As an organization, Impact Latin America is brand new. Yet its roots go back a decade. In November 2010 eight Latin American leaders representing 11 countries met in Costa Rica for a strategy session with their supervisor, Dr. Delia Nüesch-Olver. Each pastored a local church and led a network of Free Methodist churches in one or more countries. They were tired of the status quo – working hard and seeing proportionally little fruit. Together they agreed to shift their focus from growing the church to reaching a continent.
They adopted a big vision: “to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach Latin America for Christ.” And they prayed that God would allow them to see exponential growth. In the years following, they preached and taught this vision and discussed its implications in board meetings and gatherings throughout the continent. They partnered together and held each other accountable for how they were implementing this vision.
Colleagues from other world regions introduced Dr. Delia to Bruce Bennett, pioneer of a rapid multiplication model in Africa called Community Church Planting (CCP) which had spread to Asia and the Middle East. In 2015 and 2016 she brought Bruce to present CCP to the Latin American leadership team. Bruce exuded passion and spiritual authority and taught simple, biblical principles to multiply disciples, leaders, and churches. Clearly this was God’s next step to realize the vision of a biblical movement to reach Latin America for Christ.
In the next two years most Free Methodist pastors and lay leaders from 13 countries participated in one of seven CCP training events with Bruce Bennett. God provided funds for these events in unexpected ways. It was evident in each one that God was stirring people’s hearts and calling them to a new vision of what He could do through them.
Participants drew maps identifying the neighborhoods and towns where God was calling them to see new churches established among new believers. They left challenged to go find persons of peace God had prepared to open doors to new communities. Many went home to put these principles into practice.
Dr. Delia asked Drs. Ricardo Gómez, Glenn Lorenz, and Paul Olver to adapt and acculturate CCP for the Latin American context.
During 2018 they led a team of 25 educators, writers, translators, editors and graphic designers from 5 countries to develop a Latin American CCP manual and a pastoral training plan with 19 modules. In a rapid multiplication movement, it is of utmost importance that the leaders be properly formed in head (knowledge of scripture, theology and history), heart (character and emotional-relational health) and hands (skills of pastoral care, group dynamics, and leadership development). Pastor John Jairo Leal played a pivotal role as project manager while also leading a CCP pilot project in Medellin, Colombia.
It was a monumental effort! Time and again God provided funding and expertise just as it was needed. By year’s end all the materials were delivered in print and digital format and introduced to key leaders implementing the church planting model and the pastoral formation process at two major training events. In January 2019, Pastor John Jairo Leal was appointed full-time CCP coordinator for Latin America. This was a step of faith, trusting God to provide the needed funding one trimester at a time. The results? Over 400 new churches and over 1000 people participating in pastoral formation in three years (2017-2019).
Dr. Delia stepped down as Director of the Free Methodist Church – Latin America in 2019 and Dr. Ricardo Gómez was appointed as her successor. Together with his colleagues, Paul Olver and Glenn Lorenz, Dr. Ricardo felt that this model of community church planting and pastoral formation was too important to be contained within one denomination. With the help of expert advisors, and joined by six other charter board members, they incorporated Impact Latin America (ILA) as an independent non-profit organization to support this work and to see it spread throughout the continent.
As an organization, ILA is brand new. Yet it grows out of a root system going back 10 years. There has already been much good fruit, but we believe God has more in store. We are committed to mobilizing resources to equip Latin American leaders to multiply disciples, churches and leaders to participate in God’s transformation of people and communities. We want to see this story replicated many times over in other denominations and networks. You can be part of this unfolding story with your prayers, contributions and participation.