By Bill Reeves
The beginning of the gospel in Spanish in our Southwest (Texas) and Mexico dates from the 1930s. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas an Anglo-American brother converted a laborer, Rosendo Cantú, who then began to preach in Spanish, making converts. About 1939 brother John Wolfe was instrumental in getting brother Pedro Rivas of Mexico to begin preaching in Mexico. Congregations began to be established in the northern half of Mexico and on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. Brothers Harris Goodwin, Wayne Partain, and I first went into Mexico to preach in 1945, cooperating with brother Rivas and with another brother, Francisco Avila. In 1949 brother Partain and I began preaching in Spanish in South Texas, on both sides of the border with Mexico.
Converts from south Texas, following the harvests northward as the crops matured, were instrumental in converting Hispanics in the interior of our country. Some of these migrant workers remained in the interior and north to raise their families in their localities, and thus Spanish-speaking churches were established. (About 1970 I conducted a wedding in Spanish, of all places, in Ohio, and held a gospel meeting in Spanish in Chicago!)
By 1950 there were beginnings and churches also in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Miami, and Tampa, as well as along the West Coast, in the Los Angeles area. After World War II was concluded, many dedicated Anglo-American brethren began to take the gospel into foreign lands, including Spanish-speaking nations. By the middle and the second half of the 50s, the institutional-centralization issue crystallized, and now there were “liberal” and “anti” churches among the Hispanics. By invitation of brethren in Latin-America, brothers Wayne Partain, Joe Soto, Ruben Amador, and I began to enter and preach in Central America and in the Caribbean, and many churches came out of liberalism.
Royce Chandler and Wayne Partain first went to Colombia, South America in August 1977, then Wayne and his wife, Faye, were there the first part of 1978 to help start the church in Bogotá. Since then several of us have made trips into the country (Royce more than anyone else). At the present time, our preaching brethren (especially Néstor Bermudez, Jaime Restrepo, and Carlos Mantilla) are in great danger since the FARC (main guerrilla group) has marked “evangelical” preachers for extermination (35 were killed last year).
In about 1980 a brother in Chiapas (southern-most state of Mexico, bordering Guatemala) saw a tract in Spanish that I had written on the “issues”and requested that someone come teach them the truth. From that event the truth spread into the Yucatan Peninsula and into Central America. Gospel meetings are constantly being conducted throughout Latin-America and Spain by a number of preachers, such as Valente Rodríguez, Mark Reeves, and others.
Brother Efraín Pérez was instrumental in establishing congregations in Chile and in Spain. Brother Carlos Capelli, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, came out of institutionalism and has established congregations and preached in several South American countries and elsewhere. Brother Gardner Hall and brother Tom Holley worked in Argentina, and now for years Gardner has worked in the New York City area. From New Jersey brother Jerry Falk went into Spain and has been there for years now, preaching principally in Barcelona and Seville. In a city near Seville, Dos Hermanas, some brethren wrote brother Partain, after seeing some of our writings in Spanish, and so we went to visit them, and there is now a strong congregation in that city.
Time and space fail me to mention all the able, devout, gospel preachers in Latin-America, whose work I know personally and commend. A few are: Vicente Ramírez, Pedro Molina, and Francisco Rodríguez in Mexico; Nino Estévez and Greg Roark in Venezuela; Santiago Soto and Fernando Castaño in Costa Rica; Eliseo Mirón in El Salvador; Moisés Abarca, Emilio Acevedo, Juan Canelo, Ralph Michell, and others, in Chile. There are conservative congregations throughout Mexico, and in all of the Central American countries, and in nearly all of those of South America.
Brother Partain and I presently have full-length (verse-by-verse) commentaries in Spanish on every book of the New Testament (except Mark and Luke), and also on Leviticus and Daniel. Twenty-five years ago I translated brother Homer Hailey’s syllabus on the Minor Prophets. Wayne has several volumes in Spanish on Sermons And Articles. I have over 5000 questions and answers covering the New Testament books, chapter by chapter, as also debates’ notes, and over 500 Queries & Answers on Bible subjects. Brother Gardner Hall publishes a fine paper, Creced, which has been instrumental in opening many doors in such places as Cuba. Mark Reeves has done works in Spanish on Proverbs and Nehemiah.
Brother Gardner Hall’s publication, Creced, and the literature that brother Partain and I have prepared, currently are opening many doors of opportunity in Cuba, as brethren there learn of the errors of centralization and institutionalism. Brother Ruben Amador is making several trips per year into Cuba to follow up on contacts.
Brethren are urged to stay in close touch with the evangelists that they support, asking them questions about certain issues, because some of those in the Spanish field do not have convictions. Brethren either need to visit them or have them come to visit the churches in the States, so that they can know them well. This is necessary for an avoidance of fellowship with men who are not worthy of the support they receive. (In some cases, brethren should investigate even the men who recommend preachers for support.)
Hispanics have migrated into many, many countries. I have preached in Spanish, of all places, in Geneva, Switzerland and in Montreal, Canada. Who would have thought it? While preaching in two different cities in Alaska, I met Hispanic brethren I had known in Texas and Mexico. We mail Spanish literature even to Australia. Now, throughout the United States, in places where until recently Hispanics and Spanish were relatively unknown, there are growing Hispanic populations! What a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel to these people who have ties and roots throughout Spanish-speaking countries. In every opportunity that presents itself to me to conduct gospel meetings in English, I encourage young men to learn Spanish in high school, with the view in mind of giving themselves to preaching in Spanish. Parents and preachers: help me stimulate a desire in these young people to study Spanish (making straight A’s!) that they might capacitate themselves to be instrumental in reaching the growing Hispanic population in our country. Requests are multiplying recently for help in reaching such Hispanics. (As I write, I have just received an e-mail with such a request.) Here is a “foreign” field in which to preach without one’s leaving his own country! As the apostle Paul desired to preach in Spain (Rom. 15:28), let many of us desire to preach in Spanish!