Latin American Missions started in 1958 after a small group of Christian men traveled to Panama seeking ways to spread the Gospel of Christ. At that time there were no full-time Gospel preachers in Panama. However, the business opportunities associated with the Panama Canal attracted people from all over the world, making the "Canal Zone" a perfect place to plant and grow the Church.
The first church building was purchased in the area of Cristobal and the church met there for many years– having separate services in English and Spanish. Soon evangelistic campaigns began to take place throughout Panama and many people responded to the Message. The Church was truly growing!
As the work progressed, our eyes continued to be opened. We noticed how the people where both spiritually and physically hungry. They were suffering from spiritual and physical sickness. People were desperately seeking a spiritual home, while they didn’t even have a suitable earthly home. Our hearts went out to them and we decided to put Gospel into practice.
This is when we began focusing on treating the body and the soul. We need to be like Jesus, the Great Physician, and have compassion on His people. Therefore, our medical campaigns became a demonstration of Christian love put into action.
As campaigns expanded, so did the Lord’s vision for our work. The Brethren soon became interested in developing a program where young men could be trained how to teach the Gospel to lost parts of the world (at that time Panama). Thus, the Pan American Bible Institute was born. In no time, men from all over Panama came to the school wanting to be trained in the scriptures.
What began as an effort to reach the lost in Panama, soon spread over a small bridge in the community of Sixaola, to the fields of Costa Rica, then into Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Young men were reaping God’s harvest throughout Central America! It was then we heard the cries from Peru, and later Colombia and Argentina.
Men and their families came from countries all over begging to learn the story of Christ and share it with others. We have always felt a need to continue our efforts to assist these young preachers after they finished school with Bibles, song books, tracts, teaching materials and, in some locations, buildings. This required a large amount of funding and we turned to the churches in the United States for help. It was during these years we learned that we could be a voice for our Latin American brothers and sisters in the states, while they continue to be God’s voice in Latin America.
Through the years, we have experienced much growth and many changes.
from war zone to peace time in Nicaragua and El Salvador
from dictatorship to democracy in Panama.
church buildings and houses built
the Bible School of the Americas expanded from one small classroom to a sprawling, beautiful campus
the Children's Home of the Americas brought many, many children to the Children’s Home where they have grown and matured
additional workers have been added to the Latin American Missions staff.
from no full-time preachers in Panama to more than 80
children learning God’s Word from Christian parents and grandparents
those who were lost, are now saved
the hope for eternal salvation is available for everyone in Latin America
The years have also brought changes in all who are involved in the work. We have grown spiritually. We have seen the shortness of life. We have felt the sense of urgency of the Gospel. We have had opportunities to study the Bible and bring someone to Christ. We have built life-long relationships with brothers and sisters from all over the United States and Latin America. We have made wonderful memories from challenging campaigns. We have witnessed hunger, sickness, and poverty. We have learned to pray fervently. We have felt heartache when someone we love and have taught chose not to obey. We have experienced sadness when leaving friends and “family” behind, knowing we may not see them again until we arrive to our Heavenly Home. We learned there is always more to do. We have realized that we can make a difference.
Our hearts have been changed from what they once were. A gift was placed in our hands and it changed our hearts and lives, as well as the hearts and lives of those we have met, and those we may never meet.
The Bible School of the Americas began as the Pan American Bible School, a preacher training class conducted by the Balboa congregation located in the old Canal Zone of Panama, in September of 1965. It became too large for the space at the Balboa church building and relocated several times - a room above a chicken coop - a large building in old Panama - a small campus in the Rio Bajo area of Panama City - and finally settling on 25 acres in the Mañanitas area outside Panama City in 1993. Men from countries throughout Central and South America have studied and graduated from the Bible School in Panama.
The Bible School of the Americas offers a comprehensive study of the Bible, with emphasis on teaching and preaching. The campus is equipped with high-speed internet and computers to assist students in completing course requirements. Wives are also encouraged to broaden their spiritual foundation. They attend classes in Bible, Teaching Methods and Family Values.
Men are able to study in their own language and in familiar cultural areas. The plan of study requires two years of work and study, where they complete more than 56 courses. During this time, they receive intensive studies that prepare them to confront, in an effective manner, the evil that faces this society without Christ.
While attending school, men are involved in many activities such as: personal evangelism, medical campaigns, seminars, work with local congregations, evangelistic campaigns, conferences, devotionals, sports, and trips. Life on campus is Christian Family values oriented in living, in social activities and in studies. The entire focus of the school is “Training Faithful Gospel preachers in Latin America!” Following graduation, the men and their families return to their own countries to preach the Gospel to those who are lost.
Since 1963 we have been training native preachers to preach in their own language in their own culture, to their fellow citizens in their own country. While the core of this training is invested in our full-time school, we also have a secondary school that enhances our main system. It is called the Satellite School System.
