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Uruguayan athletes share gospel in Chile
Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press
July 14, 2011
7 MIN READ TIME

Uruguayan athletes share gospel in Chile

Uruguayan athletes share gospel in Chile
Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press
July 14, 2011

SANTIAGO, Chile

— Lyle and Claren Dease saw their ministry come full circle when 11 young

athletes from the church they started in Uruguay

went on a mission trip to Chile.

The Deases have served in Uruguay

for 16 years with the International Mission Board (IMB).

The team of young men spent a week in Chile

conducting soccer and basketball games to build relationships with Chilean

children and university students. At every halftime, one of the Uruguayan

volunteers stood and shared his testimony. And after each event, they made

themselves available to talk about spiritual matters with those in attendance.

“It’s exciting to see young men get excited for missions,” Claren Dease said, “to

see them ministering and sharing their faith like that.”

The volunteers ranged in age from 17 to 24 and included high school and college

students, a teacher and a police officer. All

of them are part of Iglesia Evangelica Bautista Nuevo Pacto (New Covenant

Baptist Church), which the Deases helped start in the rural city of San Jose,

Uruguay. Nuevo Pacto is a young congregation of mostly teenagers and young

adults. The pastor, German Isnaldi, who also went on the trip, is only 29.

“This was the first time that our church had ever sponsored anything totally ‘us,’”

Claren Dease said. “(The volunteers) paid all of their flight over.”

On a night halfway through their time in Chile,

the Uruguayans were scheduled to play basketball with neighborhood children in

a park, but only six boys showed up, each around 12 years old who had played

with the volunteers earlier that week.

IMB photo by Wilson Hunter

Volunteer missionaries from Uruguay play a basketball game against Chile’s University of the Americas basketball team in Santiago, the nation’s capital. The Uruguayan Baptists wore T-shirts displaying their theme verse Colossians 3:17.

Undeterred by the small turnout, the Baptist team Uruguayans played the

basketball game as planned, stopping at halftime to share a testimony. After

the game, three of the Uruguayans felt led to ask three of the boys if they had

any questions about the halftime message. The boys said they did, and the

Uruguayans shared the plan of salvation with them.

“We couldn’t quite keep up with it” as the situation unfolded, Dease said. “One

of (the volunteers) would come back and say, ‘The kid that I was with made a

profession of faith.’ And the next one said, ‘The kid made a profession of

faith.’ We weren’t sure if we were hearing repeated stories of the same person,

but it turned out all three of them made professions of faith.”

The team gave contact information for the boys to a Chilean Baptist for

follow-up. Cliff Case, an IMB missionary in Chile

who hosted the volunteers, learned that one of the boys has been attending his

church in Santiago, Chile’s

capital city.

“I felt honored to have been used by God in this way,” said volunteer Sebastian

Lema, a 23-year-old math education student who led one of the boys to Christ. “Now

I realize that sharing my testimony isn’t as hard as I always thought it would

be. I plan to be bolder about sharing my faith in the future.”

In addition to the athletic events in their venture to Chile

this spring, the Uruguayan volunteers visited two churches, repaired a play

area for a special-needs school and did one-on-one evangelism among Chilean

university students in cooperation with Campus Crusade for Christ.

“They’re young so they have a lot of energy,” Case said of the Uruguayans. “They

were willing to be flexible and do a lot of things that they hadn’t done

before.”

Putting the trip in context, the Deases said the idea that national believers

can become international missionaries is still a novel one in much of Latin

America, where many nationals are more accustomed to receiving

missionaries than sending them. But the Deases see evidence that more national

churches are starting to catch the vision for global missions.

Nuevo Pacto is one of those churches.

Last year the Deases took seven young men from Nuevo Pacto to Forney,

Texas, where they worked with First

Baptist Church

there in sports outreach. Earlier First Baptist

had sent volunteers to Uruguay

to do basketball ministry through the IMB.

“One day Scott Lyle, (First Baptist’s)

missions minister, said, ‘You guys need to come to Forney and do with soccer

what we’ve been coming and doing in Uruguay

with basketball,’” Claren Dease recalled. “When he said it, a light bulb went

on, and everybody realized it really was something that God was going to make

happen for us.”

In Texas, First

Baptist introduced the Uruguayans to the church’s sports

ministries. The Uruguayan volunteers learned to build relationships through

athletic activities and to use those events as opportunities to share the gospel.

When the Uruguayans returned home, Case, who served in Uruguay

before moving to Chile,

was interested to hear about their trip to Texas.

“Cliff (Case) said, ‘Sounds like y’all had a great trip to the States. Y’all

need to come do that here in Chile,’” Dease recounted. “And again, it was a

situation where light bulbs started going on, and now we realize that was the

Lord’s leading.”

As they prepared for the Chile

trip, the Deases were careful to be selective about who would go — the young

volunteers would have to have a visible faith, be willing to go out of their

comfort zone and be unashamed to share their testimony. Half

of those who went to Chile

also served on the team that traveled to Texas.

“This trip (to Chile),

in comparison to what they did in the States, … was more intense,” Dease

said. “They did more in a shorter amount of time. And I think they accomplished

a lot more.”

Though Nuevo Pacto members aren’t currently planning more group mission trips,

two of the volunteers are involved in short-term mission projects in Alabama

and Maryland this summer.

Uruguayan brothers Nicolas and Cristian Almada are serving as counselors for

Royal Ambassador (RA) camps sponsored by the Alabama Baptist Convention State Board

of Missions. They also will participate, along with IMB missionary Lyle Dease,

in a July RA mission trip to Maryland,

where they will be leading Vacation Bible

School.

Clearly, the Nuevo Pacto young congregation now has a vision for serving Christ

in other parts of the world, IMB missionaries said.

“I just think this (trip to Chile)

was the doorway that will lead to others,” Case said. “And seeing that they can

work in other countries in Latin America will just feed

the fire for them to go to other places also.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Taylor is an

International Mission Board writer in the Americas.)

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