Collection 236 Records of Latin America Mission
Scope and Contents
Records of the mission, including correspondence, minutes, reports, memos, financial reports, policy statements, planning documents, promotional material, photographs, etc.
Documents describe the origins of LAM (particularly the contribution of the Strachan family); evangelistic, church planting, educational, medical, and literature activities (primarily in Colombia and Costa Rica, but also many other Latin American countries and the United States); the restructuring of the mission in the 1970s through the 1990s; and the development of Protestant churches and institutions in Latin America.
- Created: 1903-1994
Conditions Governing Access
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Biographical or Historical Information
Evangelical mission agency; founded by Harry and Susan Strachan in Costa Rica, 1921; focused on church planting, evangelism, camping ministry, orphanage administration, Christian education, theological training, literature production, medical care, agricultural and community development, youth ministry, use of media for evangelism and nurture, and cooperation with other agencies; operation based in Costa Rica, focused there and in Colombia, although extending to other Latin American countries and communities in the U.S.; developed the Evangelism-in-Depth program to involve lay Christians at the local level in ongoing evangelism; actively sought to develop indigenous leaders; restructured in 1971 to become a part of the Communidad Latinoamericana de Ministerios Evangelicos, which consisted of ministries which LAM had helped started in various countries. This structure was dissolved in 1984. The mission continued and several institutions in other countries became independent.
LAM was founded as the Latin America Evangelization Crusade in Costa Rica in 1921 by Rev. Harry and Susan Beamish Strachan, who had been working as missionaries with Regions Beyond Missionary Society in the Argentinean pampas. Latin America Mission became the official name of the mission in 1938.
1921-1977: LAM's first headquarters was located San Jose, Costa Rica, and later added a field office in Cartagena, Colombia in 1937. Its United States headquarters was located in New Jersey (Ridgefield and then Bogota), and transferred to Coral Gables, Florida in 1977. In 1987, the mission again moved to Miami. The mission also maintained offices in London and Toronto.
1977-1987: U.S. headquarters in Coral Gables, Florida
1987- : U.S. headquarters in Miami, Florida
Latin America Mission (LAM) was an interdenominational mission agency, engaged in church planting, evangelism, camping, child care, Christian education and theological training (in both formal and off-site programs), literature production, medical care, agricultural and community development, and providing services to other organizations.
As of 2007, LAM worked in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, and Venezuela; however, about two thirds of its personnel worked in Costa Rica, Mexico and Columbia.
Other significant information:
The mission expanded its work into Colombia in 1937. Key institutions which emerged in that country included the Association of Evangelical Churches of the Caribbean (the association of LAM churches), the Evangelical Missions Officers Council (EMOC), and CEDEC or Evangelical Confederation of Colombia, which largely replaced EMOC in 1950. EMOC/CEDEC was dedicated to coordinating efforts and minimizing overlap and competition among mission agencies in the Colombia; the group also formed to address in a unified way the persecution of Protestants.
While LAM concentrated its efforts in Costa Rica and Colombia, it established work in other Latin American countries, some brief descriptions of which follow. The autonomous Mision Latinoamericana de Mexico (MILAMEX), was founded in 1970 to carry on and expand the ministries of radio, evangelism, camp and publications in Mexico. Juan Isais was appointed as its first director. "Spearhead" was the project name for a program which began as an idea in 1970 to involve Christian university students from the United States in evangelism in Latin America and expose them to mission opportunities. Launched in 1972, "Spearhead" developed at a time when other mission agencies were also implementing short term mission programs for young people.
Work started in Panama in 1954 with the incorporation of the mission and opening of its bookstore. LAM also operated radio station HOXO jointly with World Radio Missionary Fellowship. In 1958, the "Panama Confab" was held, an informal gathering of LAM leaders to develop an overall picture of ministry in Panama and formulate how LAM could most effectively allocate its resources and cooperate with other agencies and denominations also at work there.