It had its beginning shortly before the building of our current main campus in Panama City, Panama, the home of Bible School of the Americas. We were, at that time conducting schools in Panama City (the old Rio Abajo building near downtown Panama City), San Jose, Costa Rica, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. At that time, Manuel Noriega had just been apprehended and a new government took over the country of Panama. We enjoyed a close relationship with this new government and as a result we were asked, “What do you need?” by the Director General of Health, Dr. Steve Morales. He asked us if we needed a hospital, a clinic, etc. We responded that what we needed was to have a campus where we could house our preacher training school, a Children’s Home, and perhaps a clinic. With that, we were shown the former military facilities at Fort Gulick on the Atlantic side of the country for what was called “School of the Americas.” It was a large facility containing three buildings on a peninsula in Lake Gatun. They asked us to make a plan on usage and then it would be given to us. We made the plan and were told we would get it, but unfortunately it got turned over to some lawyers because a large predominant religious group opposed our obtaining the property. After waiting for about six months, we opted to take our plan and find land to develop the project to be called “Bible School of the Americas.” We purchased the 25 acre property where the campus is currently located, and the rest is history.
In our development stages we determined that we would take all the students from the current school in Panama City along with the students in San Jose, Costa Rica and Tegucigalpa, Honduras and have them all move to the new facility. We did not want to leave a void in Costa Rica or Honduras, so we put together what is now called our Satellite School System. We wanted to achieve four goals with the Satellite School System:
Train men who were not ready to attend a full-time, two-year school to be able to preach.
Encourage fundamental Bible training that would train helpers for the local preacher who could go outside the urban areas and help preach and teach with smaller congregations.
Provide a system where local congregations would get a Bible class that would be a foundation for future leaders of the local congregations (elders, deacons, and teachers).
Finally, look at potential prospects in a two-year setting to see if they had the capacity and attitude that would make them good prospects for our full-time school.
A Satellite School System allowed us to keep training in Costa Rica and Honduras as well as all the other countries we were working in at the time as we consolidated our three full-time schools. The nature of the Satellite School was a part-time school where students volunteered to go three hours a week for 39 weeks over two years. We provided the materials for the students (three separate books) but would not supply any other funding.
One of the major advantages of the Satellite School System was to be a “feeder” school for our full-time program. We must find men who can become the next generation of preachers. To have the best men preaching in years to come, we must find the best prospects in which to invest. Our Satellite School System is basically designed to do just that. While we can never be certain how a young man will turn out, we can work with those who demonstrate qualities that potentially will be favorable to producing faithful, dedicated Gospel preachers. While this is a simple, inexpensive concept, it is a critical part of the overall process in accomplishing the goal of training preachers in Latin America.
The Children of the Americas began in the early 1990’s with the purpose of helping the poor and hungry children throughout Latin America–everywhere Latin American Missions is serving.
In most Latin American countries, we are confronted with children who need help. Children who have no shoes or proper clothing. Beautiful children with dirty hands and faces. Hungry children with swollen bellies showing their lack of regular, nutritious meals.
These children must beg, rummage through garbage or steal in order to have anything to eat. They are in dirty rags, they call clothes. Some live in the streets without a place to call home or a family to watch over them. Many have health problems needing immediate attention. Some do not attend school because they can’t afford the uniforms or the materials.
The purpose of the Children of the Americas is to care for and feed the homeless, hungry children of Latin America.
The Children’s Home of the Americas opened with three children in 1996 and has had as many as 45 children at one time. The Home is devoted to serving the needs of orphaned, neglected, and/or abused children. It provides a place to live and grow with loving and dedicated Christian parents and staff. The physical needs of the children–food, clothing, health care, personal hygiene and self discipline–are met at the Children’s Home. They attend school and, if desired, college. Occasionally they enjoy a special outing to McDonalds or the park.
There has always been a family who lives and works full-time with these children, loving them as their own. But having a “mom” and “dad” is not enough when it comes to caring for so many children; it takes many hands to keep everything running properly. Two ladies clean the house and wash clothes six days a week. There is a cook who prepares three healthy, delicious meals daily. A driver must transport the children to and from school, take the cook to the grocery store and run other errands. Homework help is a must; a Sister is in charge of making sure all homework is understood and completed. A person comes each weekend to iron all the school uniforms for the coming week. The smaller children have a special person to care for them and ensure they get baths, are dressed properly, and do their chores. When a child gets sick, someone is in charge of getting them to the clinic and getting their medicine. With so many children, you can imagine that things occasionally break; and so, there is a person in charge of maintenance. As you can see, it is not a two or three person job to “raise” these children. As you can imagine, “there is much to do, there is work on every hand;” and sometimes it seems there is a child everywhere you turn!
One of the goals for the Children of the Americas is to meet their spiritual needs. Daily Bible devotionals are held before the kids get off to school each morning. Sunday and Wednesday are times for the children and staff to gather with the local congregation which meets on the campus. Sometimes the children learn and participate in door knocking and evangelism with the local preacher. Having the knowledge of a Father in heaven who loves them is a gift we can give that is beyond measure. If we fail to meet this goal, we will have failed them completely.