PH.D. Tutorials

By Joel Comiskey

A Ph.D. Tutorial

Presented to Dr. Pablo Deiros

In Partial Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Degree

Doctor of Philosophy In Intercultural Studies

The School of World Mission


September 1996

    • How the Tutorial Fits into the Dissertation
    • Purpose
    • Goals
    • Problem Statement For This Tutorial
    • Research Questions For This Tutorial
    • Delimitations
    • Scope of Study
    • Assumptions
    • Overview Of This Tutorial
    • General Cultural Traits
      • Event Orientation
      • Time Flexibility
      • Priority Of People
      • Idealism Versus Realism
      • Assigned Status
    • The Latin Family
      • The Importance Of Family
      • The Extended Family
      • Child Rearing
      • Role Of Husband
      • Role Of Wife
      • Kinship System
    • The Machismo-Hembrismo Dualism
      • Machismo
      • Hembrismo
    • Patterns Of Authority
      • Authoritarian
      • Spanish Supremacy
      • The Underclass
  • Catholicism
    • Catholic Subjugation Of Differing Beliefs
    • Monastic Preaching
    • Spanish Catholicism
    • Animistic Catholicism
    • Popular Catholic Beliefs
    • Catholicism And Personal Holiness
    • Decline Of Catholicism
  • Evangelicalism
    • Amazing Growth
    • Infusion Of Biblical Values
    • Cultural Factors That Promote Cell Ministry
      • People Orientation
      • Priority Of Family
      • Openness To The Gospel
    • Cultural Factors That Present Challenges
      • Authoritarianism
      • Assigned Status
      • Additional Factors
      • Hesitancy to Give Birth
      • Event Orientation & Punctuality
    • For Further Study
    • American Cultural Values And Small Groups
    • Conclusion
    • Colombia
      • Peoples/Languages
      • History
      • Political Situation
      • Economy
      • Religious Mix
      • Drugs and Related Problems
      • Cultural Aspects
    • Ecuador
      • Peoples/Languages
      • History
      • Political Situation
      • Economy
      • Religious Mix
    • Peru
      • Peoples/Languages
      • History
      • Political Situation
      • Economy
      • Education
      • Religious Mix
      • Cultural Aspects
    • Honduras
      • Peoples/Languages
      • History
      • Political Situation
      • Economy
      • Religious Mix
    • El Salvador
      • Peoples/Languages
      • History
      • Political Situation
      • Economy
      • Religious Mix
      • Cultural Aspects
  • Chapter 1: Introduction

    Is Latin America well-suited for cell-based ministry? Does the cultural context provide an open door for such ministry? These are the types of questions that I would like to answer in this tutorial. From the initial success that cell based ministry is having in Latin America, it would appear that cell-based ministry is being used with great effectiveness.

    How the Tutorial Fits into the Dissertation

    This tutorial provides the framework for the rest of my study. Like my earlier tutorial on the theology of cell-based ministry which also served as a foundational backdrop for my research, this study provides needed insight into the sociological background of the Latin American people. This tutorial will also serve as a distinct chapter in my dissertation.


    The purpose of this tutorial is to provide a sociological framework for the implementation of cell-based ministry in Latin America. It is to understand if and how the socio-cultural fabric of Latin America is suited for this type of ministry and how it can be more effectively adapted to provide maximum results.

    In thinking about the purpose of this tutorial and how this tutorial is specifically related to my case study churches, it might be helpful to list those case study churches which I will be studying.


    Misi ó n Cristiana Elim


    Pastor Jorge Galindo

    100,000 attending in 1996

    5000 cells

    La Misi ón Carismática Internacional


    Pastor C é sar Castellaños

    35,000 members en 1996

    4000 cells

    El Centro Cristiano


    Pastor : Jerry Smith

    ,000 attending in 1996

    1000 cells

    El Amor Viviente


    Pastor Rene Pe ñalva

    7,000 attending in 1996

    600 cells

    El Agua Viva


    Pastor Juan Capuro

    5,000+ attending in 1996

    450 cells


    Here are my major goals:

    • To determine why cell-based ministry is being used with such effectiveness in a Latin American context and how to adapt it in order to bring forth more fruit.
    • To understand the culture of Latin America more thoroughly, so that I more effectively relate to the ones to whom I’m ministering.
    • To have a better understanding of the individual countries in which I will be studying the cell-based churches. I hope to answer the question, What is the general context of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Honduras, and El Salvador?

    Problem Statement for this Tutorial

    The central research issue of this tutorial is to provide a socio-cultural analysis of Latin American culture in order to understand how to make cell-based ministry relevant in a Latin American context.

    Research Questions for this Tutorial

    • What are the chief characteristics of Latin American culture?
    • What is the general world view of Latin American culture?
    • What are some of the key areas in which cell-based ministry will need to be adapted in order to be effective in a Latin American context.
    • What are some basic facts of the countries in which I will be doing my case studies?

    There are several delimitations that need to be mentioned in this tutorial:

    • Limited by cultural traits that might affect cell-based ministry.
    • In a paper like this one which focuses on general Latin American cultural patterns, there will always be the question concerning why I included certain characteristics and excluded others. My rationale is more practical than philosophical.
    • Since my topic is cell-based ministry, I have chosen those cultural traits that might have some bearing on my major theme. Therefore, I will be focusing on the Latin concept of the family, authority, time, relationships, kinship structures, world view, etc. In contrast, I won’t be spending much time on the economy, the political landscape, the government of Latin America. At the same time, I recognize that my reasoning for selection is somewhat arbitrary, since all of Latin culture (economy, politics) will ultimately influence Christian ministry.
    • Limited to certain generalizations
    • In trying to set forth a general set of cultural characteristics to define Latin Americans, there is always the danger of over-generalization. Not everyone fits into the same mold, and therefore I’ll try my best to maintain a very open attitude.
    • Limited by my own bias as a North American.
    • This must be taken into account. There is the danger of not seeing my own cultural blinders, and thus making a wrong interpretation or analysis of the Latin culture.. Because I haven’t been born and raised in the Latin culture, there is no way that I can fully comprehend all of the ramifications of that particular culture. Therefore, my assertions will only be partial, at best.
    • Limited to my own personal experience in Latin America

    When I use personal illustrations, I’m speaking from my own experience in Ecuador (four years) and Costa Rica (one year). I must be careful not to generalize to other situations. However, due to the level of this paper (Ph.D.), I have chosen to place most of my personal illustration in the footnotes.

    Limited to an overview of individual countries

    This last limitation has to do with my appendix on the individual countries in which I’ll be doing my case studies. I recognize that I will only be offering a brief sketch of these countries with the hope of laying the foundation for my visit. I felt that time, space, and the focus of this tutorial did not permit an in-depth analysis of each country.

    Scope of Study

    This study will also be more focused on the Latin American countries located in the northern section of Latin America—namely Perú and those Latin countries to the north ( Perú, Ecuador Colombia, Honduras, and El Salvador). I will not be focusing on Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, or Uruguay.

    Because of this more narrowed focus, I believe that my chances of arriving at a composite cultural personality is much better. Even though I won’t be focusing on Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, I will still use the term Latin America (instead of Latin America north) to describe my composite personality (note 1).

    It should also be noted that the general Latin American culture that I will set forth will primarily be the dominant Mestizo culture and not the various Indian (indigenous) cultures that are also part of the Latin American landscape.


    • There are several assumptions that I will make in this tutorial:
    • That cell-based ministry is an effective model that God is using mightily in the world today.
    • That God created all the peoples, races, and cultures of the world, and that there is no superior race.
    • That it is possible to make general assertions about the characteristics that distinguish one culture from another.

    Overview of this Tutorial

    This tutorial will involve the following parts:

    • An overview of the general cultural characteristics that are unique to Latin America north

    In this section, I will compile a composite picture of a Latin American from a sociological/cultural perspective. The analysis will be general in nature in order to understand the customs and personalities of those who live in Latin America.

    • An overview of the worldview of Latin Culture

    I could have labeled this chapter ‘religious views’ or ‘belief system’ of Latin Americans, I chose the term worldview because I believe that it is more inclusive.

    • The relationship between cell group ministry and the cultural characteristics of the Latin American.

    Using all of the information from chapters two and three, I will here relate my findings to cell group ministry. My goal is to determine how the cultural makeup of the affects cell-based ministry, whether positively or negatively.

    • Conclusion

    I will record here a summary of my findings along with my final thoughts. In my appendix, I simply want to mention a few thoughts about the cultural context for cell ministry in the United States.

    • Appendix

    Here I will offer some insight about North American culture and cell groups as well as describe various characteristics of the countries in which I’ll be doing my case studies.

    Chapter 2: Distinguishing Traits of Latin American Culture

    Daniel Hess says, “…people perceive their world from a perspective that is limited by many kinds of personal, social, cultural blinders. Everyone has a point of view” (1980:188). This point of view is what others call a person’s culture. A culture consists of the shared perceptions of the reality around them. It includes similar assumptions, values, and allegiances. Discovering a people’s culture is the process of determining what makes them “tick”. It involves discovering the core assumptions that motivate people to behave the way they do.

    General Cultural Traits

    Olien reminds us that, “Anthropology has divided the world into ‘cultural areas’ for the purposes of study. A culture area is a geographical space within which the people share a number of traits at a given point in time” (1973:2).

    Although I will be emphasizing common traits among Latin Americans, it must not be imagined that all Latins will precisely fit into these stereotypes. Actually, in order to truly understand the Latin American, one must start by opening his or her mind to the amazing diversity that exists in Latin America. Plaza calls Latin America a “country of contrasts” (1971:19) and Mayers begins his book by saying,

    Each nation within Latin America is quite distinct. Linguistic differences provide some of the lesser distinctions. People in Guatemala tend to be rural and provincial in outlook whereas those in Venezuela tend to be urban. South Americans tend to have more ‘church’ awareness whereas those in Central America are less tied to the church and more narrowly religious. In Central America the strength of the extended family is quite noticeable, e.g., political control of El Salvador resides in a few families, whereas in South America this extreme focus on the extended family is moderated. In some urban areas it is almost lost.

    With this diversity in mind and with a concern not to over-generalize, I will categorize certain traits which are widely accepted as characteristics of Latin culture.

    Event Orientation

    In general, Latins are more event oriented than schedule oriented (Mayers 1976:100). Mayers says, “There is a greater tendency to organize so that the event can be fulfilled, than to follow the time schedule” (1976:100). The underlying assumption of the Latin people is that ‘when it happens it happens’. Lingenfelter and Mayers state, “For event-oriented people it is more important to complete the activity than to observe arbitrary constraints of time” (1986:42) (note 2). They add,

    Event-oriented persons will often be late to time-structured meetings because the event in which they are previously engaged is not completed on time. For them, meetings begin when the last person arrives and end when the last person leaves. Participation and completion are the central goals” (1986:42) (note 3).

    Time Flexibility

    The concept of time varies from culture to culture. One thing is for sure: there is no one correct way to manage time.

    Time For People

    In North America, time is handled much like a material. It is earned, spent, saved, and wasted. For Latin Americans, time is much more flexible and fluid (Hall 1973:6). However, for the Latino, time will reoccur and not pass away (Plaza 1971:23) (note 4). Privitera says,

    His [the Latino] outlook on life…does not possess the same driving qualities, nor the same ascetic practicality of Puritanism. He can feel no compulsion to work himself to death; therefore life must be enjoyed with leisure, for Providence will bring tomorrow’s crust of bread….To us [North American] time is money; to a Latin American time is cheap. He can therefore afford to cultivate the arts and the higher things in life. He can afford, too, not having to rush, to be courteous and well mannered (1945:38).

