Academia Cristo began in 2015 with a primary goal to help people start churches in Latin America that faithfully preach and teach God’s Word. “We provide resources, and train and connect people to a network of mentors as they work to share their faith and start churches,” says Missionary Mike Hartman, coordinator of Academia Cristo and Latin America Missions.
Academia Cristo, academiacristo.com, offers self-study Bible studies, music, and training courses for leaders. More than eight thousand people have signed up for Bible courses through Academia Cristo. Its Facebook page, where it shares daily Scripture-based messages and regular live devotions, has more than one million followers. “We want to be known as an entity that has a Christ-centered, biblical message,” Hartman says.
This online presence has led to mission opportunities throughout Latin America. In these places, church leaders have connected with Academia Cristo to access the available resources. During the last years, “we saw a lot of people in Paraguay signing up for courses,” Hartman says.
To make face-to-face connections, missionaries traveled to the country to meet with Academia Cristo students who were interested in using the resources to share the gospel with others. Later in 2019, two WELS missionaries, Abram Degner and Joel Sutton, will be moving to the city of Asunción, Paraguay, to continue meeting with these individuals. There they will study with them and show leaders how to share the resources with others.
The missionaries will be located near individuals such as Carlos Fernandez in northern Argentina. Fernandez started studying with Academia Cristo more than two years ago. Previously, he had served as a pastor and missionary for a different church body. He left the church 10 years ago for doctrinal reasons. “I realized I was just preaching and teaching rules that people had come up with, rather than teaching people about Christ,” Fernandez says.
As he studied the Bible and read it on his own, he realized salvation is through faith by grace. Fernandez, who lives in the Chaco province of northern Argentina, wanted to start a church that was faithful to Scripture. In his search for truthful resources, he came across Academia Cristo. During the last two years, missionaries have visited him three times, and now Fernandez is in doctrinal agreement with WELS.
Now a missionary mentors Fernandez, who then trains other men in the Chaco province who want to start Bible-based churches.
For years, WELS members in the United States have reached out to missionaries in Latin America in an attempt to share the gospel with loved ones in other countries. Academia Cristo is able to help these members connect with family and friends in Spanish-speaking areas and share the gospel with them. For instance, several years ago, members of a WELS church in Sarasota, Florida, began working with contacts they had in Paraguay. Through Academia Cristo, they can coordinate with WELS missionaries to share the gospel with people in these areas.
Another WELS church in Arizona has contacts in Cuba. Together with missionaries, members are using Academia Cristo to learn how to share the gospel and start churches in Cuba. Missionaries mentor these members and their connections to help them set up a ministry plan and reach more.
“People are interested in these areas and searching for the gospel,” Hartman says. “They are looking for someone who will teach them about the Bible and Christ.”
Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 2019