Ralph and Frances Hiatt were appointed missionaries to Argentina in March 1964. Three years later they moved to San Juan, Argentina, in May 1967 with the intention to plant a church. After just eight months they were able to give a glowing report of their evangelistic efforts in the Jan. 7, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
As they began their missionary work in San Juan, the Hiatts prayed about the best way to proceed. They were joined by Angel Vega, a recent graduate of an Assemblies of God Bible school in Argentina. Since they were living in the Southern Hemisphere, May was the start of winter. Because of the cold, they were prevented from holding outdoor evangelistic campaigns until maybe the warmer days of October. At the time, San Juan was a busy, university town nestled at the foot of the Andes Mountains with over 300,000 people.
Together they prayed, “Lord, what is our first step?” The answer led them to rent a hall in the center of the city. Looking through ads in the newspaper, they found a 42-foot long hall in the heart of the city which was exactly what they needed. They claimed it for God!
Over the next three weeks they constructed a platform and assembled a pulpit and pews. They also placed windows in the front entryway of the building. Next they used a loudspeaker on their Speed the Light car and distributed over 4,000 invitations to come to revival meetings. Their expectations were high, but at the opening service not even one person came. They did not give up. They continued holding services nightly.
Eventually curiosity seekers came, and some stayed. Most of these were university students. The building became known as Centro Biblico (Bible Center). Instead of a traditional worship service followed by a sermon, the Hiatts decided to broadcast taped or live organ music through a loudspeaker mounted above the outside door to draw in people from the streets. A projector also showed a rotation of slides of Bible verses and an occasional notice: “We invite you to come in without obligation.” Angel would stand outside on the sidewalk talking to people to encourage them to enter the Bible center.
Those who came into the building were greeted with music from an electric organ, a Hawaiian guitar, and other instruments. They were encouraged to look through a literature rack to pick up any gospel tracts. They were also invited to ask questions. Many of them were students, and they had lots of questions about the Bible and God, which the Hiatts did their best to answer.
Whenever a small group of people assembled, the Hiatts would lead in prayer followed by a few choruses and a short sermonette, often accompanied by a chalk drawing to illustrate the message. After one group would leave, then another group might come in, and the process would start all over again. After filling out a visitor’s card, each person would leave with a Gospel of John. Follow-up could be done later.
This continued night after night. Some would come back, bringing their friends to listen to the music or ask questions. Although these services were not conventional, the gospel was being shared, and souls were being saved.
Ralph Hiatt expressed, “As new missionaries in a new city, we cannot imagine the possibilities that might lie in the future for the San Juan Bible Center.” He concluded by saying, “We are enjoying the thrill that accompanies those who stand on the threshold of great opportunities and know they are following the quiet leading of the Holy Spirit.”
This is just one example of missions work in Argentina from 50 years ago. Currently the Assemblies of God has 22 missionaries in Argentina. There are 1.2 million Assemblies of God members and adherents with 1,753 ministers and 1,567 churches and preaching points.
Read “Unique Evangelism in Argentina,” on pages 12 and 13 of the Jan. 7, 1968 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Good Works Were Not Enough,” by Marguerite Mandel
• “Why We Believe in the Second Coming,” by Robert B. Larter
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.