    What Privitera does not say is why the Latin tends to spend so much leisure time. It appears that one of the chief reasons is in order to give persons the top priority. Dealy points out that to the Latin, time is friendship. He says,

    Because the source of his strength…is sociability, the Latin behaves in an altogether congruent manner—for example, by spending long hours in bars and cafés talking to friends. Without passing whole afternoon in this fashion, he would, in fact, soon have fewer connecting ties (1992:108).

    The Latin certainly does not prioritize work as much as the North American. For the Latin, work is often thought of as menial and for servants. Far better is it to spend leisure time with people! (note 5).


    Schedules and exact time commitments are not as important in Latin America as in the U.S. Dealy says, “Although Latin Americans might make concessions to arrive hora inglesa at a gringo’s house, being prompt within their own social setting was neither virtuous nor useful” (1992:54). Lingenfelter and Mayers note,

    The concept of being late varies significantly from one culture to the next and from one individual to the next….Most North Americans will begin to experience tension when others are fifteen minutes late; most Latin Americans will have tension when others are more than one hour late… (1986:38).

    Actually, it’s okay to be ½ hour late and tension begins to rise only when the person is one hour late. However, for North American, there is only a five minute period of grace and tension begins to develop within fifteen minutes (Lingenfelter, Mayers 1986:39).

    Yet, it must quickly be added that in Latin America, time schedules vary according to the status of the person involved. Normally the unwritten rule reads: The higher the status the narrower the range of punctuality; the lower the status the wider the range of punctuality (Mayers 1976:102). It’s also important to remember that arriving ‘late’ to an appointment is not simply a matter of forgetfulness or poor planning. Rather, the planning for Latin Americans to be late is every bit as thought out as the punctuality of the North American (Dealy 1992:54).

    Priority Of People

    People are all important in Latin culture. Mayers sums up this value, “The person is the primary focus of life with all goals, purposes, and achievements revolving around person (1982:104)

    Relationships are More Important than Things

    In North America, efficiency , progress, and organization plays an all-important role in life. However, in Latin America the human is prioritized above anything else. Geraets writes,

    …the way of life in Latin America is personal before it is purposeful….Personal qualities and interrelationships are much more important in life than substantive achievements and contributions to society….Professional competence gets things done rapidly and well, but it is all too often cold, insensitive, and indifferent to human beings. The Latin prefers to be warm, friendly, and human at the expense of efficiency and progress (Geraets 1970:40-41 & 54).

    Persons come before both material things as well as personal goals and tasks. In North America, a large part of the American dream is the accumulation of wealth and adult toys. A person’s status is often assigned by the things he or she possesses (Dealy 1992:55). However, in the Latin culture, the possession of material “things” is always subservient to relationships. Dealy insists, “North Americans calculate excellence in the value of amassed assets; Latin Americans quantify merit in the value of aggregated friends”(1992:68).

    For example, if a close friend asks for a material item, the typical response is “my house is yours”. Far from being a trite, meaningless phrase, these words are backed up with action (Mayers 1982:104). Geyer also sees the priority of personal relationships as one of the key factors that unites all of Latin America together. She states,

    …a combination of new and special qualities that characterize all of Latin America and define its unity. One of the most dramatic of these is the inflated importance of personal relationships over impersonal and institutional or functional relationships…(1970:7)

    For the Latin American, life revolves around relationships. ‘Getting things done’ is not merely as important as just being with people. Lingenfelter and Mayers speak for Latin Americans when they say, “Individuals who are person-oriented find their satisfaction in interaction with others. Their highest priority is to establish and maintain personal relationships” (1986:84).

    Relationships Shape Distance Levels

    One interesting characteristics about the priority of close, personal relationships is the difference in distance levels in communication. In North America, where personal relationships are not generally the first priority, the accepted distance between two people in conversation is greater. However, Latin Americans like to talk up close in a direct, intimate way. Referring to Latin Americans, Hull states, “…people cannot talk comfortably with one another unless they are very close to the distance that evokes either sexual or hostile feelings in the North American” (1973:185).

    Relationships Shape All Interactions

    This prioritization of persons reaches far down into every level of Latin life—from pragmatic transaction to psychological issues.

    Governmental Transactions

    Gareats states, “Human interest is much more important than regulations, and public works receive their direction and priority according to friends and influence” (1970:48). It is common knowledge that to get things accomplished in Latin America, everything depends on who you know. Geyers says, “All over Latin America, there is one way to get something done: know somebody (1970:81).

    At first sight, this cultural trait seems offensive to the North Americans. After all, shouldn’t law and principles govern society instead of personal relationships? Yet, without rejecting the place of law in government, Latins refuse to allow rigid procedural government to dictate life. Rather, they insist “…that all of life should display a human dimension” (Dealy 1992:7). It is the underlying motivation that people are more important than anything else, that reinforces this practice.


    As North Americans depend on the medium of money to grant social status and to make things happen, the Latino depends on his friends to work for him. Dealy makes the analogy of Latin friends being earned, saved, and spent in approximately the same way as money (1992:69). These friends must be tended and cared for. They must not be allowed to fade away. Therefore, any activity that might be used to secure these friendships should be pursued by the Latino (Dealy 1992:70) (note 6). Dealy states,

    Zealously laboring to acquire friends, the Latin’s existence is organic rather than atomistic. Without people around, he feels not only lonely but also insignificant. He therefore avoids appearing solo in public just as the North American shuns visible idleness” (1992:75) (note 7).

    We must not think that because Latins might not spend as much time studying, preparing, or doing other chores that they are lazy or unconcerned. Rather, they are simply more concerned about other things—the priority of making and maintaining friends (Dealy 1992:107).

    Dealy states, “The rules are different, of course, but the amount of time and nervous energy these people devote to their social images and relationships is absolutely enormous” (1992:107) (note 8). Even on the deathbed, Latinos are oftentimes very concerned who has visited them and who has not (Dodd & Montalvo 1987:52).

    Dealy takes this point so far that he ascribes much of the disorganization, long lines, and other inconveniences to socially engineered (yet perhaps subconscious) plans of high officials to create a group of people who actually need him or her—that couldn’t do it without him (1992:79).


    Because so much depends on friendships and relationships in Latin America, much of the educational system is based on teaching the practical skills of getting along better with people. Dealy states,

    Students learn those habits of appropriate conduct—interpersonal management skills and tactics—taught by Cicero, the Scholastics, Machiavelli, Castiglione, Gracián, Guevara, Rodó, Bolívar, Ingenieros, and numerous other celebrated mentors from their tradition. Here lies the reason Latins have customarily inverted the conception of ‘academic’ and ‘applied’ disciplines….Latins study and perfect their virtuosity while still at the university and prepare themselves for lives of rewarding, that is applied—public activity” (1992:104).

    Those subjects that North Americans might consider significant and useful (physical sciences, etc.) are not as highly esteemed in Latin America because they don’t have direct relationship with people (Dealy 1992:104-107).


    Not only the amassing of friends is essential to the Latino, but also the etiquette displayed to other people is essential. An outward friendliness is always appropriate—even to one’s enemies. Dealy gives an illustration of two people who had previously tried to kill each other. When they were introduced to each other (on the spot and by mistake), they behaved very civilly and properly towards each other. Dealy notes that to not act as courteous as possible, they might not have been seen as gentlemen, worthy of the respect by all who witnessed the greeting (1992:98). Dealy comments, “Well-known, well-rehearsed verbal and physical postures signaling congeniality guide the Latin American’s path” (1992:98) (Note 9).

    Idealism versus Realism

    Another aspect of world view prevalent among Latins is the struggle between the ideal and the real. This conflict permeates every aspect of Latin culture.

    Idealistic View of Life

    They have the ideal of what life should be like, yet they are well aware of how things really are. In other words, Latins are not eternal optimists like many North Americans. Nida states, “Latins have been preoccupied with death and are very pessimistic due to the decades of suffering” (1974:43).” Latin Literature reflects this way of thinking. Rarely does a Latin novel have a happy ending—the heroe usually dies, the romance falls apart, or the “bad guy” wins.

    Contemplative rather than Pragmatic

    North Americans are known for their pragmatism, their propensity to act now and think later. Just the opposite is true with regard to Latin Americans. Nida notes that Latin American’s tend to be far more philosophical (1974:43). Concerning this quality, Plaza says,

    Another basic Latin American characteristic derived from both the Indians and the Iberians is the emphasis on contemplation rather than action. The cultural anthropologist Kusch has pointed out that in Quechua the verb ‘to be’ means ‘to stay put.’ The Latin American has traditionally tended to have a static outlook, because for him time is an ever-recurring phenomenon, with no connotation of urgency. This is directly contrary to the dynamic concept expressed by the Anglo-Saxon saying ‘Time waits for no man’ (1971:23) (note 10)

    Assigned Status

    Another unique, yet common trait in Latin America is the emphasis on assigned status. Status and class distinction is extremely important, and these distinctions touch the very heart of the Latin world view. Lingenfelter and Mayers describe this cultural rate in these four ways:

    • Personal identity is determined by formal credentials of birth and rank.
    • The amount of respect one receives is permanently fixed; attention focuses on those with high social status in spite of any personal failings they have.
    • The individual is expected to play his or her role and to sacrifice to attain higher rank.
    • People associate only with their social equals.
    Climbing The Ladder

    Perhaps the ladder concept can shed light on the Latin American’s concept of social status. The concept of social status in Latin American culture means that each person is placed on a particular rung of the ladder in relationship to everyone else (Mayers 1976:23). There is no ‘climbing the ladder’ because of the assigned social status that each one receives at birth.

    This view is in sharp contrast with the conviction in North America which says that if anyone, regardless of race or social status, will simply ‘pull himself or herself up by the bootstraps’ there is limitless potential. In other words, the upward ladder is there for anyone in society to climb on and to thereby advance. In contrast, Latin America has removed that ladder. A person is assigned his or her status from birth onwards. Geyer perhaps judgmentally states, “… Latin America has far fewer racial attitudes; but it does suffer from a closed and inviolate class system (1970:7) (note 11).

    Knowledge of The Status of Others

    Since the emphasis in Latin culture is placed on ascribed status, it is extremely important for every person to know his status level in relation to others. Once known, this status level is maintained at all costs and improved in any way possible (Mayers 1976:105).

    A person’s ascribed status affects how he or she acts, thinks, and responds. In every situation, the Latin person is sizing up the status of others so that he might know how to relate in that particular situation. When the status level is compatible, there is usually exuberant, expressive conversation and communication (Mayers 1976:101).

    The Latin Family

    The Latin family is unique. It’s at once weak and strong. The bonds that hold it together are exceedingly strong, and yet at the same time many Biblical family values are glaringly absent.

    The Importance of Family

    I believe that it is safe to make the assertion that in Latin America there is nothing more important than family. The family is more important than government; it’s more important than the law (Hall 1973:82,83). Hall states, “Law in Latin America is enforced technically (by the book), but it is mediated by family relationships (1973: 83). Gareat echoes this by saying, “The importance of family name, numerous well-placed friends, and inherited privilege cannot be overestimated” (1970:59).