In 1954 LAM began exploring options for ministry among New York City's Hispanic population. Among the activities envisioned were a Spanish Bible Institute, coordination with Hispanic pastors, evangelistic outreach, and building a base for carrying out social ministries as well. The project, led by Juan Isais, started in 1956 with a radio program and correspondence course; a bookstore was opened a year later, and the Bible Institute began operation in 1958.
The US Home Council, later called the Board of Trustees, was a "self-perpetuating body" made up of selected representatives of the Christian public, and representatives of the executive leadership of the Mission.... The Board of Trustees ordinarily meets monthly to handle legal and business matters of the mission, determine financial policy, receive and delegate contributions, examine and accept missionary candidates and oversee the activities of the Mission." (Principles and Government of the Latin America Mission, 1965 edition, folder 651,2) The Board worked in conjunction with the General Director and the Inter-Field Conference. The General Director was the chief executive of the mission and was a member of all official mission bodies. He was responsible for the over-all direction of LAM's work and was appointed by the Board of Trustees.
Authority was delegated by the mission's board of trustees to the field office in Costa Rica. The mission's governing bodies were in order of rank the Home Council, the Director (later replaced by Local Field Councils) and the Inter-Field Council (IFC). The Quorum of the Inter-Field Council (Q-IFC, later called the Inter-Field Council Executive or IFC-X, consisting of those members of the IFC resident in Costa Rica) was charged with taking interim action between IFC meetings.
The US General Council was the organizational body comprised of individuals selected by the mission's Board of Trustees on the basis of commitment to missions and LAM; the Council served as an advisory body to the LAM General Directors on matters of policy and program. The Council was added to the LAM organizational structure in 1963, meeting once a year.
The mission was incorporated in a number of countries beside the United States, including Canada in 1961.
Formal divisions of LAM included: Evangelism, Communications, Literature, and Student Evangelism. The mission was administratively restructured in 1971 with the formation of the Comunidad Latinoamericana de Ministerios Evangelicos (translated Community of Latin American Evangelical Ministries, CLAME). CLAME became the umbrella organization, of which various LAM divisions became autonomous members, along with the US branch of the mission. In addition to decentralizing the mission, the major consequence of this restructuring was the redistribution of authority into predominantly Latin American rather than expatriate missionaries' hands. The United States division of the mission therefore became an equal member along with the other divisions in CLAME. The organization was governed by an annual assembly of its members, an executive committee and a full-time general secretary (three-year terms). CLAME's first general secretary was W. Dayton Roberts, who was followed by Nicaraguan missionary, Rafael Baltodano Z. and Paul E. Pretiz. Horace Fenton, who had been LAM's general director at the time it restructured, continued as the director of LAM-USA until 1977. At that time, developments in CLAME led to further restructuring of LAM-USA, and Clayton L. "Mike" Berg, Jr. became it's president for a three-year term. CLAME was dissolved in 1986, with each of the member divisions becoming autonomous. LAM-USA continued its own operations as well as seconding staff to other former-CLAME members.
The mission produced its bi-monthly magazine Latin America Evangelist, beginning in 1921, to report on LAM's work and developments in Latin America.
The mission developed a variety of means to develop and maintain interest and support of its work among American evangelicals. Until 1960, the department had operated under the name Stewardship Office; beginning in 1960 that was replaced by the Office of Information and Public Relations. The mission used various means to make itself more widely known, including Latin America Evangelist, films and filmstrips, brochures, books and articles, missions’ conferences at churches, and an annual conference of its own. It also solicited support from foundations. The division also coordinated dissemination of information within the organization, illustrated by a number of internal publications including LAMECOS (Home Office Monthly Bulletin), The Costa Rica Field Reporter, Entre Nos (Spanish "weekly publication for the family of Latin America Mission"), Lowdown ("From Down In Lower Florida"), Confidential Memo ("To the LAM Family), and Memo From Dit (Fenton). Latin America Reporter was a radio program developed to be aired by evangelical radio stations in order to increase listeners' awareness of Latin America, missionary events (not limited to LAM) there, and of the mission's activity. "Operation Outreach" was a tour of LAM fields (Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Venezuela) by supporters. LAM conducted the tours in 1962, 1965, 1967 and 1968; a 1970 tour was planned and then canceled. The 50th anniversary tour in 1972 was an extension of this series of tours.
