Those who visit South America are surprised to see large, modern cities along the length of the coasts of this great continent. Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and many other cities, with their modern industrial centers and active commercial sections, their traditional universities and institutions of investigation, their great museums and monumental stadiums, and their picturesque aristocratic sections and bold architecture are always a surprise and bring forth the admiration of the foreigners who do not know the real Latin America.
They Merely Exist
Meanwhile, if we leave the coastal edge and penetrate a little more into the interior of this great continent, we will arrive at the rural areas where we find a dense illiterate population, victims of sicknesses and extreme poverty. Their life is very primitive and disorganized. The infant mortality is high, and the life line very limited. The crowds of people who live in these regions do so under abject and pathetic conditions, or to use the words of a well-known sociologist, "They merely exist."
The population explosion, which now agitates the whole world, finds in our continent its highest expression. From the statistics of the United Nations Organization, we find that the population of Latin America in 1900 was 63 million. Fifty years later, in 1950, it went up to 163 million. Ten years later, in 1960, they calculate it was 205 million. The estimations given by this international organization, announce the existence of 311 million for 1975 and 592 million by the year 2,000. (It is evident that these calculations are not made with the contemplation of the Adventist hope.) There will be art increase of 530 million in 100 years. This means that within ten years we will have 80 million more inhabitants. As a consequence of this galloping growth, we can verify everywhere great and growing transformations.
A Young Continent
Latin America is today a young continent, for 55 per cent of the total population is under 25 years of age. These young people, fighting against the old and antiquated methods, rise up, searching for new doctrines and ideals.
A great battle of ideas is now taking place in 'Latin America. The "isms," modern and many-shaped, are determined in this idealogical war, to conquer the new generation. In the colleges and universities youth are influenced by humanism, existentialism, Freudianism, and transformism. In the unions from the industries and commerce, the young workers are indoctrinated in the philosophy of Marxism. And in the center of all this controversy of "isms," we have a great opportunity for evangelism.
The Rebellion of the Youth
The rebellion of the young people against the old traditions, is responsible for the "apostasy of the masses," denounced by the Catholic leaders. The influential newspaper El Paris of Montevideo, Uruguay, says, "Thousands of Catholics in Latin America apostatize each day and enter the saw the domineering Roman influence manifested by the crosses, rosaries, and crucifixes, and the moral and spiritual degeneration of the people, he said: "The crosses abound everywhere, but when will the doctrine of the cross abound in this continent?"
The following quotation is very well known: "In heathen Africa, in the Catholic lands of Europe and of South America, in China, in India, in the islands of the sea, and in all the dark corners of the earth, God has in reserve a firmament of chosen ones that will yet shine forth amidst the darkness, revealing clearly to an apostate world the transforming power of obedience to His law."—Prophets and Kings, p. 189.
Multiplication Not Addition
When these inspired words were written, there were only a few small Seventh-day Adventist lights shining in the continent of South America. Since that time, however, thousands and thousands of God's children are being brought from the masses because of the convincing power of the third angel's message.
While analyzing the statistical report of the South American Division, we find that it took more than three decades after the organization of our work in this land to baptize the first 50,000 members. But in the year 1949, or 33 years after the organization of our work in 1916, we find lines of Protestantism. This signifies that each year the Catholic Church loses in this part of the world more than a third of a million of her believers. The Catholic leaders are not overlooking this reality, and are now studying different methods to stop this phenomena that is threatening to do irreparable damage."
When the zealous missionary Henry Martyn traveled to India in the first part of the last century and passed through South America and that the division reported 52,982 baptized members. After this time, and it is encouraging to note this, it took only ten years to reach another 50,000 members. Indeed, the statistical figures told us that we had 102,959 members, distributed in the eight nations which make up our division. And we feel that we had the right to be jubilant when five years after the previous report, at the end of 1964, we had reached another 50,000 totaling 153,957 baptized members identified with the Adventist faith. We lack two years to complete our jubilee. We have no doubt that with the anointing of the Holy Spirit when we complete our fifty years of organization, we will be able to celebrate even more triumphs in the Lord than we have celebrated up to the present time.
Administrators Preach Evangelism
What is the secret of the triumphs in the preaching of the Adventist message in the South American Division? In the agenda of all the administrators there is one predominant word—evangelism. In the work program of all the ministers and evangelists, there is a consuming passion—the winning of souls. In the heart of almost all of our members exists the absorbing preoccupation—the salvation of the lost. And the result of this combination of interests and the working together of these forces, is manifested in the growth explosion in our denomination in South America.
The world newspapers point out quite frequently, and sometimes with evident exaggeration, the revolutionary movements that occur in Latin America. There is, certainly in our continent, a revolution, which though it is marching along, has not reached the front pages of our papers. It is a revolution that is taking place in the lives and consciences of those who are feeling the impact of Adventist preaching.
When we think of the conquests of the Adventists in this battle against the many, many contemporary "isms," we believe it is an opportune time to again reproduce the words of Samuel B. Morse, made in his discourse at the time homage was given in his honor for his extraordinary invention. Speaking to his admirers he said, "I am sure I have the sympathy of such an assembly . . . if in all humility . . . I use the words of Inspiration, `Not unto us, but to God be all the glory'—not, What hath man, but `What hath God wrought!' "