    The all important status issue is derived from one’s family, and therefore, it is the family’s name that should be preserved at all cost and any tarnish to the family name brings disgrace (Mayers 1976:27). Mayers states, “Latin marriage is not designed so much for the pleasure of the pair or for the development of the nuclear family as for the perception of the immediate family and the extended family…” (1976:52).

    Latins tend to prioritize their family relationships above all other relationships. If

    commitment to family is the reason for one not attending a particular social function or fulfilling a particular obligation, usually there are no questions asked (note 12).

    The Extended Family

    Dealy writes, “…the Latin American extended family is characteristically knit together by bonds of love and fraternity to a degree unrealized, and unrealizable , within the prototypical Anglo-American nuclear family” (1992:11). This quote by Dealy sets the stage by suggesting a distinct difference between the North American family and the Latin extended family. It’s the commitment to the extended family which makes the Latin family so unique. Mayers states,

    The family is an important element in Spanish life, not the nuclear family as in North America, but the extended family. The extended family is the totality involves the nuclear family, blood and affinal relatives, ritual relatives (the neighbors were part of the family through this extension of the family), and maids, house boys, and pets (1976:19).

    Mayers believes that one cannot truly understand Latin American society apart from the extended family (1976:61). According to Mayers it’s the identification with one’s extended family that brings prestige and status to the Latin American (1976:27) (note 13).

    It is for this reason that Dealy says, “Family is the Latin American’s primary means to success” (1992:178).

    Yet, the importance of the family in Latin America is beyond the prestige and status issue. Oftentimes, the closest personal friends of nuclear family members are those of his or her extended family (1976:60) (note 14)

    Weil properly discerns that one important reason why Latins stand strong in the face of economic tragedy is their emphasis on the family. In fact, it might be that the abiding strength of the family rests on the fact that there is not much strength in the competing institutions (namely politics and economics) ( 1973:95).

    The commitment to family can be also be seen by the common occurrence of a mother and/or father living with their children. Mayers labels this aspect of Latin society as the three-adult household in comparison with the two-adult household in the U.S. (1976:58). It seems to be true that Latin family give more careful thought to the personal care of their aging parents than North Americans (note 15).

    Child Rearing

    The point has been made about the importance of the extended family and the establishment of the family name. Yet, at times there appears to be a certain neglect in child rearing. Mayers says,

    The child born into the average Latin home is seen more as a burden than as a help….There is a lack of attention paid the child until sometime around the age of twelve. The child’s needs are met but beyond this he develops in his own good time and pace (1976:55-56).

    Although perhaps a burden, there is an obligation to have children that goes with the marriage contract (Mayers 1976:55). Social roles of the male and female are taught from a very early age. Jelin writes,

    …relations between the genders and generations are hierarchical, involving a clear division of labor and areas of activity. Women are in charge of the domestic tasks associated with the private sphere of reproduction and maintenance of the family; men are responsible for tasks relating to the public sphere of social and political life (1990:2).

    Little girls are closely supervised and schooled in ladylike, submissive behavior. At the same time, young boys-especially among the middle and upper class- are given considerable social freedom (Weil 1973:97).

    Role of Husband

    How do the husband and wife relate together? In Ecuador, as in most of Latin America, the man is the unquestioned head of the home (Weil 1973:95). He has the ultimate authority which includes the final word. Mayers says, “The husband becomes the stated authority within the household. He is responsible for the legal aspects…and thus has the right to supervise her wealth if she has any” (1976:48).

    The social custom of male dominance is not only supported within the family, but it is also supported by the legal code of the land. This code holds a woman to be legally incompetent to enter into contracts, engage in business, or appear in court without her husband’s permission (Weil 1973:96).

    Intimately linked with the Spanish concept of headship is the value of “machismo.” For a male “to treat women [including his wife] forthrightly or as equals would be evidence of inadequate male self-respect” (Weil 1973:103) (note 16). Therefore, a man’s close friendships are primarily with other men (Weil 1973:110).

    His friends at work become his close social network, while his wife receives little attention (note 17). Oftentimes the male is absent from the home because of business activities, his mistress relationships, or the fact that he simply wants to be away (Mayers 1976:57) (note 18).

    The male in the home is somewhat aloof when it comes to the day to day functioning of his family (Weil 1973:95). He does not take an active part in it. The Spanish social tradition grants men the right of independence in their leisure time. Many men take full advantage of this freedom!

    Although the man’s attitude might seem cold toward his wife, yet he is taught to always care for and respect his mother. Again, here is a point that seems contradictory- the husband might have a disrespectful attitude toward his wife, while at the same time be very sensitive and respectful toward his mother. Geyer comments, “For although in society’s terms, the man dominates his woman, he himself is most often dominated by his mother (1970:95).

    Role of Wife

    What about the wife? Her place is in the home. She is responsible for the members of her household. She must also be submissive to her husband. In fact, women in general are taught that they are inferior to men. “Their calling in life is to have children and to bring them up with loving care (Weil 1973:103).” Olien adds, The ideal wife is one who bears children, submits to the demands of her husband, remains at home, and is not sexually demanding. A passionate wife is considered undesirable (1973:217). Oftentimes, wives are treated by men primarily as sexual partners and mothers of their children. Outsiders have described her status as that of “…a high ranking servant rather than a partner in the marriage enterprise” (Weil 1973:96).

    There are very few places to turn when their is violence, abuse, and infidelity in the home. In many cases, separation might be the best option, yet the wife is placed in a very difficult situation when she realizes that there will be little or no support for her and her family if she separates from her husband (note 19).

    Although there are excellent Latin marriages that break with this sharp dichotomy in the home, this pattern still persists in much of Latin America today. Mayers concludes that the woman loses many personal rights when she marries (1976:48).

    This is not to say that there isn’t an extremely important role for the woman in Latin American society. In fact, the society revolves around her (Mayers 1976:88). Mayers says, “The woman has the real authority even though the man has the stated authority (1976:89). However her authority role is much more hidden. Mayers goes on to says, “Hers is a covert, low-keyed focus around which the entire society revolves” (1976:88).

    Kinship System

    The kinship system in Ecuador and throughout Latin America is very strong and alive. They call it parentesco. It extends from the high to the lower classes. The underlying principle is that the nuclear family as well as the extended family are committed to care for one another. This cultural system assures that every family member will have help in times of crisis. Speaking of this kinship arrangement, Weil notes, “Kinship obligation for hospitality and other favors are morally binding, and they may involve a considerable part of a family’s income” (1997:97)

    The kinship principle is not limited to one’s extended family. The compadrazgo system goes one step further. In this arrangement godparents are selected(usually people considered important) from “other” families. These godparents are selected during special occasions (birth of a child or marriage of a child). Mayers states,

    At each occasion the parents of the child make careful selection from among their friends and acquaintances as to whom they would like to bring into their family ‘as if they were in reality family’. They will most likely choose some person or couple of higher status than themselves, or someone of equal status (1976:26).

    Upon acceptance, these new families become like kin. They are expected to provide favors and help when necessary The compadrazgo system as well as the parentesco system permeates economic, political, and social structures in Ecuador and throughout Latin America (Weil 1973:98). Olien makes an interesting observation, “Throughout Latin America the most influential persons tend to have the greatest numbers of compadres. A president of a country may have as many as several thousand compadres” (1973:204). It’s this drive to ‘become surrounded’ with close friendship and commitments that drives the Latino to place high priority on the compadrazgo system, because the more influential close friends (new kin) that one has the higher social standing and authority (Dealy 1992:74).

    Some view the system od compadrazco as a security mechanism in a society where there are few other places to turn beside the extended family. Geyer offer her opinion,

    It [comparazco] is a realistic escape from the insecurity of family life; it links man to man on a personal level in a society in which man fears man on a larger, more universal level. It exists because there is no public assurance of justice or security for the average, atomized man (1970:83).

    Personally, I find nothing objectionable in substituting the extended family for the government. In fact, it seems that it’s closer to Biblical ideals.

    The Machismo-Hembrismo Dualism

    When discussing the world view of Latin Americans, it is not long before the subject of “machismo-hembrismo” surfaces. The word machismo is a term used to describe particular traits common among Latin males, while hembrismo (also known as feminismo or marianismo) refers to particular values and traits among Latin females. These two aspects of Latin world view go hand in hand and can only be understood in light of each other.


    Mayers defines Machismo in this way,

    …the ability to conquer, to effect a conquest. To the degree that a man is able to effect conquest, to reflect fearlessness that attends conquest, and to reflect such virility, to that degree he is a man. To the degree that he is unable to reflect such manliness to that degree he is less than a man (1976:42).

    One kind of conquest is being referred to here? According to Mayers the conquest might be sexual, choosing and obtaining a worthy godparent, or even such a mundane matter as making the right decision as to whether or not he should go to the front of the line or take his place in the back of the line (1976:40-42).

    Nida chooses to list particular characteristics to describe machismo in Latin males (1974:60) They are:

    • Irritability
    • A hostile spirit
    • Quarrelsomeness
    • Demonstration of virility
    • Emphasis on testicles
    • Phallic language and symbols.

    Perhaps, some of these traits are too detached. In everyday terms, this machismo is the image portrayed by the Latin male which projects manliness. Weil describes a macho man as one who is courageous, forceful, bold, and even have a readiness to retaliate instantly (1973:103). As we will see, one of the most far reaching, and perhaps, common expressions of this trait has to do with infidelity in marriage. In other words, for a man to be macho, he must maintain a number of sexual relationship outside of marriage.

    Conquistadors And Machismo

    How did these traits and values come into being? Actually, the Spanish conquistadors first introduced these values into South American soil. To the Spaniard, “…valor became closely identified with being strongly masculine in sexual capacity and general behavior” (Nida 1974:57). It must always be remembered that the Spanish conquistadors did not bring their wives with them which helps to explain their frequents sexual unions with the indigenous (Plaza 1971:21).

    The conquistadors sexually “conquered” the indigenous Indian women, who in turn bore their children. No doubt, these children felt resentful toward their absent, irre­sponsible fathers, but at the same time wanted to be just as macho as them. At the same time, these Mestizo boys were emotionally attached to their mother who provided the only real security. Because their mother was part of a despised race, the males had to display characteristics of being very macho.

    Modern Day Machismo

    Like the conquistadors of old, the Latin male “…looks through the eyes of conquest,..” (Mayers 1976:45). He often demonstrates this conquest (machismo) through sexual conquest. In fact, the wife almost expects or assumes that the man will have other mistresses (note 20). It is common that a man will have his formal family, but also one, two, or three other households: that is, mistresses with children (Jensen 1983:8) (note 21).

    One can imagine the resulting effect on the home. It is estimated that two out of every five children are born out of wedlock in Latin America (Rangel 1987:145). These children are cared for by their mother, much like the duty laid upon the Indian woman during the time of the conquest. Rangel says, “In Latin American society, it is almost the norm of the father to refuse responsibility for his offspring” (1987:145).

    On top of having divided loyalties with these “other households”, the machismo image requires the father to be somewhat “aloof” from the day to day functions of his own home. Someone has to fill the vacuum, and it’s not hard to guess who–the mother. Jensen perceptively states, “The children quickly learn how to get what they want through their mother, often ignoring the commands of the father. Thus in a subtle way, the mother under-cuts the authority of the father…”(Jensen 1983:9).


    Hembrismo is the counterpart to machismo. It describes the role of the female in Latin cultures—specifically in the face of machismo. There is an interplay at work that accentuates these two concepts.

