It’s been two and a half years since WorldVenture missionaries in Central and South America have gathered in one location to share stories and learn from one another. This November, that changed with the Latin Link Bolivia conference, which took place in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
International Ministries Director (IMD) Jim Thorp said this conference provides a much-needed opportunity for networking and a break from ministry demands for these missionaries. About 40 adult workers and 20 children attended the conference. Nine headquarters staff also attended, including President Jeff Denlinger and Vice Presidents Marty Shaw and Dougg Custer.
Jim and his team of planners picked the conference theme, “Juggling Elephants,” because of the stress and demands on missionaries to manage priorities well. In addition, this year’s Latin Link Bolivia will offer an extra day and a half for field leaders and first-term missionaries. Jim hopes that the four-day retreat helped the international workers grow spiritually, while also providing a time of networking and rejuvenation. “There’s a lot of value in meeting with other Latin American missionaries who speak similar languages and who work with culturally similar people,” said Jim.
One important topic for WorldVenture missionaries in the region: how to equip Latin America missionaries. According to Jim, the trends in missions show Latin America is a place of spiritual renewal, where Christians there are becoming passionate about sharing the gospel with other cultures. Church growth in the global south and east has become a reality. For example, Brazil is already a major missionary-sending country.
As Latin America continues to become a recognized sender of evangelical missionaries, WorldVenture personnel believe it is important to develop partnership with churches, organizations and individuals in Latin America as they recognize the effectiveness of Latin American missionaries. Latino workers often have a better reception in countries where it is more difficult for an American worker to enter. In part, this is because the value Latin Americans place on community and other cultural similarities helps them connect better with the rest of the world. “We really believe the Latino church is going to be a key partner in missions. This is already true, but it will continue to become more and more strategic,” said Jim. “WorldVenture wants to discover ways that we can contribute to that.”
The Latin Link conference was held at the Rio Selva Resort, outside of Santa Cruz, Bolivia starting Nov. 24 for first-termers and field leaders, and Nov. 26-29 for the core groups.