A True Change of Life and Heart
28 Jan 2008
A True Change of Life and Heart
Reaching the Professionals of Buenos Aires
At the far end of South America lies Argentina, a multifaceted gem of a country whose eastern coastline stretches for 3,000 miles along the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Argentina, meaning “silver,” is appropriately named for the River Plate which cuts a glistening path between Argentina and neighboring Uruguay. Rich in natural resources and cattle, Argentina is equally rich in the heritage of its population which is a mixture of the original Indians, as well as immigrants of Spanish, Italian, French, German, Russian, Scandinavian, and oriental descent. It is a unique “melting pot” of thought and cultures that have shaped a fiercely proud and independent people.
More than one-third of the country’s 38 million people live in the capital city of Buenos Aires and its suburbs that lie along the River Plate. Founded by Spain in 1536, this metropolitan giant has been a major world port and gateway to Argentina for centuries. The city’s architecture and culture reflect much of the influence of those immigrants—mostly European—who have made it their home.
Situated in the heart of this sprawling metropolis is the area known as the Federal Capital. With a population of 3 million, it ranks high on the list of the most crowded cities of the world. The nerve center of the financial and banking district and hub of the national government, the Federal Capital is also home to some of the country’s finest universities and major hospitals. Millions commute to the area each day for work or other business transactions.
The people of Buenos Aires are basically religious in nature, with almost 100% claiming a belief in God. For a large majority, however, religion is a part of a culture born of family tradition and not that of a born-again believer in Christ. Roman Catholicism is the national religion and claims some 92% of the population … but their church’s leadership expresses deep concern that only about 15% of its adherents are active in their faith and devotion to God.
(Pics of Union Sem./Superior Institute for Theological Ed./Danish Luth. Church/Central Methodist Church) Evangelicals entered the scene in this country during the late 1800’s. They brought a message of salvation and hope proclaiming that people could relate directly to God through Christ … and highlighted the responsibility of the individual to be obedient to God. Typical of the evangelical churches is the Once Baptist Church, founded by missionaries in 1906. This is one of the churches that has remained strong in proclaiming the Gospel through the years. Yet, many have not heard and a very present darkness pervades the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the big city. Of the four million professionals living in Greater Buenos Aires, it is estimated that less than 5% know Christ as Savior.
Referred to as those from the port, or “Porteños,” the people of Buenos Aires take great pride in title and position. As a result, the professional community is large and discriminating. Traditionally, the mindset of the professionals has been to project an air of competence and self-sufficiency. Success is closely linked to their image as professionals. Following the economic crisis in January 2002, the entire country was plunged into an economic downward spiral. As the effects have sent many businesses into bankruptcy and financial disaster, the professional segment of society has been hit hard with the reality that image or title does not guarantee success. Many suffer from varying stages of depression and anxiety. For others, a sense of hopelessness and despair casts a shadow on the horizon as unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy and evictions from houses or apartments become more common. Growing problems with health, family issues, the economy, and a pervasive spiritual darkness have all contributed to a loss of hope and confidence. “I’m just trying to survive” ... has become a standard answer to the question of, “How are you doing?”
In their search for what is real and what brings inner peace and happiness, many Argentines turn to fortune telling ... psychic counseling ... tarot card readings ... and other mystical avenues. It is common to see red ribbons tied onto car bumpers in the superstitious belief that it will ward off evil. Such legendary figures as Gaucho Gil and the Catholic’s patron saint, the Virgin of Lujan, have become objects of hope to many. For too long religious rituals and practices have been substitutes for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
One Christian attorney expressed his views on the country’s crisis and spiritual condition: (excerpts from Enrique’s interview) “We can say that there are several structural errors in the country that have led us to this situation. I believe that the first, and most important, is a systematic separation from God.
Having a spiritual nature was not looked upon favorably. It was considered a waste of time. Argentines filled their leisure time by escaping to their weekend country homes, and avoiding any possible time for a spiritual relationship. The goal was to get away, spend money, and live the good life.
