“That’s not my ministry”: why loving your neighbor is everyone’s ministry

“The poverty is jarring, painful, unjust, overwhelming and very nearly hope-depleting.”

This is SAM missionary Laurie Bremer’s reflection on poverty after living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with her family for their first 2 years of ministry.

“It causes me to feel guilt, shame, compassion, empathy, and so many other emotions all at once,” she continues, “every time I am reminded that I am in the car and they are on the streets. Just like the last time we drove through this intersection.”

According to Bolivia’s National Institute of Statistics, the portion of Bolivia’s population living in poverty has dropped 20% in the past 15 years, but it still rests near 40%. This reality is the context for many of SAM’s missionaries who have to wrestle daily with how to engage with this poverty as compassionate Christ followers.

“There are some things I imagine one never gets used to,” Laurie states. “Abject poverty is one of those things.”

“Is this just a fool’s errand?” she asks. “From every earthly perspective, it is. This mess is far too big. I want to throw my hands up in despair. I want to run away to where poverty isn’t so confrontational. What an ugly truth to realize in one’s self: I prefer poverty in avoidable pockets that don’t encroach into everyday suburban life.”

While Laurie may be particularly outspoken or self-aware in this realization, she certainly is not alone. According to the US Census Bureau’s 2016 estimates, the United State’s poverty rate hovers around 12.7%, or 43.1 million people. Despite this fact, though there was a rise in charitable donations last year, only 25% of the US adult population volunteered their time to a charitable organization.

It’s simply more comfortable to click “donate”.

Eradicating poverty, ending homelessness or solving world hunger requires action and effort. Even if our calling is to a specific career or ministry that feels disconnected from these issues, we must still avoid isolating ourselves from the “least of these”.

“We know many hardworking, long-suffering missionaries who are involved in street ministry. They work with addicts. They work with children living on the streets… I know that I am not called to this ministry,” Laurie declares. “But that does not negate the question, ‘What am I doing here that makes a difference in the life of the impoverished people in Bolivia?’ Because it is not okay for my answer to be ‘nothing’. I can’t just say ‘Well, that’s not my ministry’… I truly believe that the ministry in which we are engaged will bear fruit and [that] some day it will rain blessings upon the least of these.”

Because it is not okay for my answer to be ‘nothing’.

Laurie and her husband serve in professional class ministry, interacting daily with pilots, lawyers, doctors, dentists, academic and civic leaders in Santa Cruz. Though her ministry focuses mostly on the middle and upper classes, she sees the direct connection to the impoverished communities around her: “As overwhelming as the depth of poverty reaches here, what if there was revival at all levels in Bolivia? What if professionals with the ability to make a change were awakened to how God has called us all to care for the least of these?”

It’s not an excuse to avoid the homeless. She will see them every day. They will ask for money at her car door and she will continually feel the overwhelming burden of the impoverished in her city.

But Laurie does not despair: “Without Christ, it would feel overwhelming and hopeless. It would BE overwhelming and hopeless. But we know that He cares greatly for those who have so many desperate needs, just as He cares for those who have so much affluence that they feel no need for Him at all.”

The call to love our neighbor extends beyond all socioeconomic boundaries. We do not have the right to limit the command to love your neighbor as yourself based on personal preference or comfort.

“Do we know that we will live to see the eradication of such terrible poverty in Bolivia?” Laurie asks. “No, we do not. But I know this for certain: Because of the faith and the hope that we have, fools or not, we will go down fighting on this errand, if that’s what we’ve been called to do.”

SCCLC Jan ’18 Flood Relief

SCCLC Flooding

A flash flood unexpectedly struck Santa Cruz, Bolivia on the night of January 1st. Rains inundated and covered the entire campus of the Santa Cruz Christian Learning Center (SCCLC) in a span of just a few hours, filling classrooms, offices, the gymnasium, and library. The SCCLC is an international k-12 Christian school with more than 200 students.

Giving to help restore and rebuild the school has begun. You can join the relief efforts here: www.southamericamission.org/floodrelief

Teachers, staff, students, missionaries, and parents spent the first week of 2018 scrubbing the floors, extracting the mud, sorting the debris, and restoring what was left of the school’s resources. Many of the volunteers that week had flooding issues of their own at home, but they sacrificially gave their time to the SCCLC. This international Christian school plays such a vital role in its community that its students, faculty, and network of parents so actively participate in its restoration now.

