In 1954, Roy LeTourneau began a road building project in the Peruvian jungle for his father–famed industrialist R.G. LeTourneau. Roy and his crew started the project by steaming boats of equipment up the Pachitea River and landing them at a site that they called Tournavista. From there they began the long arduous task of building a road from the middle of nowhere toward civilization.
Yet even in this remote jungle location, Roy found it crucial to be in constant communication with people in Peru’s capital city of Lima. Utilizing a corporate plane, he flew back and forth from Tournavista to Lima continually. He quickly realized the power and influence of that one city on even the remotest parts of the country.
In the fifty years since, the influence of Lima has only grown. Today, one-third of Peru’s population resides in the capital city. It is the center of government, commerce, education and communications. The same is true of the capital cities in virtually every other country in Latin America.
The massive size and influence of these urban centers are the primary reasons why CMI focuses its ministry on the capital city. It has been said that in Latin America, everyone has at least one contact in the capital. It truly is the hub of the nation. While hundreds of people move into the capital each day, change and influence radiate out.
As such, the capital city is a crucial beachhead for discipling the entire nation.
“In Latin America,” notes international evangelist Luis Palau, “it is an absolute fact: if you reach the capital city you can touch the whole nation. It’s amazing. In Latin America the capital city has enormous influence in contrast to the USA where Washington is influential but New York in some ways is more powerful. Not so in Latin America. In every single republic the capital touches the nation.”
“If we reach the cities, then the cities themselves will reach out into other areas of the country,” says C&MA Missionary David Peters. “For years in Latin America we worked in the smaller towns and villages, trying to evangelize the country in that way. As North American missionaries we felt that this was the way to go. But if we can go into the cities, into key cities, and plant strong churches in those cities, then the people in those churches go out and evangelize their family members who live in the small towns and the villages.”
In Jesus’ last words to His disciples, He commanded them to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
In fact, the remainder of the Book of Acts relates how this was precisely the manner in which the gospel went forth—step by step from the epicenter in Jerusalem. It spread to Samaria and other parts of Judea. When persecution began, the church took another step to the city of Antioch. From there Paul and Barnabas carried the message progressively step by step westward through the Roman Empire.
In a similar way, CMI believes that this “small step” approach remains the best way to disciple nations for Jesus Christ. Concentrating missionaries in urban centers is an effective way that this can be done. This does not mean missionaries shouldn’t go to remote places if the Lord calls them there. It does mean that redeploying a substantial number of missionaries into cities may be the most effective way of taking the gospel to that country.
When a missionary is sent from North America to the jungles, a huge step is taken. That step results in a tremendous gap in all areas—including housing, food, transportation, language and culture and in the ability to establish understanding between peoples of such diverse backgrounds. When a missionary from North America is sent to a capital city it is a smaller step. Some adjustments to culture, another language and they’re soon at work.
When the people of the city are won to Christ and challenged properly, they can go to the secondary cities—again a small step. These people in turn can go to the provinces and those of the provinces can go to the jungles.
Each group taking only a small step in systematically reaching their country with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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