I believe our economic crisis is directly related to our lack of spiritual reality, our failure to see God as the solution to our problems. We now find ourselves in a situation that exceeds our possibilities to resolve it simply through our own self-sufficiency. Perhaps for that reason Argentines are more open now. The country’s problems are too great for its own resources. Former values have lost their validity. Professionals and business people don’t have a clear vision of what is going to happen in the short haul. As Christians we need to be able to explain to them that the only solution is the path that leads to God’s original plan.”
The professionals of Buenos Aires might look like your affluent next-door neighbor. Their appearance of confidence could fool you into believing that this person “has it all together.” A closer look, however, into the eyes often reveals the anger, fear, despair, loneliness, helplessness or disillusionment that is hiding within this exterior. Because of the importance of “image”, the typical professional finds it very difficult to express or admit to any need … spiritual or physical … but these people are NEEDY!
Southern Baptist missionaries are targeting the business and professional community through the efforts of the Pro-Meta Team; composed of two IMB career couples and three Argentine couples.
The name “Pro-Meta” combines the term “Pro,” representing professionals, and “Meta” for “metanoia,” meaning a true change of life and heart. The objectives of the Pro-Meta Team of the Buenos Aires Strategy Group focus on helping business and professional people connect to God through Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Christian professionals learn to see themselves as ministers in their workplace as they present a Christ-like example and witness to their colleagues and associates.
The majority of professionals do not seek the answer to their spiritual needs within the existing structure of the evangelical church. Fierce allegiance to the official Catholic religion—whether or not they are active participants—makes many of them reluctant even to attend worship services in an evangelical church. Further skepticism of evangelicals by the Catholic church in general, makes them even less likely to take part in any activity not sanctioned by their church.
For that reason, the Pro-Meta Team invites professionals to participate in study groups that meet in hotels … offices … restaurants … and other non-church environments … promoting authentic Christian community that goes beyond their traditional view of church. They hopefully begin to see that the issue is not religion or church, but rather … a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Pro-Meta team also hosts special events such as music concerts and art exhibits featuring Christians who share their talents and gifts and then give testimonies of how Christ has made their life complete.
For economic reasons many Argentine families live in multigenerational situations. Unique problems and stresses arise from having both older children and grandparents still living under the same roof. The Pro-Meta team hosts seminars that deal with family issues and interpersonal relationships … with practical suggestions … and ultimately showing that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is fundamental.
Monthly teas for women at a downtown hotel are geared to lead business and professional women to seek a relationship with Christ. As ladies are invited to gather for fellowship and to hear a featured speaker, they also receive a message about the love of Christ and His desire to establish a personal relationship with them.
English Conversation classes provide a home setting where professionals can gather and practice their English. It is hoped that a Christian lifestyle witness of the believers who participate will have a positive influence on those who are seeking, and will give opportunity to share the message of Christ with them.
(Video backup? Is this your 3 Argentine team members? If not, what could we use to cover this? Videos of Baptist Churches or seminary? We don’t see what it could be. 76 words Carl, we think you could just show Argentine people—in whatever situation, but particularly downtown bustling about…and if you have other shots of Enrique or Gustavo…even Enrique during his interview would be ok for a brief shot…or at the art exhibit. Would that do it?) A major focus of the Pro-Meta team’s ministry is directed toward equipping Christian professionals to reach their colleagues in the marketplace. A special project has been started with the churches of the Federal Capital Baptist Association, encouraging each church to commission one or two professional couples to serve as its missionaries for six months to a year. Working together with professionals from other Baptist churches they make a concentrated effort to reach their colleagues for Christ.
As Christians we are challenged and motivated to share the good news that there is hope … true hope … for the future, but only through Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with Him. There is a sense of urgency as never before, as people all around us are literally drowning in despair. We must throw them the lifeline!
As the Pro-Meta Team we value…
YOU can participate in this great work of God to reach more than 13 million people for Christ.
PRAY that every person in Buenos Aires will hear about God’s plan of salvation in Christ and trust in Him.
CONTRIBUTE financially to international missions offerings.
Prayerfully consider whether or not God is calling you to serve as a mission’s volunteer.
Is God calling you to partner with us in missions?
Is He leading your church to send workers to this field of harvest?
For more information: www.BapMisArg.org
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