The initial, modest estimate of damage is $35,000. The school also estimates that $20,000 is needed to work on the property to ensure that future heavy rains do not damage the classrooms and facilities again in this way. The goal is big, but God is bigger.

SCCLC Flooding

With your help, the SCCLC can be revived, its classrooms and offices can be guarded against future flooding, and its students and teachers can approach the rainy season each year without fear.

The SCCLC needs your help today. Your donation of $50 or $100 would help buy new text or library books. A gift of $1,000 could restore an entire classroom worth of supplies and furniture. A greater amount would help with the much needed flood prevention for a school that seeks to fulfill the Great Commission in Bolivia. All donations are tax deductible.

Please give what you can today: www.southamericamission.org/floodrelief

Year-End Giving in 2017

year end giving

It’s November—Summer is long gone, Thanksgiving approaches, and Christmas shopping begins (if it hasn’t already). As the holiday season blurs before you, there are a few easy ways to pause and consider how to generously use the resources that you’ve been given through year-end giving.

Here are 3 ways to give back before the year is up:

1—Amazon Smile: the best thing about Amazon Smile is that it costs you nothing. If you’re shopping on Amazon, the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of any purchase to the organization of your choice. As you purchase Christmas gifts, groceries, household goods, or new winter coats for the family, head on over to smile.Amazon.com to make your money go further. You’ll be prompted to enter in the name of your organization before shopping: just enter in “South America Mission”, located in Fort Mill, SC, and make us your benefitting organization.

Can’t remember to go to a different url for this cause? Google Chrome makes it even easier for you with a plug-in called “Smile Always” that automatically reroutes you to Amazon smile every time, ensuring that each purchase makes a difference.

2—#GivingTuesday: this social media-based movement has grown rapidly in the past few years. As Black Friday and Cyber Monday expand larger and larger each year, a counter-cultural movement to give back emerged. Giving Tuesday is a call to donate to non-profits on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, as a way to launch the giving season. This year on November 28th, when the Thanksgiving weekend has come to an end, consider giving back to a non-profit.

South America Mission received more than $50,000 last year on Giving Tuesday. People generously and selflessly chose to give back during a season culturally marked by consumerism. Get ready to give again to SAM on Giving Tuesday 2017, and have your gift to SAM’s Vision Fund DOUBLED!

3—Year-End Giving: historically, year-end giving has made up 30% of many non-profit organization’s annual donations. Individuals and corporations annually look at their own budgets and consider end-of-year tax-deductible donations. Non-profits, likewise, evaluate their projected annual budget and total amount still needed in order to meet their goals.  Most year-end giving happens on the last 3 days of the year, but there’s no need to wait until the day before the New Year to invest in a worthy cause.

In 2016, approximately 15% of the year’s total donations were received in December, helping South America Mission meet our funding needs for the year.

Every donation counts and every gift makes a difference. Join us this year in making ministry possible and continuing to bring the redemptive hope of the gospel to every town, tribe, and nation in South America. Donate now.

CCB Peru Celebrates 25 Years

CCB Peru tribal students
The fog lifts each morning on the Ucayali River, as locals travel into Pucallpa, Peru, for trade, education, and work. Pucallpa, the capital of the Ucayali Region, is Peru’s largest port city, and sits at the Northeast end of the only highway extending from the Pacific coast to its region. It rests on the edge of Peru’s upper Amazon basin rainforest and is home to the CCB Bible Institute.


In 1992, the CCB or Centro de Capacitación Bíblica opened its doors for the first time, and in 25 years it has grown from a class size of six to an average of 50 students, representing over the years a total of 18 different tribal groups, and resulting in 360 graduates 90% of whom are active today in ministry.

This past January, the CCB welcomed 70 students from five tribal groups who will participate in its two-year program. Graduates immerse themselves with the local Shipibo-Conibo Tribal Evangelical Church Association, serving by making disciples, training others in evangelism, modeling leadership for the emerging generation, as well as carrying out social and community development projects that improve health and increase access to food, water and education.

One goal of the CCB is for students to discover and use their spiritual gifts to strengthen communities of faith, including their individual families. Students work diligently on thesis papers during their time at the CCB, while the faculty and staff, who are Peruvian pastors and lay leaders, mentor the students. As each program cycle brings new students, it also brings its hurdles. “Each year differences in language, levels of education, and customs of other tribal groups bring new challenges to the program of CCB,” SAM missionary Tom Hough explains. Despite these changes, the training center continues to grow and impact its community.