    Moral Superiority

    Hembrismo describes the moral and spiritual superiority of the woman over the man. Mayers states, “If the male is motivated by conquest, the female is motivated by honor and reputation. Her place in Latin society is defined as upholding such honor and reputation” (1976:42). She is supposed to be submissive and very patient with her husband. She is known for the kind intercession that she makes between her son and the cruel father (Jensen 1983:5) When the husband engages in extra marital affairs, this moral superiority is demonstrated when the wife looks past the moral failure of her husband (note 22).

    The Suffering Mother and Mariology

    The significant place the mother holds in Latin culture can not be overstated. Mayers says, “The woman is in focus in every aspect of the society. Hers is a covert, low-keyed focus around which the entire society revolves” (1976:88). She is the long-suffering one with unique spiritual qualities. She is the one that brings stability to upheaval in much of Latin American society (Mayers 1976:90). It is through the woman that stability is In fact, her place in the Latin world view has strong religious overtones. The widespread devotion to Mary throughout Latin America is closely linked with the role of the woman and mother throughout Latin America.

    Latins tend to portray Christ as dead and dying, yet Mary is radiant and beautiful. God is viewed as very distant (just like Latin fathers), but Mary is close, caring, and always ready to intercede for God’s children (just like the Latin mothers). Nida reiterates this value by saying,

    …not only do women find in Mary a cultural type with which they may identify themselves, but many men, whether consciously or unconsciously, tend to transfer their feelings of dependency upon their mother to worship of the Virgin Mary (1974:130).

    Nida feels it is useless to argue against Mariology from a doctrinal standpoint due to the deep-seated emotions which are firmly planted in Spanish culture (1974:130). Rather, it seems that a better, more effective methodology is to extol the Biblical virtues of Mary, while firmly pointing out non-Biblical excesses.

    Patterns of Authority

    We have already noticed the importance of status and race in the Latin culture. The lines of authority are established and sealed from birth. The background for this practice has historic roots which are essential for us to examine.


    Latins are generally very authoritarian. In other words, there is a clear distinction between leader and follower. In fact, this characteristic is one that has been passed down from the generations past—namely, the Spanish conquistadors. Geyer notes the difference of authoritarianism between Spanish people and the Brazilians (influenced by Portuguese).

    Where the people of Spanish background are rigid and absolutist in their thought, the Brazilians are athletically flexible. Where Spanish-Americans are always driving toward the ultimate confrontation, the Brazilians are working on finding a way out. Where the Spanish are true believers to whom the idea of an inquisitional ‘one faith’ comes as a natural thing, the Brazilians are tolerant…(1970:9).

    There seems to be built into the Spanish psyche a desire to control, to be in charge. Dealy feels that it is this goal that drives the Latin American, in contrast to being a successful doctor, lawyer, businessman, or any other profession (1992:62). Dealy says, “Only a vigorous public power stance fully satiates the Latin’s desire for acclaim, just as the economic category ‘millionaire’ uniquely approaches gratification of the capitalists sense of total success (1992:62-63). He goes on to say,

    In North American eyes good government would make the Post Office turn a profit; in Latin American eyes a good firm would, like a strong political movement, establish a monopoly of power over every competitor” (1992:107). Geyer confirms this by saying,

    In Latin American politics, it has been not the man who seeks to unite and to compromise and to heal wounds who was admired but rather the man who wielded total power—that classic Spanish type, the caudillo or strongman. Power could not be shared;.. (1970:96).

    The spirit of the conquistador is now seen in the Latin American caudillo. The caudillo in Latin America’s history refers to the self-proclaimed military officer that were supported by nonprofessional armies (Silvert 1977:25). However, in a general sense, the caudillismo has popularly come to refer to any highly personalistic regime which is under the control of a charismatic leader (Silvert 1977:25). Gereats defines this term by the words, ‘daring’, ‘aggressive’, and ‘strong’ (1970:47).

    It is this spirit that guides much of the leadership in Latin America. There is a tendency to exercise control and domination instead of leading by example and servanthood (note 23). Gareats confirms this trait in Latin leadership by saying, “Most Latin American leaders, whether in the political sphere or in ordinary life, give the appearance of being strong men” (1970:48) (note 24).

    Spanish Supremacy

    As in many Latin American countries, there are a tiny minority of pure Spanish descent who wield tremendous influence. They are the ones who steer the major centers of power in Latin America, course both politically, economically, and socially (Ecuador in Pictures: 1987: 38)

    Historic Development

    This disparity did not develop over night. The process began years ago when the Spanish conquered the Indian population. For almost four hundred years the strong, soldierly Spaniards live along side their conquered Indian slaves. An inevitable attitude of superiority began to develop (Weil 1973:101,102). . Schodt writes, “The grafting of Spanish rule onto the conquered Inca society established a colonial system with a large Indian underclass and a small Hispanic elite… (Schodt 1987: 17).”

    Even though binding ties have been severed with Spain, yet the spirit of elitism still strongly remains through her descendants. The idea that a person’s blood line positions him or her for power is still widespread throughout Latin America. Dealy states,

    …while our forefathers [North Americans] alternately ignored the Indian, stole his land, or drove him out, Spanish settlers inducted them into a social hierarchy: They became a personal work force to till the soil and were brought into homes as mistresses and table servants” (1992:62).

    This social hierarchy is still very important in Latin America today. Rangel calls this social structuring the cancer of Latin American society today (1987:16). Instead of ignoring the Indians or extermination them (as in the case of the North Americans), the Latin Americans grafted them into their society. They became indispensable.

    Privileged Status

    For example, the “whites” who occupy the top rungs of power in Ecuador place a high emphasis on purity of race-whether or not this can be proven. Within the white group, even more important than one’s exact racial traits, is one’s socioeconomic status and evidence of an urban European life-style (Weil 1973:66). Many of these creoles or pure-bloods are vocal about their pure blood and resulting privileged status (Urbanski 1978:170).

    The Underclass

    I use this terminology simply to describe those under the ruling class white race. Although these could be divided into middle and lower, those distinctions don’t always hold true in Latin America due to the importance placed upon blood lines and a person’s position at birth.


    Underneath the umbrella of this small elite upper class is a large underclass consisting of Mestizos, pure Indians, and Negroes. Mestizo status falls somewhere between the white higher class and the Indian lower class. Although they are below the white race, they are mixing with it. (Weil 1973:66). The Mestizo race came as a result of the mixed marriages between the Indian woman and the conquistadors. Yet, it’s probably more accurate to say that most of the offspring were less the result of formal marriage as the result of rape and concubinage (Elliott 1984:201).

    The offspring of these unions were integrated into the life of one or more of their parents. One North American traveler to Latin America, E.G. Squier, in the nineteenth century described Mestizos as people of dark complexion and medium height, well proportioned and robust. He also observed that ‘it is difficult to say whether the whites have been more assimilated into the Indian way of life or the Indians into that of the whites’ (Urbanski 1978:151).

    Largest Grouping In Latin America

    In all of the countries in which I will be doing my case studies, the mestizo class is by far the largest. However, in most of these countries, it is quite difficult to arrive at an exact percentage for this group of people. The probable reason for this discrepancy is that Mestizos are sometimes classified culturally and sometimes biologically. In other words, the general biological classification of a Mestizo is someone who is of mixed Indian and European blood (Ecuador in Pictures 1983:35). However, in Ecuador, a pure Indian who moves into the city and conforms to this new life-style, thus rejecting his Indian heritage, is also labeled a Mestizo (Ecuador: Post Report 1986:2).

    Power Limited To Rural Settings

    For the most part, the white elite hold positions of power in the city, whereas, it’s no uncommon for the Mestizos to have more authority in the rural areas (note 25). At the same time the Mestizo (whether biologically or culturally defined) has definite limitations as to how high he can climb the ladder. Although winds of change are presently blowing, the caste system is still firmly established in much of Latin America today.

    Attitude Toward The Past

    It’s hard to say exactly how the Mestizo views the past. Surely, some view their ties with Spain as being more positive while others more view it more negatively. Urbanski notes,

    The Hispanic American seems to have become increasingly aware that the ties with Spain, although positive in cultural influence, were negative in their influence on the social structure and in their predominance in the political and ecclesiastical hierarchies of the colonies…there remains in the mestizo mentality an unconscious reproach toward Spain, even in countries whose indigenous population was little or not all affected (1978:163). Rangel reflects on the mixture of the races that first was perpetuated by the Spanish. He says,

    As a result, we Latin Americans are the descendants of both the conquerors and the conquered, of both the masters and the slaves; we are the sons of the women who were ravished and of men who ravished them (1987:16).

    Indigenous Peoples

    The pure Indians are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to authority and power. The government has tended to disregard their distinct differences and customs and lump them together as a “depressed group” (Weil 1973:67). This attitude of powerlessness can clearly be seen in their behavior towards whites. Indians, while talking with whites remove their hats, lower their heads and speak in soft tones. They assume a passive, submissive role which has been instilled in them from childhood. However, in their own communities, the whites and Mestizos are the butt of their jokes (Weil 1973:67).

    Chapter 3: Worldview of Latin America

    I use the word world view here instead of such a title like belief system or religious thinking, perhaps because it seems to be more all- inconclusive. The two greatest influences that have affected the world view in Ecuador is Roman Catholicism (Spanish style) and Animism (an assortment of spirit beliefs). However, it should also be noted that Evangelicalism is playing an increasingly more powerful, influential role.


    Mayers states, “To be Latin is to be Catholic. As soon as a child is born, it is enrolled in the church” (1976:69). The Roman Catholic church has been and still is the dominating influence throughout Latin America. Rangel states, “No other institution has contributed as much as the Catholic Church to determining what Latin America has and has not become” (1987:141). Statistically, Catholicism still is the dominant religious influence on the continent. In the 1993 edition of Operation World, Patrick Johnstone records these statistics for the countries in which I’ll be doing my case studies:

    • Colombia: 93.1% Catholic
    • Ecuador: 93.3% Catholic
    • Per ú: 89% Catholic
    • Honduras: 85.5% Catholic
    • El Salvador 75.1% Catholic
    Catholic Subjugation of Differing Beliefs

    The spread of the Catholic Faith in after 1594 AD was total and complete. One either became a Catholic or died at the hands of the Spaniards. Hoeffner speaks of this indigenous slaughter by saying, “The New World witnessed such a horrible enslavement and extermination of its inhabitants that the blood freezes in our veins” (quoted in Rivera 1992:171).

    There was little attempt to persuasively win the indigenous people by means of effective evangelism (note 26). Rather, the indigenous religions were seen as instruments of Satan that needed to be destroyed and completely eradicated. According to the convictions of the Spanish conquerors, there could be no other competing religion or philosophy. Luis N. Rivera in his book, A Violent Evangelism, writes,

    The conquerors did not heed the protests of the Aztec lords, or even less, their helpless sorrow upon seeing their gods and religious customs defiled and being unable to come to their defense. That was followed by an old missionary tradition of converting the major temple into a place for Christian worship. Political violence is also accompanied by violence against sacred traditions” (1992:156).

    Sadly, stories abound of how the early conquistadors even used children to spy on their parents and eventually to betray them. Rivera notes,

    None of the missionaries showed any sensitivity toward the anguish of the parents nor a full understanding of the family or of the social disruption this family-destroying policy produced. It was considered a holy war, with cosmic dimensions, of the true faith against false idolatry; of God and Satan (1992:164).

