excited about salto
28 Jan 2008
Narration note: The parts in blue script will be narrated by Elizabeth. Jon or Jon and Monica will read the remaining portions.
Opening scene: Homes in Salto
“We are in love with Salto. At our church in Villa Celina, a barrio of Buenos Aires, 13 of us along with our missionary friend Jon, made a commitment in February of 2002 to plant a new church in the city of Salto. Every Saturday we go to Salto about 120 miles west of Buenos Aires. It takes about two hours.”
The drive to Salto, allows us to see the cattle, sheep, horses, and windmills that are common along the way. About 40 miles from Buenos Aires we pass the town of Luján. The Basilica located here is Argentina’s most important religious site. This grand structure was built in 1887 to honor the Virgin of Luján, the patron saint of Argentina. On October 5 each year as many as one million people walk from Buenos Aires to honor her.
Typical of Argentina, many small shrines are erected along the highways to honor other patron saints. This one for Difunta Correa is very popular among the people. Leondro says he came to this shrine to ask Difunta Correa to help his arm heal. He had cut it on glass. He comes here often to ask her to help his family and him. He truly believes that she can do these things.
Farming is the primary source of income in the area and the economy of this city of 35,000 is dependent upon it. Wheat, corn, soybeans and other grain crops produce excellent yields from the rich soil of the pampas. There are also several major agricultural processing plants here.
“The people in the church at Celina prayed for a year and then God just opened the gates. We can see God’s hand everywhere. Every Saturday when we go to Salto we see God’s hand. The church people are excited about what is happening in Salto. Every Saturday they say … I want to go, … but only 5 places are available in the pastor’s car.”
Salto is a nice, friendly city. The city center reflects its Catholic heritage with the prominent location of the church on the square. Schools, stores, and office buildings are also located nearby. The affluent appearance of downtown Salto is not typical of its residential areas. The majority of the people live below the poverty level.
“Most of the homes are small and sparsely furnished. Some people have more than others. There are also those with very little like this family living by the railroad tracks in a shack made of scrap material. There is only a dirt floor. Dogs, as well as people, survive by picking through trash left by others. A couple lives here with their baby. Five days ago her niece and her six children moved in with them because they had no place else to go. These adults recently heard the Good News and chose to follow Jesus. Since then they have seen God answer prayer. He is here and, yes, they can smile and enjoy maté.”
Up until now evangelism has made very little impact on the people’s lives. Common here is a low level of commitment to the Roman Catholic Church and a high level of saint adoration. One local saint in particular, Pancho Sierra has a tremendous grip on the people. He is known as “a famous doer of good deeds” who died December 4, 1891. Soon after, he was exalted to sainthood by the residents of Salto. They show their devotion by giving him homage for individual good fortune.
The cemetery located just across the street from the Pancho Sierra shrine is a reminder of the extremely high level of suicide among the young people of Salto.
In the midst of this lostness and bondage, the Villa Celina Church began to pray in late 2000. The next year an evangelistic effort began. This was done first by the use of music at a local festival to make contacts with people. The people of Celina talked with people in the central plaza, in their homes, and in the neighborhoods. Missionaries taught the residents about nutrition and dental health.
Things began to happen in Salto.
… The people were receptive.
… A real hunger for spiritual truth was evident.
… The harvest of souls was underway.
… And they began to meet in homes of the people.
After 7 months, there were over 25 active Bible Studies with at least 300 regularly participating. Each group leader is studying basic discipleship topics to deepen the faith and commitment of these new believers.
“Making cell groups is best because it works. First it is necessary to form a relationship and then to ask if the person wants to learn about God because if your friend asks you to do something, you are more interested and willing. I also travel to Salto on Wednesday afternoon to lead a Bible study at a home on a quiet dirt street. Sometimes we meet outside under the tree. An uncle of one of our member’s stopped by when he saw us and listened to the singing and study.”
The Club Sports Arena in the center of the city was the meeting place where we commemorated what God had done for the people of Salto. Join us as we remember this celebration service in October 2002.
“It is hard for me to get to Salto every Saturday and again on Wednesday but I am in love with God. He is precious to me. At Celina, we want to go where God wants us to be.
(footage of the work in and around BA for the background as the following is being narrated)
Will you be a part of reaching Buenos Aires for Christ by praying for the unreached sections of the City of Buenos Aires and the small towns outside the capital? We need workers to help us evangelize these unreached areas by using Bible distribution projects, children's ministries, and general evangelism. If you are interested, contact the Metro Team to find out how you or your church might be involved by working with us as volunteers or becoming prayer partners."
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