Tom expresses excitement when he talks about the impact of CCB’s outreach programs, set up through a partnership with the Shipibo-Conibo church association. He recalls, “[they] continue to travel through the vast jungle region of Peru into many different tribal groups… During 2016 more than 25 major trips were made… visiting more than 50 villages on 12 different river systems.” Tom speaks confidently, and hopefully, about the CCB’s purposes being accomplished, “lives are being transformed because of the efforts of the graduates through evangelism and discipleship. The process is working and tribal churches are being planted.”

The growth, momentum, and impact of the CCB is invigorating, and its continued success after these first 25 years will be the direct result of the time and resources that so many have given, and continue to give, to see this ministry flourish. Funding received to sustain the ministry of the CCB helps cover students’ transportation needs to and from villages, room and board, tuition, textbooks, and costs associated with medical care the center strives to provide. $600 enables an indigenous pastor to train for an entire year at the CCB, and contributes to the advancement of the gospel of grace in the Amazon basin of Northeast Peru.

Make it happen Will you donate to sustain the discipleship and pastoral formation work of CCB $50 per month sustains a pastor at CCB for one year. Help keep the momentum at CCB in 2017 as it celebrates 25 years.

To donate, visit: www.southamericamission.org/ccbperu.

Redemptive Community



“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

—2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV)

We are “redemptive” because of our redeemed state in Christ, and because he has made us redeemers.

It is a privilege that God makes his appeal through us, for all creation to be redeemed unto the Creator. It is also a calling for the maturation of our faith. For God to rightly use us to make his appeal to mankind, we must be rooted in Him, abiding in him, joined to his redemptive purposes for the restoration of righteousness, for the healing of brokenness.

As a community of missionaries who actively participate in cross-cultural ministry, we have the opportunity every day to sin against our brothers. We have the opportunity every day to misunderstand, quickly judge, and write-off the opinions and actions of our colleagues. In some ways, it may be easier to forgive the sins of someone outside of our missionary community, as they are the people whom we serve. But to forgive the sins of our fellow missionaries who we assume align with our goals and our expectations is often a humbling and agonizing process.

As we bear the image of God and are ambassadors for Christ, we must emulate His love, authentically in community, such that we “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV). In the light of the gospel and God’s love for us, we must be agents of redemption: simple preaching will never be enough. We must live out the reconciled way, representing it to the world and building for it.

Being ambassadors for Christ is as much to do with who we are and how we live than what we do and the words we speak.

Loving Community


We’ve been praying recently through the aspects of our Identity: whom we desire to be. We’re Abiding, then Loving:

“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:33-35 (ESV)

Christ speaks this to his disciples immediately after Judas leaves their presence at the Last Supper. These are the last moments that Christ has with his disciples all in one place, and he begins to speak to them with this message: love one another, so that others will know you that are mine.

Love is not only the command, it is also the branding of Christ—it is the means by which others know we are with Him and sent from Him.

Love is the source of our strength, the root of our hope, and the inspiration for our ministry.

We have the blessing to be ambassadors, but with that privilege comes a grave responsibility. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have no love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV)

In praying through being a “loving community”, it is our question: what could life be like if the people we are sent to knew us only by our love? To what extent would the gospel advance further if we were known as the community of sent people who embody Christ’s love for others?

We have the wonderful opportunity to be beacons of hope and a people who lift others out of sorrow through the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Our first priority in response to Christ’s command is to find all avenues by which to spread His love.

May God be glorified in all that we do so that others will know we are with Him because we have loved them as He has loved us.

Abiding Community

AbidingIn the weeks following our SAM Centennial conference and celebration, our executive director sent out a prayer calendar, encouraging us as a mission to gather in prayer on specific themes through the end of the year and into the new. The first set of prayer topics comes from SAM’s strategy map, where we have identified “who” we want to be: an abiding, loving, redemptive, suffering, and growing community. First, we focused in prayer on being an “Abiding Community”.

This trait comes from John 15:5 which, in context, reads:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:4-6, ESV

Though it might seem obvious that missionaries abide in Christ, and though it may even appear to be part of the job description, there is great necessity for overseas cross-cultural workers to intentionally evaluate and work to stimulate their own relationship with Christ.

In Panama, we had a recurring discussion on the topic of Biblical “rest”, and an extension of that discussion is the concept of being an abiding community:

Aside from Christ, we cannot rest.