    Not everyone during the conquest of Latin America was in favor of forced, violent evangelism. For example, Rivera say, “There were intense debates over whether Christianization should be by peaceful or persuasive means, or if military force was legitimate” (1992:154). However in the end the sword won the day.

    It’s strange to read of accounts in which the Spaniards decided to kill the indigenous people who they felt were only becoming converts in pretense. We read that before they killed them, the conquerors would baptize them in order to somehow link the Christian sacrament with their conquering violence (Rivera 1992:207). Rivera writes,

    In the entire process of conquest and evangelization of the Americas the relationship between the cross and the sword was problematic and complex. The sword, superior military technology, determined the outcome. The cross represented the final objective that the Spanish protagonists accepted, at least in juridical and theological theory. Paradoxically, the sword had religious and spiritual objectives, while the cross was invested with political and temporal characteristics (1992:207).

    This dualism between the temporal power of the sword and spiritual authority continues to confront Catholicism in Latin America today (Rangel 1987:144). Weld notes that the people have never forgotten that oftentimes they were made to convert at the point of a sword (1968:22).

    Yet, in reflecting on the conquest and the religious subjugation of the people, it’s not always clear that force subjugation of the indigineous people was because of God or gold. For the most part, those who subjugated the inhabitants were probably more interested in the riches of the new land than the Christian faith. Rivera quotes Las Casas (a Dominican theologian who sided with the oppressed Indians) saying, “Who is the true god of the conquerors: God or gold? The conquistadores make war against the Indians and enslave them ‘to reach the goal that is their god: gold” (1992:259). The greed of the Spaniard and their double standards gave a bad name to the Christian faith.

    Monastic Preaching

    To their credit, the monks who accompanied the Spanish soldiers to the new world were diligent evangelists. They came in full force to preach and establish communities (Weld 1968:21). Quito, Ecuador might serve as an example of the effectiveness of these monastic missionaries. By the eighteenth century “…it was estimated that there were forty convents in the royal Audencia, and a thousand monks, nuns, and priests in the capital alone” (Weld 1968:21).

    Yet it must not be imagined that the monks were completely separate from any military dealings. At the time of the conquest, Christianity was a militarized faith, totally committed to a war of reconquest against the Muslim infidels (Rangel 1987:150). This mentality affected both soldier and missionary. Rivera clearly documents the relationship between the monasteries and the occupation of the land. Oftentimes the monasteries served not only a religious purpose but a military one as well (Rivera 1992:209).

    Acosta, an early missionary, was one who while preaching love for the natives also insisted that force be used to subjugate them. He considered them subhuman and having only the intelligence of a child (Rivera 1992:222). Acosta believed that, “…the natives need to be in context of governmental compulsion to preserve Christianity” (Rivera 1992:223).

    Spanish Catholicism

    What kind of Roman Catholicism has made its mark on this area of northern Latin America? The Spanish variety. Schurz notes,

    The Spanish Church was like no other in Europe, nor is it now….The popular faith was sustained by some inner fire and did not have to be fortified by any ratiocination….The average Spaniard accepted the official version of the faith and asked no questions (1954:241).

    Spain during the time of the Christopher Columbus was considered the defenders of the Catholic faith. It was Spain who introduced the dreaded inquisition, and personally took the lead in stamping out groups such as the Waldensians, Lollards, and Hussites. Spain did not encourage open expression of thought or speech in the slightest (Schurz 1954:247).

    This brand of Catholicism sought to defend Catholic tradition in the face of all other competing religious expressions. The Spaniards rejected compromise, flexibility, and change.

    Dogmas such as purgatory, the veneration and exaltation of Mary, prayers for the dead, the priority of the saints, and salvation through the Catholic church were preached and taught from the very beginning (note 27). In spite of the zealous adherence to Catholic tradition and belief, the Spaniards permitted their Catholicism to overlay the belief systems of those who originally inhabited the land. The result is an outward Catholicism with and inward connection to animism.

    Animistic Catholicism

    The Roman Catholicism that came to dominate Latin America was simply added on to the Indian world view instead of transforming it. Olien states, “The Catholicism that the Indian accepted was really a syncretism. Native beliefs and practices fused with a veneer of Spanish-Catholic beliefs and practices” (1973:79).

    Similar Beliefs

    On the other hand, there were many characteristics of Spanish Catholicism in the sixteenth century that correspond to the Animistic philosophy of that day (veneration of the saints, prayers for the dead, the sacrifice of communion, etc.). Nida points out that the medieval Roman Catholicism which was introduced in the 16th century was actually quite close to the beliefs and practices of the indigenous people (Nida 1974:119).

    For example, although it can’t be said that Roman Catholicism officially introduced sorcery, it is true that many of the early Spaniards did. It is even known that some of the early the priests believed in black magic and practiced it (Nida 1974:112).

    Outward Acceptance

    Before the Spanish arrived on the scene, Indian religion revolved around the worship of nature which included many evil spirits. At that time Shamans acted as spokesmen between the priests and their gods. Richly colored totem poles were erected which stood as high as 40 feet. Cannibalism, human sacrifice, and worship of idols was also part of the indigenous religion at the time of the conquest (Rivera 1992:155-165).

    The Spanish conquerors often destroyed the ancient temples of indigenous people and built their own churches in the same spots. Yet, those spots remained sacred to the indigenous people. To appease the early Spaniards and to avoid a violent death, oftentimes the Indians simply changed the names of their personal deities to the saints of the Catholic religion. Olien says, “While the Indians of central Mexico accepted the Christian God as the creator, the Catholic saints were equated with Aztec deities. Even the attributes of the saints were changed to make them more human, the same as their Aztec predecessors;..(1973:79).

    By making these name changes, the indigenous people were able to maintain a semblance of their religion. As a result, the saints have always played a significant role in the religion of Latin America. Today, the saints are the central powers of Latin American Catholicism. Some of these saints are protectors of certain occupations or guardians of various groups (Olien 1973:199).

    Because of such syncretism, even though the official rate of conversion to Catholicism was rapid, the quality of that conversion left much to be desired. Elliott writing about the history of the conquest, notes, “ There were alarming indications that Indians who had adopted the new faith with apparent enthusiasm still venerated their old idols in secret” (1984:198) (note 28). Elliott writes,

    The Indians, forbidden to train as priests, naturally tended to look on Christianity as an alien faith imposed on them by their conquerors. They took from it those elements which suited their own spiritual and ritualistic needs and blended them with elements of their ancestral faith to produce beneath a simulated Christianity an often vital syncretic religion (1984:199).

    Yes, it is true that some of the more obvious indigenous practices like cannibalism and human sacrifice have ceased to exist, yet the control and appeasement of the spirit world is still very much adhered to today.

    Degrees Of Animistic Mixture

    When one talks about the mixture of animism with Roman Catholicism, it’s important to distinguish the varying degrees of Catholic influence among the major classes and people groups. For the most part the upper white Spanish class still holds to a purer form of Spanish Catholicism. Among the Mestizo class there appears to be a greater blend of animistic Catholicism.

    However, among the indigenous people of Latin America there is a wide range of variety. Some indigenous people are very syncretic. They will accept certain aspects of the Catholic faith, but when it comes to the natural forces that govern their life here on earth, they do not look to Catholicism. Rather, these people pay homage to the variety of spirits that control health, weather, and success of their crops. Appeasement of these spirits, through sacrifice and other means, is absolutely essential to the Indian’s prosperity. (Weil 1973:73).

    On the other hand, some Indigenous groups have successfully resisted any mixture altogether. For example, in the jungle regions of Ecuador many of the indigenous people continue to practice their ancient religions (Ecuador in Pictures 1987:38). This is partly due to the priority given to the cities when the Spaniards invaded the land. Many of these indigenous people were left untouched.

    The belief system of the Jivaro serves as an example. Their religion focuses on a super­natural force embodied in deities, which include the rain god and the earth mother. These deities give to various objects, spirits and power. These gods and spirits are feared, and therefore placated through ritual. Their beliefs have almost no connection with Christianity (Weil 1973:78)

    Popular Catholic Beliefs

    As was mentioned earlier, those who call themselves Catholic in Latin America usually accept a mixture of Spanish Catholicism and animism. There is great emphasis placed on the saints, the virgin Mary, prayers for the dead, salvation through the church, and other like doctrines (note 29). Due to the purpose and length of this paper, I will not spend time analyzing each of these traditions and doctrines. I will, however, two of the most popular traits that distinguish Roman Catholicism in Latin America.

    The Suffering Christ

    The suffering, bloody Christ pervades most of Latin America. This devotion has been handed down by the early Spaniards. Schurz says,

    The crucifixion made a specially strong appeal to the religious imagination of Spaniards, even sometimes to the macabre and morbid. To Spaniards in such an ecstasy of devotion, the adoration of the agonizing Christ on the Cross might be a spiritual self-flagellation” (1954:242).

    Today, it is not common to enter a Roman Catholic cathedral and witness a host of pale, bloody Christs, hung on cruel crosses in every corner of the temple. To the Latino, Good Friday, not resurrection morning, is the high point of Easter (Nida 1974:40).

    There is a definite interplay between the way that most Latins view Christ and a general pessimistic world view. Their preoccupation with death causes them to see Jesus as the “bloody Christ”. This bloody Christ offers little hope to the Latino people—only pity. However, as Latins discover the power of the gospel and the resurrection hope in Jesus Christ, many exciting changes are taking place.

    The Major Life-Cycles

    The Catholic church is closely tied to the four major life- cycle crises (Mayers 1976:96-97). I mention this point because it is through this door that Roman Catholicism holds such a powerful socio-cultural influence over Latin America. Indeed, I have discovered that the greatest hindrance to conversion in Latin America is not religious, but rather cultural. One is reminded of the famous words of the late Donald McGavran, the founder of church growth, “Men like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers” (1990: 163).

    In Latin America, the great barrier is the perceived notion that ‘to leave the Catholic church is to leave one’s heritage, tradition, and background.’ Due to the intervention and integration of the Catholic Church in a person’s birth, puberty, marriage, and death, it is very hard not to maintain ties to the Catholic Church. Let us review these major life cycles:

    • Birth

    This is initiated with the ritual of baptism and the assigning of godparents.

    • Puberty

    This is attended with the assigning of more godparents and the ritual of confirmation.

    • Marriage

    This a time of great preparation and celebration. At this time, godparents are selected who will function more signifi­cantly than those of baptism and puberty.

    • Death

    This is probably the most significant of the four life crises. The rites attending death are more elaborate and extend longer than the other life crises. One can see how that being a “Catholic” shapes the warf and woof of a Latino’s life.

    Catholicism and Personal Holiness

    I believe that it can be argued successfully that the Catholic Church has had little impact in changing the ungodly value structures in Latin America. The dualistic system of private religion versus public actions has led to little progress in true, personal holiness (Dealy 1992:14).

    The machismo culture which promotes unfaithfulness in marriage has never been successfully challenged by the Catholic Church. Rangel writes, “This perversion of love and sexuality seems to have flawed Latin American society from the Conquest to the present day, without Catholic morality’s having been able or much inclined to do anything about it” (1987:145).