LAM was a member of both Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA) and Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA). LAM withdrew from IFMA in 1978, while continuing its membership in EFMA.
From the mission's inception, evangelism was its primary emphasis. Prior to World War II, Harry Strachan carried out citywide crusades throughout the Spanish-speaking world, which served to strengthen the underdeveloped Protestant church in predominantly Roman Catholic countries. Strachan's son, R. Kenneth, revived these campaigns between 1949 and 1958, climaxed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Caribbean Crusade in 1958.
Under R. Kenneth Strachan's leadership, LAM initiated a program in 1959 which transferred the focus of evangelism from presenting a single professional evangelist to country-wide congregation-based lay evangelism called "Evangelism-in-Depth (E/D)," which continued on a broad scale until 1971. E/D programs operated in fourteen Latin American countries; after 1971 the program continued in Mexico. The program, usually carried out over the course of a year, included organized prayer, training for the lay Christians, preparation of counselors, follow-up of new Christians, widespread publicity, door-to-door visitation, local and regional evangelistic campaigns, regional and national parades, radio and television programs, and widespread tract and Bible distribution. A key feature of the program was its intent to "mobilize the entire evangelical community."
With the development and experience of E/D in Latin America, LAM developed the Office of Worldwide Evangelism-in-Depth (OWED) in 1967 to promote the program's use throughout the world and coordinate projects outside of Latin America. With the formation of the Community of Latin American Evangelical Missions (CLAME) in 1971, LAM's tradition of evangelism was continued by CLAME member, International Institute of In-Depth Evangelization (INDEPTH).
LAM expanded its initial focus on evangelism when in 1923 Susan Strachan began training women leaders in her home in a program called the Women's Bible Training School. In 1924, ten Nicaraguan male students joined the student body and the school was renamed the Bible Institute of Costa Rica. In 1941, the school was again renamed the Latin American Biblical Seminary or Seminario Biblico Latinoamericano. (Publications of the Seminary include Vinculos, aimed at the Seminary's alumni; ID, produced by the school's Committee of Missionary Activity; Discipulo, a short-lived seminary publication; and ECOS, a 1- or 2-page newsletter for students consisting largely of announcements.) Beginning in the mid-1970s, following the establishment of CLAME and Seminary's independence, criticism of the school developed because of allegations that it had conceded ground to liberation theology; many conservative churches consequently withdrew their financial support. In 1979 LAM withdrew its public endorsement of the seminary, although it continued to sponsor some of its missionaries on the staff.
By 1966 the school had grown to include fifty-nine students representing twenty-three evangelical organizations. The Caribbean Bible Center was developed in Sincelejo, Colombia in 1953, to provide additional theological training for lay people, as well as providing a facility for Christian camping and conferences. The Center was founded as a memorial to Dr. Robert C. McQuilkin, founder of Columbia Bible College, who was consulted during the development of the Center. A Bible education correspondence course was initially based in LAM's Communication Division and transferred to the Center in 1967. An extension education program was also developed by the Center in 1967.
LAM from the beginning addressed social needs as part of its ministry. The Clinica Biblica (Bible Hospital) was established in San Jose 1929 and a Costa Rican orphanage, the Hogar Biblico (Bible Home) in 1932 (See the section on Orphanage, Farm and Camp (Hogar Biblico & Roblealto). Clinic Biblica continued under LAM administration until 1968, when operation was transferred to an independent board and staff, Servicios Medicos. Two other ministries developed in Colombia were United Action (1971, a relief-rehabilitation development program for rural communities) and the Association for Christian Care for Colombian Children (1972). LAM cooperated with the Christian Action Committee in Costa Rica, an ecumenical effort in social action. Among the projects of the Committee in which LAM directly participated were the Good Will Caravans and the Bible Home at the Roblealto site. The Good Will Caravans was part of the Evangelical Alliance of Costa Rica's Rural Work Committee (Comite de Obra Rural), designed as a mobile project to bring medical care, education and evangelistic outreach to communities outside government service areas at the invitation of a local church.
