Serafin Contreras, Foursquare Missions International’s (FMI) area missionary for South America, has seen God move in powerful ways throughout the continent since his move there from Central America in 2009. Residing in Buenos Aires and overseeing the nations of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, the 63-year-old minister and husband of three adult children with his wife, Alba, says there’s nothing like watching people come to Christ and witnessing the development of pastors and leaders.
“People are open to the gospel and are coming to Jesus Christ,” says Serafin, who first pastored in his home country of Venezuela for 21 years before moving to Nicaragua, where he ministered for another 19 years prior to coming to Argentina. “I never thought I would work here, in South America, but it was the agenda of God. We are so happy working in this region.”
He has great reason to celebrate. The latest statistics, from 2009, boast 16,916 Foursquare churches and meeting places in the region—16,240 of which are in Brazil alone. Argentina has 474 churches; Chile, 142; followed by Bolivia at 25; Peru and Paraguay each at 10; and Uruguay at 18. These churches comprise more than 3 million members.
Brazil is a “stage four” nation in the denomination’s four-stage church development model, meaning they are at the point where they send missionaries outside the country. Argentina, Bolivia and Chile are “stage three”; they are nationalized and self-supporting, with an emphasis on the multiplication of churches. Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay are “stage two” works, forming leaders and planting churches. All of the countries in Serafin’s area are past “stage one,” the pioneer stage.
“We can see a real revival coming in the next years here,” declares Serafin. “The Foursquare Church in South America is coming now to be a missionary force, not only a mission field.”
It’s indeed a force to be reckoned with. In 2009, more than 753,000 people accepted Christ through The Foursquare Church in this region. There were over 249,000 water baptisms. More than 211,000 were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Physical healings are occurring as well. Nadia and Boris, two siblings in Santa Cruz, Bolivia—both with bone marrow cancer—came to a Foursquare church pastored by Ruben Baldivieso to ask for monetary help to travel to the U.S. for surgery. One of the church members felt the Lord would heal them instead. The congregation prayed, and not only were the two healed—they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and now see miracles happen as they pray for the sick.
In addition to the many churches and meeting places scattered throughout South America, Foursquare has an orphanage in Bolivia; 13 drug-rehabilitation “farms” in Argentina; five radio stations in Argentina; and a school in Paraguay. There are also two WorldBase locations—one in Paraguay, and one in Brazil.
Serafin is very thankful for the short-term missions teams that come from the United States to partner with the South America Foursquare Church.
“Thank you to The Foursquare Church in the U.S. and FMI for supporting us in our ministry,” Serafin expresses. “We have seen the fidelity of God and the love of The Foursquare Church in the U.S. Thank you for praying for us. We don’t have any complaints; only blessings.”
Serafin notes that the door is wide open to those from the United States who want to help the ministry in South America.
“I want the people in the U.S. to know that the people here are ready to come to Jesus Christ,” he explains. “We need their prayers. We need more people to serve the Lord here in our region with short-term teams (for around 15 days, as an example) as well as people coming to work for one or two years. Here we have great opportunities to train leaders.”
In 2009, teams came to South America from Foursquare churches in California, Nevada and Oregon. In 2011, a team is traveling from Kansas to the orphanage in Bolivia to build housing for the children.
How can The Foursquare Church in the United States best pray for the ministry in South America? The area missionary details three requests.
“Pray for the young people and children, that they may receive a call for serving God,” Serafin mentions first. “Pray that we may plant more and more churches. And pray for the leadership in each country, that they may serve the Lord with passion, purity and holiness.”
For information on helping FMI works around the world—including how to support the Global Missions Fund, a missionary or project, or to donate toward disaster relief, log on to //give.foursquare.org. 100 percent of every dollar given to the Global Mission Fund goes directly to the mission field. FMI’s website also provides detailed information on short-term missions teams.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles