The Tribe No One Could Reach


Along the northern shore of the Silver Sea in the small country of Uruguay, there is a tribal village that has long resisted the saving message of Jesus Christ. While others around them have gradually opened themselves to God’s grace, this group has scorned the gospel as irrelevant to its culture. When neighboring tribes chose to at least give homage to the traditional Christian festivals of Easter and Christmas, this group invented their own holidays. When early Catholic missionaries put up paintings and statues to remind them of the saints or of Christ Himself, this group replaced them with figures of their poets, philosophers or even the pagan sea goddess and then forced the Jesuits to leave.

This tribe of southern Uruguay dedicates years to teaching its children and youth that outside religions are useless or even harmful and laughs at those who take such beliefs seriously. Missionary after missionary arrived with enthusiasm, only to leave in frustration. Just five years ago the C&MA took up this challenge and sent my wife, Tina, and me to attempt what others had failed to do.

We began by scouting the territory and talking to discouraged Christians who had spent years trying to reach this cultural group. We determined that all conventional church-planting efforts were inappropriate here. We would truly have to be “Greeks to reach the Greeks” and, with great patience, get to know their thinking and language.

This “tribe” is the Uruguayan professionals of Montevideo. They number 300,000 and live on the shore of the Mar de Plata (Silver Sea). They are highly educated and adamantly secular. The majority identify themselves as atheists, agnostics or indifferent to all religion.

What is our strategy? We live as fellow professionals; Tina is a trained image consultant, and I am an educator. We offer personal, family and professional development seminars and involve the professionals with whom we have developed friendships in helping the city’s poor. We have formed relationships that allow us to explain our personal faith. We have loved these people and patiently awaited their initiative in asking why we are different from other Christians they have heard of. And God has blessed this.

Along with our colleagues, Rodney and Solea Johnson, we now have a group of 10 Uruguayan professionals and another group of 12 adolescents who are studying the Bible. Your prayers and donations to the Great Commission Fund (GCF) have enabled us to overcome their “tribal” prejudices. They are the first fruits of an unprecedented penetration of a culture that has been totally closed to the gospel. Let us not get discouraged, but press on to the prize that God has laid before us.

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