LAM's emphasis on education was expressed not only through ministerial training and theological correspondence courses, but also primary and secondary level education. A secondary school for girls was opened in 1948, and for boys in 1955 in Cartagena, Colombia; these were merged in 1970 to form the Colegio Latinoamericano. The environment of persecution of Protestants, particularly in Colombia, contributed to the motivation for the mission to provide a high school education which did not discriminate against the children of evangelicals. Colegio Monterrey in suburban San Jose was founded in 1956 by Costa Rican Christians in cooperation with LAM and also sponsored by the Association of Bible Churches of Costa Rica, the Templo Biblico, and the Association of Parents, Teachers and Friends. Kindergarten and primary programs were opened in 1957, followed by a first year secondary program in 1958. The medium of instruction for the school was Spanish. Albert C. Grimm, a LAM missionary, was its principal from 1959 to 1966, when administration of the school was turned over to national leadership.
The mission established the Training Division in 1958, including under its administration the Seminary and Correspondence Course. The emphasis of the unit was on providing for well-trained leadership for the evangelical church in Latin America. In 1965 the Training Division was reformed as the Education Division to provide oversight for all educational work of the mission. The Divisions' directors were Wilton Nelson (1958-1966) and Clayton L. Berg, Jr. (1966- ).
The mission planted its first church in 1929. Its church planting work in Costa Rica led to the founding in 1945 of Asociacion de Iglesias Biblicas Costarricences (Association of Costa Rican Bible Churches), which in 1967 consisted of nineteen churches. Those congregations which developed from LAM's work formed the autonomous association. Most ministries of LAM were conducted in partnership of AIEC. An example of this was a short-term training program for local pastors which the Association sponsored.
LAM's work among young people was carried out among grammar and high school boys in Costa Rica and university students. Escuadron de Servicio Christiano (Costa Rican equivalent of Christian Service Brigade in the U.S., a church-based club program for boys) was established in 1947, followed by Camp Roblealto in 1948. The division, a part of LAM's Youth Department, was made independent under a national council in 1955 and fully nationalized in 1958. Joseph Coughlin, former LAM missionary and founder of Christian Service Brigade, was its first director. By 1963, Jorge Alfaro had assumed leadership of Escuadron. Once autonomous, LAM carried some Escuadron staff on its payroll and the mission named two members to the Escuadron National Council. The mission began a process of evaluation of its relationship to Escuadron in 1963 which continued through 1970.
Work among university students, modeled on Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship's ministry in the US, began in the 1940's, with input from Inter-Varsity and later from International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). Work was initially carried out by the Association of Christian Students (AUC) and the local International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (ACEE). Prior to 1966, ministry among university students was combined with that of teenagers and children in LAM's Youth Department, led by Joseph Coughlin. Coughlin served as the director of the Youth Department until mid-1953, when he was replaced by Lester Burton. In 1966, LAM held several consultations to plan the upgrading of its ministry among university students, calling the program MINAMUNDO, the acronym being derived from Ministerio al Mundo Estudiantil (Ministry to the Student World). MINAMUNDO, like some other student ministries around the world, included work among high school students.
Orphanage, Farm and Camp (Hogar Biblico & Roblealto). Hogar Biblico (LAM's orphanage, translated Bible Home), was opened in 1932 on a 200-acre piece of property purchased in 1930. The mission also started a dairy farm there in 1932, which was intended to both supply milk to the orphanage and nearby clinic, and to defray the facility's operating expenses. The farm later added coffee, sugar cane, and poultry (1964) to its income generating enterprises. Coffee production was discontinued in 1969.
In February 1948, Campamento Roblealto (translated Camp Tall Oak) was opened for a two-week camp in the Costa Rican mountains outside San Jose. Camps were held there for grammar school, high school and university students, as well as occasional English camps for children of missionaries and others. The camp was also the site of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship's (US) summer Overseas Training Camp (OTC) in 1969 and 1970.