The need for a mission organization to dwell in God’s presence is made abundantly clear when looking at the statistical data for missionary “burn out”, or emotional and physical suffering due to stress. The following information comes from a report completed by Heartstream Resources, an organization dedicated to serving cross-cultural workers and enabling their mental and emotional success:

“In Holmes and Rahe’s original study [on stress], they found that when people scored 200 points during a given year, the cumulative stress had an impact well beyond that year. They found that 50% of those scoring 200 points were hospitalized within the subsequent two years for heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, and other severe illnesses. When the scores reached 300 points, 90% were hospitalized for these illnesses within the subsequent two years… The amount of stress experienced among cross-cultural workers averages around 600 points on the Holmes-Rahe modified scale, with levels peaking up to 900 and beyond for people in their first field term.” (Heartstream Resources)

Statistically speaking, it is only by the power and grace of God that missionaries can be sustained in cross-cultural work. Personally speaking, it is only by the power and grace of God that South America Mission has served the past 100 years, and continues to enable the advancement of the gospel in South America. Only a community of believers who abide in God’s power and love can effectively and healthily build for the Kingdom.

So, what did we pray for?

We prayed for passion, we prayed for perseverance, we prayed for hope, we prayed for peace: we prayed for God’s presence. To be an abiding community of believers, South America Mission must be filled with, and surrounded by, the presence of the living God. Only through Him can His kingdom come.


Celebration of a Century

SAM Centennial Celebration

SAM Centennial Celebration, September 21-16, 2015, Panama.

As we arrived, slowly trickling in from various pockets of the world, there was an overwhelming sigh of relief. We made it. SAM’s celebration of a century was about to begin and we were finally there!

Our missionaries gathered with SAM leadership, our board of directors, various family members and supporters, along with many ministry partners to celebrate the glories, triumphs, trials, and history of South America Mission over the past 100 years. The setting could not have been more picturesque as we worshipped within walking distance from a breathtaking shoreline at the cusp of the Pacific Ocean.

Every day was a cause for celebration and praise to the great God who has sustained our mission and ministries this past century.

It was made clear, however, from the moment of our first official gathering that this week in Panama was not for the sole purpose of reflection. We had gathered to fellowship and rest as we look ahead at what God holds for South America Mission in the next 100 years.

On that first night, our board of directors served us communion, intentionally entering a place of humility and servitude, and ultimately setting the tone for our celebration. We were encouraged by pastor Worth Carson of Granada Presbyterian Church to enter into a place of Biblical “rest” and consider God’s warning in Isaiah 30:15 to those who neglected to rest in the Lord. He continued on throughout the week to expand the topic of physical Sabbath rest into a calling that God has placed on our lives to physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, rest in His promise and sovereignty in all things.

Before each evening session, a hum of excitement whipped through the gathering place as missionaries from all over South America exchanged stories and finally met their fellow workers face to face. Even during the afternoons when we had a break from meetings, if you walked through the resort grounds you would not go far before encountering a new group of missionaries, supporters, or family members finding new stories to tell and new people to encounter.

Each morning and evening there were workshops and teaching sessions to edify, connect, and exhort us. Bob Moffitt, president of the Harvest foundation, exhorted us to remember the Church’s role to not just proclaim the good news but to demonstrate it as we build for the Kingdom in our communities. Captivated and convicted, we continued to discuss the role of discipleship and holistic ministry throughout the week, considering the ways our current ministries can be enhanced in this capacity.

One incredible and crucial element to our week in Panama was hearing from author Philip Yancey across multiple evenings on the topics of grace and prayer. The stories he lavished upon us from his personal travels and personal struggles exemplified his charge that we must continue to expand our capacity for grace in our ministries and pursue a life filled with prayer.

We were amazed to hear stories of how God is working currently in South America. From Lima, Peru, José Raúl Galindo welcomed us into his ministry, Decisiones Con Valor, which ministers to men from the burgeoning middle class of Latin America. SAM missionary Jorge Enciso shared about a house church movement in Bogotá, Colombia, that is reaching the city with the whole gospel through evangelistic and community development initiatives. And finally, SAM missionary Alex Chiang challenged our perspective by giving us a Latin American viewpoint on the role North Americans have in the advancement of the gospel in South America.

For 100 years South America Mission has grown by God’s grace to captivate hearts for the gospel and bring people together in His name. We are redeemed children of God. We work to reproduce authentic disciples of Jesus, to multiply dynamic, beautiful churches that are shaping Godly leaders and transforming their communities.

We are South America Mission, and we are joyfully stepping into the next century of God’s work in South America.