Evangelizing Our Spanish Neighbors

In our efforts to bring the gospel of Christ to these millions of Spanish-speaking people, we need to take into consideration the language problem of some, the language preference of others, and their religious heritage.

ANTONIO ARTEAGA, Pastor-Evangelist, Southeastern California Conference

Within the boundaries of nations of this old earth, several tongues are spoken. The *United States is no exception. One can find in every State people who daily use a "foreign" language, a language other than English; and many others understand no other tongue than that of their homeland. Among these tongues Spanish is used more than any other. More than 4 million people use every day the language of the conquistadors, even though a great number of them have been educated in the English language. Many can understand enough to get along with their English-speak­ing neighbors, but the tongue of their fore­fathers is music to their ears.

In our efforts to bring the gospel of Christ to these millions of Spanish-speaking people, we need to take into consideration the language problem of some, the language preference of others, and their religious heritage. Almost 90 per cent of them belong to the Roman Catholic Church, most of them having been baptized in their childhood into that faith. At the present time we are very thankful to our Lord for the thirty-six Spanish Seventh-day Adventist churches that we have, scattered from New York to California, but there is still a great task before us. There are numberless cities where we have no church, no place where those thousands of Spanish-speaking neighbors can be invited to hear the message of salvation in their mother tongue. Even in those places where we do have a church, there are thousands who have not heard the name of our church, much less the message that it has for them. Truly we can say, "So much to do, so little done."

Adapt Evangelistic Methods

One of the main problems in our evange­listic work is to know how to adapt the truth that never changes to a world that is always changing. In the Southeastern California Con­ference we tried for years to evangelize the Spanish-speaking population, using more or less the same methods as are used among the English-speaking people, but the results were not encouraging. The attendance at the meet­ings was poor and the baptisms were few. Fi­nally we came to the conclusion that these meth­ods just would not work. But, thanks be to God, He has many methods. During the past four years we have been using one that has brought the best results yet known. This method has been used in South America by Elder Walter Schubert and is now being used by many others in different countries. From our own experience we can say that it really works and brings results. Of course, not everyone can follow the exact pattern, but the principles can be followed by anyone who is willing to try something different.

We have found that sermons about future armed conflicts, or the end of all things, fail to bring many listeners. Most people are already scared; they prefer to hear a little about peace rather than about pieces. And so many are liv­ing in homes already shattered by divorce or delinquency, they don't want to hear that the whole world is going to be "shattered" too. However, all are interested in a happy home and in a long life, so we start by telling them how to live happily on this earth before trying to interest them in living in the next one.

Plan According to Local Need

When we come to a new place to hold an evangelistic effort we set out to gain all the in­formation we can about the place and the people. Then we start preparing our handbills and our propaganda material according to the local need. If we have a church, we hold some revival meetings there before we organize the members for the evangelistic campaign. The first four or five lectures should be of a prac­tical nature. We announce in our handbills such topics as "The Secret of Happiness," "How to Make Your Home a Heaven on Earth," et cetera. For each lecture we use a separate hand­bill, or two topics, at most, are announced on one bill. We never announce that we are giving a series of lectures, otherwise they may think it isn't important to come to the first lecture and they can attend a later one.

The first topics are calculated to win the con­fidence of the people by helping them to solve everyday problems. Thus the ground is prepared for the introduction of the Bible and for the controversial topics that come later. In this way the Lord has blessed us with ten times more in attendance than with the former method of beginning the meetings with Daniel 2, and in most places the results in baptisms have been much greater.

It is not wise to offer public prayers in the first eight or ten meetings because our audience may not be prepared for that. But later they are very glad to have us pray for them. By this we do not mean that we begin our evangelistic efforts without praying. Far from it. We have much prayer, but it is in the church and in the homes of the members.

Methods of Procedure

Some nature films are presented to begin our meetings at first and we also use semiclassical music rather than religious hymns. Because of this it is better to hold the meetings in a public hall rather than in the church. The hall for the meetings must be a good one. It may cost more, but if we want to reach all classes of people, we have to pay the price.