In 1962, a Provisional Board of Directors was established for the orphanage, whose oversight covered the orphanage and farm. In 1966, the administration of the camp was formally brought together with the orphanage and farm under the title "Roblealto." In 1968, administration of the camp was moved from the Roblealto division to that of the Minamundo division. Also in 1968, the Provisional Council was replaced by a more permanent governing body, the Asociacion Evangelica Pro-Bienestar del Nino (translated the Evangelical Association for the Benefit of Children).
Literature: LAM's literature division, Editorial Caribe, was organized in San Jose in 1949, when the mission took over the Spanish-language publication program and inventory of the American Tract Society. A grant from Moody Press and Moody Literature Mission facilitated this process. The work included publishing Bible study resources in Spanish, Sunday school materials (Luz del Evangelio: Spanish adaptation of the complete Gospel Light Sunday school curriculum begun in 1945) and operating book stores in four countries. The division opened its first bookstore in San Jose in 1949; another was opened in Panama in 1955; a third was opened in the Spanish-speaking area of New York City; and a fourth was opened in 1961 in the Costa Rican port of Limon; a subdivision was also established in Mexico, but rather than incorporating an independent shop, a distribution system through existing bookstores was implemented.
Editorial Caribe was an active member of San Jose-based LEAL (Literatura Evangelica para America Latina, translated Evangelical Literature for Latin America), the cooperative coordinating agency for the production and distribution of Christian literature in Spanish, whose intent was "not to publish books itself, but rather to help member organizations by a thorough program of coordination and planning." LEAL began in early 1945 at a preliminary conference called by Evangelical Literature Overseas in 1955; in 1956, it held a constitutional convention in Placetas, Cuba, to formalize its existence. Reorganization of LEAL was considered at several times, including being merged into Difusiones Inter-Americanas (DIA, translated Inter-American Communications; DIA means day in Spanish; see following section under radio). Discussions about restructuring (including issues of indigenous vs. missionary control and financing) were intensified in the late-1960 and in 1970. In view of financial viability and ongoing usefulness, LEAL was scaled back and its operations were moved to Argentina in 1970.
VERBO (translated "the Word") was a magazine proposed and accepted at LEAL's constitutional convention to be a Spanish evangelical monthly. Initially called VIDA (translated "life"), the title was altered to avoid problems with LIFE Magazine. Headquarters were established in Buenos Aires, with Alec Clifford, Paul Sheetz and Jose Bongarra serving as administrative staff for the magazine. Organizational sponsorship for the magazine did not solidify until 1957, when LAM and Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society (CBFMS) assumed co-sponsorship of the magazine. Due to inability to develop popular acceptance and continued fiscal shortages, publication of the magazine was suspended in late-1958. LAM withdrew its sponsorship, while CBFMS took full control of the magazine, moved its headquarters to Mexico City under Vergil Gerber's leadership, where it resumed publication in 1962. At the time preparations were being made to revive VERBO, inquiries were made by Charles Ward of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about the feasibility of launching a Spanish version of DECISION Magazine; that project was launched and in 1964 but discontinued by the end of the year.
Editorial Caribe moved from San Jose in 1969 to Miami, where it became the Latin America Mission Publications (LAMP). In 1968, Editorial Caribe requested the evaluation services from Christian Service Fellowship. The most critical issue addressed was Editorial Caribe's financial indebtedness for the Luz del Evangelio program. The division's relationship with Gospel Light consequently changed in the late 1960's. Another consequence of the evaluation was the selling of the division's printing shop.
Radio: The Radio-Literature Division was established in 1956, and was then divided into separate divisions in 1958. In 1965 the division was expanded to become the Communications Division, integrating various non-radio communications into one unit. W. Dayton Roberts was the division's first director. Paul Pretiz followed Roberts as the division's director in the mid-1960's. A separate Communications Department was also established on the Colombia field in 1964, integrating film, radio, literature and correspondence functions.
