Gustavo glanced around furtively, noting the position of the guards around him as he crossed the prison yard to the appointed meeting place.
In just a few hours, his escape would be complete.
Life had not been easy for Gustavo. Seeking opportunities in the lucrative drug trade, he began trafficking narcotics in a network spanning South American borders. After being imprisoned four years in Argentina, Gustavo returned to trafficking, only to be captured again in his native Paraguay and sentenced to another four-year term.
It was during this incarceration that Gustavo and his fellow traffickers decided to escape. The plan was to meet in the pavilion where the Christians held their meetings in order not to arouse the guards’ suspicion. That night, Gustavo was the only one who showed up at the rendezvous point. As he anxiously sat through the meeting, he listened as the Christians presented the gospel. Enthralled by the idea that God could save him, a criminal, Gustavo placed his trust in Christ.
Now, years after his salvation, Gustavo met with an ABWE medical short-term team as a man transformed. He and his wife regularly share Christ through kids’ clubs in their home and are preparing to open a soup kitchen in their impoverished neighborhood. Local pastors are assisting him with the goal of planting a church.
Gustavo is one of many Paraguayan church leaders passionate about reaching their nation for Christ. To support their work, ABWE partners with local pastors in Paraguay through Launch Point short-term mission teams.
“We continue to connect with local pastors and partners in Paraguay to encourage and empower them in their ministries,” explains Steve Douglas, ABWE regional director for Spanish South America.
“Compassionate, free medical care allows us to bring acts of love to individuals, opening an opportunity to share Christ.”
ABWE has partnered with La Florida Church in San Lorenzo since the initial short-term trip in 2015. Committed to their mission to glorify God and grow, serve, and multiply, this host church actively trains youth for ministry and develops outreaches for children and at-risk families in the community. La Florida Church grows by planting new churches.
“It is in these new church communities that we focus our efforts,” says short-term team leader Jeff Robinson, M.D. “Compassionate, free medical care allows us to bring acts of love to individuals, opening an opportunity to share Christ.”
‘Now the Work Begins’
One of the communities served by the spring 2022 team was an indigenous Guarani village, located a six-hour bus ride from Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion. The Guarani, one of the largest ethnic groups in south-central South America, adhere to Roman Catholicism or traditional animistic beliefs. With only eight percent evangelical believers, many Guarani have yet to hear the gospel.
The chief of this local community invited the ABWE team after experiencing the testimony of believers from La Florida Church. The chief shared that in the 22 years of his leadership, no one had come to care for his people’s medical needs.
As the ABWE medical team treated illness and injury, over 30 Paraguayan Christians sat one on one with patients arriving to the clinic and shared the hope of Christ. Pastor Alcides publicly preached the gospel in the Guarani language—and many expressed faith in Christ.
Pastor Alcides later shared his initial skepticism of the effort required to conduct a medical clinic for a community so remote from the capital. He was then reminded of the passage in Luke 15 that describes the immense joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. He likened this to the thrill in a soccer stadium when a goal is scored.
“I look at the numbers from the clinics thinking of the great joy in heaven,” Dr. Robinson conveyed.
The numbers are astounding. During the five clinic days conducted in Paraguay, the medical team treated 906 patients—671 adults and 235 children—and saw 179 professions of faith. An additional 188 people expressed interest in receiving gospel resources.
In the words of local church leader, Pastor Koki, “Now the work begins.”
The Paraguayan church is committed to discipling these new believers and visiting those interested in the gospel. Building on inroads created through the medical clinics, they continue to extend spiritual care into these new areas.
The members of La Florida Church, together with the ABWE medical team, praise God for what he accomplished through their partnership.
“Realizing that God works through you—in spite of you—and in a more artful way than any of us could imagine, is the beautiful picture of his love that is being painted. This is the joy in service, seeing that God is revealing his individual love for you, while allowing you to see his love for others,” Dr. Robinson reflects.
“The architecture of the team that God brings together and the partnership with a church that is so passionate about reaching its community for Christ is just a glimpse of God’s grand design.”
All Skills Are Needed
God continues to draw believers to use their training and talents to reach communities for Christ through Launch Point short-term missions teams. As they meet specific needs identified by ministry partners like La Florida Church, Launch Point teams support, encourage, and advance the global church—extending spiritual impact long past the end of the trip.
All skill sets are needed in the global church. Is God calling you to use your giftings on a Launch Point team?
Editor’s Note: Gustavo’s name has been changed for security.
Ready to launch into missions? Whether you want to find your first missions trip or you’re a missions veteran, there are countless ways to reach others with the gospel through a transformative Launch Point trip. You can use your unique skills, talents, and training to help reach the unreached and serve the global church.