    Much of this lack of penetration into the personal sphere has to do with Catholic duality between the temporal and spiritual realm. The Roman Catholic Church has maintained that the public, governmental spheres are separate entities—the temporal sword versus the spiritual. Referring to this dualism in Catholic Latin America, Dealy states, “Great fidelity and great barbarism are possible, and indeed likely, within national arenas where dual standards permeate (1992: 28).

    It is also true to some extent that the Catholic Church in general became more concerned with land, money, and power than with the spiritual souls of those under its care. Rangel notes that by the end of the seventeenth century,

    The priests had become sedentary lovers of the good life,…and the spiritual arm was less interested in saving souls of its flock than in reinforcing its moral dominion over society and increasing its patrimony. Tithes, legacies, and donations from the Crown or from individuals flowed into its coffers, till the Spanish colonial Church became the foremost owner of land and slaves” (1987:154).

    During the colonial period, not only was the church exceedingly wealthy, but it also had the wealthiest land holdings unit in Latin America (Olien 1973:74).

    Thus, the Roman Catholicism practiced in Latin America, in many ways, simply covers over an animistic world view, and therefore never dealt with the sins of the people and their need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Decline of Catholicism

    It is estimated that the Catholic Church in Latin America is losing 8,000 people per day (CT April, 1996:94). Patrick Johnstone, a leading authority on the church worldwide says, “The growth of Catholics has been slower than that of the world’s population, so their percentage of the world’s population is steadily falling” (1993:65). In fact, out of the five major religions of the world, only Catholicism is declining (Johnstone 1993:159). Rangel notes, “Catholicism finds itself pushed into a marginal existence, and faith, once a living force, has largely given way to meaningless, formalistic assent” (1987:144).

    Combative Stance

    Perhaps the Catholic Church is taking a beating at this point and time, but there are indications that it is not simply sitting back and allowing this decline to take place. It appears that recently the Catholic Church has become more combative.

    In the news section of Christianity Today (April 8, 1996), there is a review of the Roman Pontiff’s recent tour of Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Venezuela. The article describes a combative pope who is trying his best to combat defections from the Catholic Church. (CT April, 1996:94). The pope’s methodology seems to be a return to traditionalism.

    Return to Traditionalism

    One of the ways that the Catholic Church is doing this is to return to its traditional roots (for example, after every speech the pope exalted Mary) and speaking out against the sects who were drawing people away from the faith. The article says, “…he [the pope] complained that Indians and peasants, in particular, are being led astray by ‘sects and religious groups, who sow confusion and uncertainty among Catholics” (94). These comments have caused an uproar among Protestant leaders because they are being included along with sects.

    On this tour the pope desperately cried out for all those who have strayed from the mother Catholic Church to return to the fold. He says,

    All those who have at some time prayed to the Most Holy Virgin, even though they may have strayed from the Catholic church, conserve in their hearts an ember of faith which can be revived…the Virgin awaits them with maternal arms wide open (94).


    In comparison with the Catholicism and Animism, evangelicalism is a newcomer on the block. The first Protestant missionaries first arrived in Latin America not long before the turn of the century, thus giving Catholicism a 400 year advantage. Yet, that advantage has been slowly eroding, due to changes in politics, religious freedom, and above all, a hunger in the hearts of the people for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Amazing Growth

    Patrick Johnstone describes Latin America as “one of the great evangelical successes of the 20 th century (1993:65). Evangelicals have grown from between 200-300,000 in 1900 to forty-six million in 1990, which means that now more than eleven percent of Latin America is evangelical (Johnstone 1993:65).

    The lead article in the June edition of the magazine Charisma captures this incredible growth. It’s entitled, “ Latin America’s Sweeping Revival”. The subheading of this same article declares, “Researchers say 400 people are converted to Christianity in Latin America every hour (Miller 1996:32). Pablo Deiros and Carlos Mraida do an excellent job of documenting the amazing growth that is taking place in Latin America, especially due to the spread of the Pentecostal Church (1994:59-64).

    I have doing research for Dr. Wagner to discover those churches in Latin America which have an average attendance of more than 5000. We have currently located over sixty such churches, but we expect to find at least one hundred before our research is completed. Yes, Latin America is in the midst of a great harvest.

    Infusion of Biblical Values

    Although it might be questioned whether or not Pentecostalism is going deep enough in transforming the moral fabric through the infusion of Biblical values (Deiros & Mraida 1994:70-71), I do believe that positive changes are taking place as a result of the growth in the Evangelical Church. Biblical values are beginning to take root in popular Latin American culture. Evangelicalism, deeply rooted in seventh century Pietism, teaches that the Christian faith must go deeper that theology—it must produce personal holiness.

    The Family

    As the Evangelical church proclaims the sanctity of marriage and demonstrates the Biblical values of how a husband and wife should behave in the home, the impact is being felt in the society at large (note 30).

    The preaching of Biblical family values from the pulpit is also bringing some exciting changes. It is my experience that messages on the family are the most needful, helpful, and the most enjoyed that any Biblical emphasis in Latin America (note 31).

    The Morality of the Society

    Another area where Evangelicalism is having a powerful cultural impact is on the moral fabric of society. Evangelicalism has always taught that one’s inward relationship with God must be lived out in his outward relationship with society at large. Many aspects of the political, social arena in Latin America have not been penetrated or challenged by the Church nor the Word of God.

    This is where the Evangelical faith is having its greatest impact on Latin America. Bribery is so common in Latin America that it is practically accepted as part of the society. In many parts of Latin America, in order to get and keep a job, one has to be willing to bribe.

    Yet, the Biblical testimony is abundantly clear concerning the sin of bribery (Proverbs 17:23, Amos 5:12, I Samuel 8:3, Psalm 26:10, Isaiah 33:15 y Job 15:34). It is only as the church of Jesus Christ takes a stand against this corruption will there be a change of world view and thus a change of values in the greater society.

    Chapter 3: Cell Groups and Latin Culture

    Throughout this tutorial, one of my underlying motivations has been to determine how Latin culture affects cell ministry. For that reason, perhaps, this chapter is the most important one of the tutorial.

    Cultural Factors that Promote Cell Ministry

    There are a number of Latin cultural factors that would appear to promote small group ministry.

    People Orientation

    Small group ministry is face to face ministry. It primarily involves interaction with people rather than to engage in personal meditation or study. For this reason, the strong emphasis on people in Latin culture is very positive indeed.

    Time to Meet Together

    As we’ve seen, the most important single trait in Latin culture centers around the development of personal relationships. Priority time is given to this one task. Lingenfelter and Mayers make this clear from a small group standpoint,

    People who have interaction as a goal need the acceptance and stimulus of their group associates. They must spend a significant amount of time and energy fulfilling the obligations of group membership and maintaining personal ties. They work hard to promote group interests and interaction, often sacrificing their own personal goals for the interests of others. Failure to accomplish a task is less critical to them than a gain in the quality of personal relationships (1986:84).

    From the Latin perspective, spending time with people in group and individual settings is the most important goal of life (note 32). Unlike the North American that might need to be prodded to join a small group, the Latin person does not need to be convinced.

    It’s wise for the Latin American pastor or leader to promote the virtues of the small group as a key means to establish relationships with other people. It doesn’t take long for Latin people to realize that meeting regularly in a small group is not only something that comes naturally due to their cultural norms, but it is a principle that is indicated in Scripture (both cell and celebration).

    Ease in Small Group Settings

    It is my conviction that Latins have perfected their skill in personal relationships to a level that we in North America know very little about. Because relating to people governs everything they do, they have honed their skills to perfection (certainly, there are exceptions to every rule).

    With regard to the small group, there is a certain ease and naturalness that is present in the group (which is not found in a North American setting). I have found that in North America it seems hard to get the group to meet together; whereas in Latin America it’s hard to get them to leave the meeting (note 33).

    Social Gathering outside the Cell

    Because of the priority placed upon people, oftentimes it’s very attractive for the groups to meet together in social settings outside the actual cell meeting (note 34). This not only promotes fellowship among the members, but it’s also a great way to invite non-Christians. Latins like to be around a lot of people, and on these occasions, ‘the more merrier.’

    Priority of Family

    We have seen the primary role that the family play is in Latin America. We have noted that there is nothing more important than family.

    Family Emphasis in Scripture

    This is also a Scriptural emphasis. The Scripture teaches that the church is the family of God (Eph. 2: 14,15). As God’s chosen people we have been adopted into His family, the church. The home cell group highlights this truth by the simple fact of meeting in houses. J. Goezmann, confirms this reality when he says,

    What could be conveyed by the idea of the family of God had, in fact, already come into being in the primitive Christian community through the house churches. The household as a community…formed the smallest unit and basis of the congregations. The house churches mentioned in the N.T. (Acts 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 18:8; I Cor. 1:16; Phlm. 2; I Tim. 1:16; 4:19) no doubt came into being through the use of the homes as meeting places. The gospel was preached in them (Acts 5:42; 20:20), and the Lord´s supper was celebrated in them (Acts 2:46) (1975:250) .

    Banks contends that Paul’s metaphor of the family, “…must be regarded as the most significant metaphorical usage of all” (1994:49). We should primarily see each other as members of a God’s family. We have been adopted into His heavenly family, and therefore can honestly call each other ‘brothers and sisters’.

    I believe that the emphasis on family in the Latin American context is a positive benefit to cell ministry. This is an attractive drawing card for Latin Americans who are accustomed to viewing the church from the lenses of the impersonal cathedral. Not only the nuclear family but also the extended family is strong in Ecuador. The web of relationship that are embodied in the extended family hold exciting possibilities for cell-based ministry in Latin America.

    Natural Webs of Outreach

    As was quoted earlier, Mayers points out that the Latin extended family includes nuclear family, relatives, ritual relatives, neighbors, and maids (1976:19). These natural webs of relationships in the Latin context raise exciting possibilities for outreach. Ralph Neighbour, one of the foremost cell experts worldwide, writes about the importance of web relationships in cell ministry. He uses the Greek New Testament word oikos as his starting point,

    The word [oikos] is found repeatedly in the New Testament, and is usually translated ‘household’. However, it doesn’t just refer to family members. Everyone of us have a ‘primary group’ of friends who relate directly to us through family, work, recreation, hobbies, and neighbors….Newcomers feel very much ‘outside’ when they visit your group for the first time, unless they have established an oikos connection with one of them. If they are not ‘kinned’ by the members, they will not stay very long or try very hard to be included before they return to their old friends (1992:61).

    When I attended the cell seminar at Bethany World Prayer Center in June, 1996, I noted that they also promote the oikos concept on a regular basis (note 35).

    One problem that I have noticed for North Americans is that they (we) have trouble developing those oikos relationships because of their (our) intense individualism and goal orientation. North Americans simply do not make the time to develop those oikos relationships. On the other hand, the development and the nurture of oikos relationships in Latin America is a top priority.

    Cell leadership in Latin America would be wise to exploit this natural link. This could be done in the initial cell pre-training, the ongoing training, and from the pulpit.

    Openness to the Gospel

    Latin America is ripe for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Catholic faith which was imported from Spain has not satisfied the deep longings of the people. It is my conviction that the cell church is in a unique position to not only reap the Latin harvest, but also to conserve that harvest through the discipleship process that take place within the cell group. In fact, there is abundant proof that this harvest is indeed taking place in the cell church in Latin America.

    Cultural Factors that Present Challenges

    A study of Latin American culture presents many exciting benefits for cell ministry in Latin America. At the same time, it points out some potential challenges and even dangers.