LAM's central and first involvement in radio broadcasting was in establishing station TIFC (El Far del Caribe or "Lighthouse of the Caribbean") in San Jose. In 1945 LAM bought facilities on which to develop the radio station, which it did in 1948. TIFC was the second Christian station to broadcast on radio in Latin America (the first being HCJB in Quito, Ecuador). HOXO, a commercial station which aired some religious programming, was purchased by Christian businessmen in the Canal Zone in 1949. In 1954, LAM jointly assumed responsibility for the operation of station HOXO in Panama with the World Radio Missionary Fellowship (HCJB). In 1963, LAM transferred its sponsorship to World Missionary Fellowship, giving it full responsibility for the station. LAM withdrew its sponsorship because of the realignment of the mission's priorities, and an ongoing lack of personnel and finances. In the mid-1950's (1956?), LAM's radio work was made a full division of the mission, later called the Communications Division. It also assisted in operating stations in Nicaragua (YNOL, 1959, fully supported and operated by national Christians, the first indigenous-operated radio station in Central America, under leadership of David Solt) and El Salvador (YSHQ, 1963, the second indigenous-operated radio station, also under leadership of David Solt), and later added television broadcasting to its use of media for evangelism and teaching. Federico Picardo was the television station's first director and Arturo Cabezas its first manager. LAM explored various opportunities to enter television broadcasting in Latin America, none of these developed into ongoing operations.
LAM also contributed staff and production of radio programs and audio-visual materials for distribution to all Spanish-speaking areas through DIA (Difusiones Inter-Americanas), a cooperative evangelical radio, TV and film service. DIA began in 1951 as the Cadena Cultural Panamericana (Panamerican Christian Network), which formed to expand the efforts of individual stations by sharing radio programs among the members. CCP had a board of directors representing five Christian radio stations. The service they offered was recorded music, talks, sermons, dramas, devotional services, children's programs, Christian news, and scripts. CCP was administered by Clarence Jones (HCJB), Paul Pretiz (HOXO), W. Dayton Roberts (TIFC) and Robert Remington (Presbyterian USA Board of Foreign Missions). LAM was a founding member of CCP. In 1959, 153 representatives of the major Protestant radio and literature ministries in Latin America participated in the Congress on Evangelical Communication in Cali, Colombia. The result of the congress was the formation of DIA. The congress was jointly sponsored by CCP, representing radio and television ministry, and LEAL (Literatura Evangelica para America Latina) representing literature interests. DIA's headquarters, like CCP's, was in San Jose. CCP was not immediately closed down but continued to coordinate some activities among eight missionary radio stations in Latin America before being closed down.
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Other Descriptive Information
- Berg, Clayton L., 1928-
- Christian education.
- Christian literature -- Publishing.
- Christian literature.
- Church and state -- Colombia.
- Church and state.
- Church development, New.
- Church schools
- Church schools -- Latin America.
- Church work with students -- Latin America.
- Church work with students.
- Church work with youth -- Latin America.
- Church work with youth.
- Evangelicalism -- Colombia.
- Evangelicalism -- Costa Rica.
- Evangelicalism -- Latin America.
- Evangelicalism -- Mexico.
- Evangelistic work -- Biblical teaching.
- Evangelistic work -- Colombia.
- Evangelistic work -- Congresses
- Evangelistic work -- Congresses -- Latin America.
- Evangelistic work -- Latin America.
- Evangelistic work -- Philosophy.
- Evangelistic work.
- Fenton, Horace L.
- Fenton, Horace L. -- Sermons.
- Howard, David M.
- Indigenous church administration
- Indigenous church administration -- Latin America.
- Landrey, J. Paul.
- Mass media in religion -- Latin America.
- Mass media in religion.
- Medical care
- Medical care -- Latin America.
- Missions -- Educational work.
- Missions -- Colombia.
- Missions -- Costa Rica.
- Padilla, C. Rene.
- Radio in missionary work.
- Radio in religion -- Latin America.
- Radio in religion.
- Roberts, Grace Strachan.
- Roberts, W. Dayton.
- Strachan, Harry.
- Strachan, Robert Kenneth,
- Strachan, Susan B.
- Theological seminaries -- Costa Rica.
- Theological seminaries.
- Collection 236 Records of Latin America Mission
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