We should be wise in the way we present the speaker. "Pastor" might be misunderstood or raise some prejudice. A good general never announces everything in regard to himself and his plans. Our Lord gave us an example when in the beginning of His ministry He com­manded His disciples and others not to tell the people that He was the Christ until the proper time came.

In the beginning of our efforts we do not ask for offerings. After the people really become interested in the message, they give liberally. It is better to lose a little offering in the be­ginning and win souls. In one of our evange­listic efforts we spent $2,500 more than the of­ferings we received. But in the following six months after the effort, the tithe increase was more than the expenses, and the church was blessed with an addition of forty-five by baptism and one hundred Sabbath school members.

Let us consider our order of subjects very carefully. There is not much use in presenting topics for which the people are not prepared. But after the presentation of the first four lec­tures they should be ready to hear about the Bible. They must know something about this Book before we can present to them what it teaches. Therefore, two or three lectures about the origin of the Bible, its history, and its great importance in the home, are given. Some might think that in a country like the United States everyone knows where the Bible came from, and what it is for. But don't be too sure about that, for there are many who, although they have the Bible, have never heard anything con­vincing about its divine origin.

After confidence in the Bible is established we present the easy-to-accept subjects. Such topics as "The Origin of Sin," "The Plan of Salvation," and "The Second Coming of Christ," are given, and finally the controversial doc­trines, such as "The Ten Commandments," "The Sabbath," and "The State of the Dead." Using such methods, we have been blessed with good attendances from beginning to end, and the results have been greater than ever before.

Cooperation and Help of Members Needed

Of course, we cannot say that all the prob­lems have been solved. The evangelizing of the Spanish population in the United States is not an easy task. In some places the Spanish peo­ple are more or less confined to certain specific areas. But there are thousands scattered all over the cities and in the country, and it is not easy to reach each family where they are. Un­less our English-speaking members and pastors are willing to help us it will not be possible to reach them all. Some might ask just how they can cooperate in order to bring this precious message to their neighbors. No doubt there are many good ways to do it. A few months ago a family of six joined our local church. Their interest began when several members of the English-speaking church showed them great love and kindness. In fact, they told them very lit­tle in words about our doctrines, but said much by their deeds, so when we met this interested family they were ready to receive the message and were eventually baptized. Yes, love in ac­tion is perhaps the best way to help.

Another good way is with literature. In some of our English churches that I have visited, I have seen much literature, but none in foreign languages. Should not each church provide literature in as many languages as are spoken in its city, if such literature is available? Thus when the literature band goes to work they can take the message, as the Bible says, "to every . . . tongue, and people." Another way would be to encourage the members in the English churches who speak other languages, to work for those whose language they understand. In a certain city there was a little group of Spanish believers. We thought if we could win some more, we could organize a church. These members knew English, however, and it was suggested that they join the English church. No doubt the suggestion was well meant, but if all our Spanish people who know English do that, how are we going to help those who do not understand any English, and those non-Adventists who for some reason will not come to a meeting unless it be with their own people?

Everyone who speaks or understands Spanish should feel a burden for those thousands who have not yet heard this message. Whenever there is an interest in their city they should give their moral support by joining those little groups in order to encourage them. I believe that the pastors of our English churches can do much to encourage these members to do this.

The work for the Spanish people is not in vain. The Lord has blessed the efforts and the workers in this conference. Twelve years ago we had only 130 Spanish members in all the conference. Today we have close to 800 bap­tized members and more than 900 Sabbath school members. Twelve years ago the tithes and offerings from all the Spanish members were only $13,000. Last year our tithes and offer­ings were over $90,000. This progress has been achieved because of God's blessings, be­cause our conference administrators have given us their full cooperation, and because the work­ers have gone all out to win souls.

May all who can, help us to bring the mes­sage for these times to the millions who con­stitute a great mission field right at our doors.

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ANTONIO ARTEAGA, Pastor-Evangelist, Southeastern California Conference

June 1959

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