    We have noted that Latins in general are authoritarian. They like to be in control, to dominate (note 36) In general, Latins, like to make a clear distinction between leader and follower. We have noted that this characteristic is one that has been passed down from the conquistadors and ties into the macho mentality.

    Lack of Participation

    A successful cell group takes place when everyone is allowed to freely express themselves, when the gifts of the Spirit in each person are developed, and when the needs of each person in the group are met. The cell group itself is specifically designed to bring out total participation (the ice-breaker, the worship & prayer time, the ministry time, and the vision focus time)

    However, there is an inherent danger for Latin cell leaders to view their cell leadership as an opportunity ‘to be in control’. Instead of stimulating others to talk and participate, the Latin cell leader has a tendency to dominate the entire meeting. It’s a very subtle cultural tendency that is not easily broken (note 37). It seems that the only way to effectively deal with this problem is constant, yet patient teaching that stresses the importance of participation with the goal of applying the Bible to everyday life.

    Personal Sharing

    The cell group is designed so that people can share what is really happening in their lives. Christians grow spiritually through honest, transparent sharing, and non-Christians are attracted to this type of Christian fellowship. Open sharing is also much easier to do in a small group atmosphere as opposed to a larger group. Yet, in order to move from sharing about more superficial, safer topics, it requires that the cell leader initiates and models this type of vulnerability.

    For many Latins, it’s difficult to share in a personal, vulnerable manner. The macho facade that is promoted in Latin culture says that it is not acceptable to share trials, weakness, or failure. In order to overcome such reticence, lots of teaching and modeling may be required in the Latin context (note 38).

    Assigned Status

    We have noted that in Latin America, a person’s ascribed status affects how he or she acts, thinks, and responds. In every situation the Latin person is sizing up the status of others so that he or she might know how to relate. When the status level is compatible, there is usually exuberant, expressive conversation and communication, but when it is not, the flow of group interaction is negatively affected.

    Formation of Groups

    It behooves cell groups in Latin American to be organized along homogenous lines so that communication in the cell might be maximized and that non-Christians will be readily attracted. Potential members should be allowed to pick their own cell group according to personal preference. Any type of forced gathering of members into heterogeneous groups is not wise in Latin America (note 39).

    Giving Birth

    These status considerations must also be taken into account in the birth of a new group. It would be a fatal mistake to force a group to give birth against natural cultural lines (whites with indigenous people, etc.). Rather, the new cell groups should be formed according to natural cultural patterns.

    When determining which members will go with the new group and which ones will stay, it’s important to remember at least two things. First, the natural ‘clicks’ within the group (status, friendship, etc.) will help determine who will stay and who will go. Perhaps, the reflection of a district pastor in Cho’s church will be helpful,

    As much as possible, we divide groups based on natural networks. For example, if the assistant in that group brought two other cell members to the Lord, then that individual will split off with those members to start a new group (Hurtson 1994:93).

    Bob Logan adds,

    A group ripped asunder without regard for the naturally occurring segments or affinity clusters within the group will make a big mess. If you split a group by arbitrarily counting of, or in this culture, even by using geographical boundaries or some means other than affinity clusters, you may end up with many injured group members. However, if you identify naturally occurring affinity or relational clusters within your group, plant a leader for each (or watch to see what leader naturally emerges to the top of each), and then divide the group by these clusters, the result will be much more beneficial. To encourage the formation of these clusters, start early in the group’s life to experiment with different cluster compositions. Perhaps allow your members to divide by their own devices into groups or three, four, or five members. Note who gravitated to whom, and who took leadership. Try this for three or four weeks to see if any specific clusters are gelling (Logan 1989:138),

    The wise cell leader will be continually analyzing those natural friendship links. When the time comes to give birth, the leader’s discernment will prove to be very helpful.

    Additional Factors

    Here are some additional factors that are important to consider when doing cell ministry in a Latin context.

    Hesitancy to Give Birth

    The Latin’s emphasis on people is the greatest strength of cell ministry, but at the same time, this cultural priority can also be a potential danger. I have found that there is one of two dangers that can take place.

    Big Groups versus Small Groups

    We have noted that a Latin likes to encircle himself with lots of friends. This makes him feel significant. In the cell group, this can be a problem. A leader might feel the need to have a large cell (more than 15) because he feels more significant. However, the cell group is specifically designed to be small enough in order to promote intimate, open sharing and must be kept below fifteen through the process of constant reproduction (note 40).

    Ingrown Groups versus Outreach Groups

    This is the opposite tendency. The members become comfortable with each other. They tend to cling tightly to their newly formed relationships, and are not willing to establish a new group, even if it means new people being won into the Kingdom. There is no easy answer to this dilemma.

    One insight that helps is the reminder that even if certain members participate in the planting of another cell group, this does not mean that cell members cannot contact their former cell group friends. In fact, both the mother and the daughter cell might want to reunite on occasion to celebrate their common links.

    Event Orientation & Punctuality

    These two aspects of Latin culture make it hard for cell groups to begin on time and end on time. In the Latin context, there needs to be some flexibility, although we have always encouraged our cell leaders to start their meetings on time (note 41)

    Chapter 5: Conclusion

    In this tutorial I have tried to paint an accurate picture of Latin American culture. While portraying the bright sides of the Latin American (people orientation, family) , I have also tried to speak truthfully about some of the darker levels of Latin culture (machismo and authoritarianism).

    The Catholic conquest and ultimate subjugation of the people in the sixteenth century displayed both terror and zeal—motivated as much by gold as for souls. Those very characteristics that made up the Spanish conqueror so long ago, are glaringly present in the Latin American today.

    Although Catholic in name, we have discovered that syncretism has played a dominant role in the Latin worldview, and that the Spanish religious system has yet to touch the deeper moral issues of Latin American life. The good news is that the Evangelical faith is making powerful inroads into Latin American culture today.

    One vital methodology in this mighty harvest is cell-based ministry. This type of ministry seems uniquely positioned to work effectively in this culture. The family orientation of Latin Americans and their commitment to personal relationships add life and vigor to small group ministry. The web of family relationships holds special potential for outreach in Latin America. Although authoritarian leadership and a machismo image present special challenges, it seems that Latin America is ready for this type of ministry.

    Appendix A:North American Culture and Cell Ministry

    The purpose for this appendix is simply to ‘open the door’ for further study. The contents are more subjective than objective.

    For Further Study

    For some time, it has been my desire to discover why cell-based ministry has worked so effectively in the majority world and has been so slow to take root here in the United States. It is my objective in this appendix to raise a few questions and to project a few answers. The overriding purpose is to get something started that might be pursued later on.

    American Cultural Values And Small Groups

    Although I’m not 100% certain, I suspect that a large part of the above question could be answered by a thorough investigation into North American culture. Although this is not the time to do such an investigation, I will simply suggest some possibilities.

    Impersonal Society

    From the small amount of research that I have undertaken on North American culture, it appears that the task orientation and impersonal nature of the U.S. society makes it harder for people to naturally want to get together.

    Personal relationships and getting together in a group setting just doesn’t hold the same degree of importance to a North American as to a Latin American. Speaking about the North American, Lingenfelter and Mayers note,

    …casual conversation can be more difficult than a hundred chores. While such people may outwardly appear to be listening, inwardly they are thinking of all the things they could be doing instead. They find it extremely difficult to concentrate on people when there is so much to be done (1986:88,89).

    Task Oriented

    Commitment to ‘getting the task done’ is something that is part of the warf and woof of North American life. In North America, busyness is a virtue. Idleness is a sin. Lingenfelter and Mayers says,

    The social life of task-oriented individuals is often merely an extension of work activity….Task-oriented people consider social activities a drain on their productive time and often prefer the solitude of working alone and uninterrupted. To achieve is more important than to build social relationships, and they are willing to endure social deprivation to reach their goals” (Lingenfelter and Mayers 1986:83).

    Achievement Oriented

    This task orientation is built into the very nature of how North Americans are rewarded. In other words, rewards are granted according to one’s achievements A Latin American’s family and personal relationships make him significant. This has very little to do with how a North American feels significant (note 42). . According to Lingenfelter and Mayers (1986:100), prestige is attained by:

    • Personal identity is determined by one’s achievements
    • The amount of respect one receives varies with one’s accomplishments and failures; attention focuses on personal performance
    • The individual is extremely self-critical and makes sacrifices in order to accomplish ever greater deeds.

    With these underlying motivational drives in mind, it’s no wonder that North Americans don’t feel that they have time to meet in a relationship building atmosphere. It’s just not as important as other things. For the North American, it makes perfect sense to spend a lot of time in order to accomplish his goal of more wealth, education, fame, etc. After all, that’s what makes him important.

    Openness to Share

    On a positive side, North American culture places a high value on personal sharing and vulnerability. There doesn’t seem to be the same type of ‘image’ pressure that hinders the Latin American from opening up. As North American culture becomes more and more impersonal, the hope is that cell ministry will become increasingly important in the lives of Americans.


    I believe that the North American Church is passing through a very difficult time (note 43). Attendance is at an all time low (Barna’s 1996 study), and a spirit of unbelief seems to have invaded the land. Those ministries which are prospering and growing seem to have become more secular in order to reach the secular mindset (note 44).

    I don’t believe that cell ministry is a magical cure. In fact, the dual commitment that cell ministry entails (cell and celebration) is very costly for the average American. On the other hand, I believe that cell ministry is what America needs. North Americans need to rediscover New Testament communion and what it mean to be the church of Jesus Christ. Hopefully, examples like Bethany Prayer Center, Dove Christian Fellowship, and First Baptist Church of Modesto will wet North America’s appetite for cell-based ministry.

    Appendix B:Background of Case Study Countries

    Before I attempt to relate some of the cultural/worldview issues to cell-based ministry, I feel that it’s necessary to give a summary of the countries in which I will be doing my case studies. This information is by no means exhaustive, nor can it be due to scope of this paper (note 45). Rather, it will serve as a springboard for further, more in-depth research.


    In comparison, Colombia comprises slightly less than three times the size of Montana


    Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Movement from rural to urban areas has been heavy.

    As of July, 1994, there were 35, 577, 556 million people in Colombia (three times more than Ecuador) Unlike Ecuador and Perú, the percentage of pure indigenous people is minor. Less than 1% are Amerindian, in comparison with 50% of the population in 1850). The Spanish speaking population comprises the other 98.6% (mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Indian 3%) (Johnstone 1993:173).

    The US State Department tells us that the ethnic variety in Colombia is a result of the intermingling of indigenous Indians, Spanish colonists, and African slaves. Few foreigners have immigrated to Colombia, compared to several other South American countries (1994).


    According to the U.S. Department (1994), the area now known as Colombia was inhabited by Indians, mostly primitive hunters or nomadic farmers. Spaniards first sailed along the north coast of Colombia as early as 1500, but the first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. In 1549, the area was established as a Spanish colony with the capital at Santa Fe de Bogota. In 1717, Bogota became the capital of the viceroyalty of New Granada, which included what is now Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City.

    On July 20, 1810, the citizens of Bogota created the first representative council to defy Spanish authority. Total independence was proclaimed in 1813, and in 1819 the Republic of Greater Colombia was formed.

    After the defeat of the Spanish army, the republic included all the territory of the former viceroyalty. Simon Bolivar was elected its first President and Francisco de Paula Santander, Vice President. Two political parties that grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolivar and Santander, the Conservatives and the Liberals, have dominated Colombian politics. Bolivar’s supporters, who later formed the nucleus of the Conservative Party, advocated a strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, and a limited franchise.

