Several years ago I was invited to do a lectureship in Quito, Ecuador, with Joshua Marcum and his coworkers in that large South American city. In July of 2017, I had another opportunity for a South America apologetic outreach in the area of Chia and Zipaquira, Colombia, just outside of Bogota, the capital. This effort was an outreach to the general population with two congregations of the Church of Christ involved and with an American team of workers led by Jimmy Pinzon and the Olive Street Church of Christ in Peoria, Arizona.
Roman Catholicism has dominated South America since the time of the Spanish explorers. You can read about the tightness of that control in history books, but when you travel these countries you comprehend how extensive the control is and the effect it has had on the people. These two South American lectureships were followed up with evangelistic efforts. They have clearly shown the need for material dealing with the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the importance of the Church as it is presented in the Bible.
One day we visited what is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia called “The Salt Cathedral.” When we visited this huge salt deposit, I expected to see the same kind if thing that we had seen in Hutchinson, Kansas. We could see how the Kansas deposit was formed, and how the mine could be used in modern times to store electronic data. As we entered the Salt Cathedral, we found that Catholicism ruled the mine. The “Stations of the Cross” were carved into rooms and there were huge statues, carvings, and icons. Some rooms had prayer benches and placards about the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. The main cathedral area had space and facilities for many worshipers including all of the altars and devices that are used in Catholic worship. Between the rooms were shops that sold statues of Catholic traditions, prayer beads, crosses, icons, and statues of Mary and Christ. The mine was a massive tool to promote Catholicism.
As we walked through the mine, we saw some young people who were mocking those who came to worship and making fun of the statements in the displays. Because most of the visitors spoke only Spanish, it was difficult to dialogue about why they were ridiculing the Catholic teachings presented in the mine. On one occasion, I heard a young man arguing with his girlfriend in English. He told me young people were fed up with Catholicism and the sexual abuse it had tolerated and the fairy-tale atmosphere of the mine, When I told him about my ministry and the fact that science supports faith in the God of the Bible, he was incredulous. We are still communicating with him through email, but I believe he reflected the feelings of many young people in Colombia.
One of the ways we advertised our lectures in Colombia was by singing as a group in the La Estacion Square in Zipaquira and the Comunerar Square. The Plaza at Comunerar is in front of a huge Roman Catholic Church. All kinds of vendors surrounded the square selling just about anything you could think of, most of which were related to Roman Catholicism. Jimmy’s group, my daughter Wendy, and I would sing in English well-known hymns like Amazing Grace. People would stop and listen. Some of them were testing their English, some were interested in the message, and some were just curious. The missionaries handed out flyers about my presentations and invited the people to come. We met many people who were disenchanted with Catholicism. Many had children who laughed at their faith and made fun of Catholicism just as we had seen in the mine.
In both Ecuador and Colombia, we have seen the need for a South America apologetic outreach teaching people the evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. People did not want to hear about “church” because to them that was a rehash of Roman Catholicism. Pray for the people of that great country as they are hungry to know how they and their children could believe in God, and how they could bring God into their lives. We will share more of our experience in Colombia in tomorrow’s post.
–John N. Clayton © 2017