.
Many of these towns have as many as 10,000 inhabitants. Still others, similar in size to Carlos Paz, have fewer than 10 congregations, excluding Catholic churches and cults.
The vast majority of churches today are Renovada or ‘Renewed Churches’. They may remain denominationally affiliated, but their practice is Charismatic or ‘Third Wave’.
We began meeting officially for worship as Misión de la Gracia in December 2002. Other evangelical missionaries had told me we would find few in Argentina who would be Reformed or sympathetic to such teaching.
However, we did not come to assemble a small group of ‘disaffected Reformed Christians’. Rather our goal is to bring to Christ all of God’s elect that we can find, and by every biblical means.
Our ministry is not confined to Sunday services. We see our task as more ‘natal’ than ‘structural’ at this point. We live here, explaining our reason for coming to Argentina and our intent, under the grace of God, to stay and evangelise every home.
The words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, describing his life among them, have become our goal in the ebb and flow of life in this culture: ‘For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God’ (2 Corinthians 1:12).
Furthermore, we live with Paul’s words to Timothy as our daily motto: ‘Do the work of an evangelist’ (2 Timothy 4:5).
We live in the patient hope that God is faithful to those he calls and to his own cause, to make the glory of his Name known in every place.
With such an approach to ministry we make a bold plea to the heart of every Argentinian – ‘be reconciled to God’, by the work of Jesus Christ alone.
From the interior of Argentina we pray for a deep work of the Spirit of God – a work that will testify to the power of the gospel to change a person and a nation from the inside out.