    Santander’s followers, forerunners of the Liberals, wanted a decentralized government, state rather than church control over education and other civil matters, and a broadened suffrage.

    Political Situation

    The State Department (1994) note that throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia, is not like other Latin American countries, in that it has maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free elections. The military has seized power only three times in Colombia’s history and in the first two instances, civilian rule was restored within a year.

    At the same time, Colombia’s history has been characterized by periods of widespread, violent conflict. Two civil wars have resulted from bitter rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal Parties. The War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) cost an estimated 100,000 lives, and up to 300,000 people perished during La Violencia of the 1940s and 1950s.

    In July 1957, former Conservative President Laureano Gomez (1950-53) and former Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1945-46) issued the “Declaration of Sitges,” in which they proposed a “National Front” whereby the Liberal and Conservative parties would jointly govern. Through regular elections, the presidency would alternate between the two parties every four years; the parties also would have parity in all other elective and appointive offices. The National Front ended La Violencia. Although the 1991 constitution does not have that requirement, subsequent governments have included opposition parties in the government.

    The next administrations had to contend with both the guerrillas and the narcotics traffickers, who freely operated within Colombia. Narco-terrorists assassinated three presidential candidates before Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was elected in 1990. With the death of Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in December 1993, indiscriminate acts of violence associated with that organization have somewhat abated

    President Ernesto Samper became president August, 1994. Samper has vowed to continue many of the economic and foreign policy goals of the previous administration, while also placing greater emphasis on addressing social inequities and eliminating poverty.


    Colombia undertook a profound economic reform program in 1990-94 that opened up its economy to international trade and investment. Colombia is the only major Latin American country which did not have to reschedule its external debt during the debt crisis of the 1980s. The nation paid both principal and interest to its foreign creditors. Today it enjoys one of the highest credit ratings in the region.

    Colombia is well-endowed with minerals and energy resources. It has the largest coal reserves in Latin America, is second to Brazil in hydroelectric potential, and possesses Latin America’s fourth-largest oil and gas reserves. It also possesses significant amounts of ferronickel, gold, silver, platinum, and emeralds.

    The recent discovery of 2 billion barrels of high-quality oil at the Cusiana and Cupiagua fields, about 125 miles east of Bogota, assures Colombia’s crude oil self-sufficiency until well into the next decade. However, refining capacity cannot satisfy domestic demand, so some refined products, especially gasoline, must be imported. Plans for the construction of a new refinery are under development. Total crude oil production in 1993 was 453,000 b/d; about 184,000 b/d were exported.

    The United States is Colombia’s principal trading partner, purchasing 37% of Colombia’s exports in 1993.

    Religious Mix

    Ninety-five percent of the country is Roman Catholic, whereas Evangelicals only make up 3.1% (Protestant 3.8%). Johnstone notes that 70% of the Roman Catholics never attend mass and that the Evangelical presence is growing (1993:174).

    Drugs and Related Problems

    Concerning Colombia, Patrick Johnstone writes,

    Colombia has a reputation for being possibly one of the most violent countries in the world. Leftist guerrilla movements and the drug-trafficking “barons” dominate many areas of the country. Corruption, blackmail, kidnapping, assassination and revenge murders have brutalized society (1993:174).

    Colombia is the world’s leading supplier of cocaine and is the source of tons of refined cocaine, heroin, and marijuana shipped to the United States and Europe each year. Although the yield of Colombian opium poppies is low, Colombia now has more illicit poppy cultivation than Mexico. In 1993, Colombia closed a bloody chapter in its continuing war against narcotics trafficking with the death of drug lord Pablo Escobar and the crippling of his notorious Medellin drug cartel. The remaining Cali and other Colombian drug cartels, among the most sophisticated criminal organizations in the world, virtually control cocaine processing as well as international wholesale distribution chains and markets. Colombia is engaged in a broad range of narcotics control activities.

    In Colombia’s traditional cannabis growing zones, where intensive eradication in previous years had virtually destroyed the crop, there was a resurgence of cultivation in 1993 to an estimated 5,000 hectares. Through aerial spraying and manual eradication, Colombia has attempted to keep opium poppy cultivation from expanding. The government has committed itself to pursuing eradication of all illicit crops, including coca and marijuana, during 1995. Authorities aggressively fumigate using a safe agricultural herbicide.

    Corruption and intimidation by traffickers complicate the drug-control efforts of many Colombian institutions. A major overhaul of the Colombian judicial system shows promise, although changes have yet to produce successful prosecution of narcotics traffickers. Colombia passed a revised criminal procedures code in 1993 which permits traffickers to surrender and negotiate more lenient sentences in return for cooperating with prosecutors. The Colombian constitution now prohibits the extradition of Colombian nationals, but the government does extradite citizens of other countries.

    Cultural Aspects

    The pre-Columbian cultures of Colombia have been little investigated as almost none of them left behind spectacular monuments. However, their art reveals a high degree of craftsmanship and their goldwork is the best in the whole continent, both for the techniques used and for the artistic design.

    I have personally noticed a distinct difference in the average Colombian that seems distinct from Ecuadoreans and Peruvians. Although it’s very hard to analyze, it seems that Colombians are more active, competitive, and business oriented than Ecuadoreans. This might be the result of the dominate Spanish speaking population (less than one percent are Amerindian). Perhaps, Raul Jaramillo, a native Colombian, sums up these cultural distinctions,

    Colombians have developed other reflexes: they are quick to react, brisk to discuss, cautious to decide and excessively slow to make collective decisions. They are “short term lovers” (maybe they know that before the end of any planned transformation, there are other ideas sailing on an opposite direction). Fortunately, and as another side of coin, the inertia of system is so great, it explains a country, that historically, is the most stable economically and institutionally in the region (1993).


    Ecuador is an exciting, diverse land. Although it is South America’s fourth smallest country(about the size of Nevada), it boasts of a beautiful coastal region, a lofty mountain range, and dense tropical forest. In fact, Ecuador can easily be divided into these three regions: coast, mountains, and jungle. In Ecuador they call these regions the Costa, the Sierra, and the Orient.


    As of July, 1995, 10,890,950 lived in Ecuador. Out of that figure, 56.9% of the people are non-Indian. This includes Mestizo (2,450,000), Afro-American (610,000), and EuroAmerican (300,000). The Indigenous population accounts for 42% of the population of Ecuador (Johnstone 1993:201).


    In the fifteenth century the Incas extended their empire northwards from Peru. At that time primitive tribes inhabited Ecuadorian soil. In 1460 the Incas conquered the Ecuadorian Indians and imposed their culture and administration upon them (Tatford 1983:218). This included their Quichua language. For the primitive tribes that were natives in Ecuador, this was only the beginning of centuries of foreign domination.

    It was less than a century later in 1521 that Bartholomew Ruiz, a Spanish seaman, spotted the coast of Ecuador. Upon landing he was treated with the greatest respect. Bartholomew went back to his country and boasted in the wealth and intrigue of this South American land (Hunter 1964:218).

    Only 11 years later another explorer named Pizarro sailed from Spain to Ecuador. However, he did not come with motivations of peace and friendship. He and his men had one thing on their mind‑conquest of the inhabitants. Upon landing along the coast, at what is now the port city of Guayaquil, Pizarro and his men marched through the Sierras where Quito now stands as capital. He captured the Inca King, Atawallpa, and after receiving an incredible amount of gold as a ransom, he treacherously murdered him. Concerning the cruel invasion, J.H. Hunter writes, “These conquests are perhaps the most cruel, tragic, and heroic, as well as the bloodiest recorded in all the annals of history” (1964:137).

    As a reward for the evangelization of the country, large land grants were freely given. The tribal people were then enslaved in order to take care of these large “haciendas”. In fact, until recently, the owner of a hacienda would claim the indigenous people as part of his estate‑along with his other cattle (Star 1985:801).

    In the early days of evangelical penetration into Ecuador, there was fierce opposition by the Roman Catholic Church. As recently as 1952 approx. two and one half million leaflets were distributed by Roman Catholics declaring Protestants to be foreigners and subversive. One can imagine what the early twentieth century was like. Early Alliance history records the building of a church in Quito, the capitol city of Ecuador, “At times, what had been built during the day was torn down at night” (Pioneer Years: 6)

    Secondly, it is very clear that the people were weary and suspicious of foreigners. After centuries of foreign control, one can imagine that the people were reluctant to receive the message of the early missionaries. In understanding missions in Ecuador the point needs to be continually made that the original tribes that make up the land of Ecuador have consistently felt dominated by foreign powers‑even religious ones. When thinking through mission strategy that will be effective here in Ecuador, one must remember this truth.

    Yes, the early historical conditions warranted against a huge harvest‑but what about today? It is a fact that not only the Alliance, but the Ecuadorian Evangelical Church in general is experiencing exciting church growth (Protestant Divisions 1985:18).

    Political Situation

    For nearly three centuries the country was governed by Spanish viceroys. However, the desire to cast off foreign domination was always close to the people’s heart. The fight for independence lasted 14 years. It was in 1822 that the day finally arrived. Under the leadership of the highly revered Simon Bolivar,

    Ecuador finally cast off the yoke of Spanish Imperialism. It formed part of what was called the Republic of Colombia, which was composed of New Granada, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Although a “free” nation, Roman Catholicism was still the sole religion of the country. In fact, a quote from the constitution of 1830 said that the Roman Catholic Church was the only religion in Ecuador “…to the exclusion of any other faith (Weld 1968: 22).

    However, the winds of change were bound to come. A liberal sentiment swept the country. Through the upheaval of a civil war liberals came to power in 1897. Diplomatic relations with the Vatican were terminated although Roman Catholicism remained the state religion. On paper anyway, religious freedom was guaranteed to all.

    What about the political realm? What kind of stability do we find in the government? Shodt sums it up when he says, “Ecuadorian politics is in some ways as bewildering as its topography. Political instability has been a characteristic feature” (1987:12).

    Some examples are in order. Ecuador’s first 95 years as a republic saw 40 presidents, dictators, and juntas come and go. During the years 1925 through 1948 no president completed his term of office. During this same 23 year period Ecuador witnessed 22 presidents or chiefs of state ( Ecuador: Post Report, p.3). Since independence Ecuador has had 17 constitutions-the most recent being in 1978 (Schodt 1987:12)

    How has all this effected the people? Maybe not as radically as might be expected. Schodt remarks, “…until recently, life for the vast majority of Ecuadorian citizens was remarkably untouched by these numerous political transitions. Ecuadorian politics has traditionally been largely an elite contest, with political participation limited to a small fraction of the populations until the 1970’s” (1987:46).

    The 1979 constitution provides for concurrent four-year terms of office for the president, vice president, and the 12 members of Congress (of a total of 77) who are elected as “national” (at-large) legislators. The remaining 65 legislators, representing the country’s 21 provinces, serve for two years. No president may be re-elected, and outgoing legislators cannot be re-elected until an intervening term has passed (U.S. Department of State Nov., 1994)


    It was in the 1970’s that Ecuadorians struck it rich. Actually, the year was 1967 when Texaco and Gulf Oil companies discovered vast petroleum deposits in the jungle (Ecuador in Pictures 1987:5). Huge pipes were constructed to carry the oil out of the jungle. Oil began to flow in 1970 when oil prices were at their peak. Ecuador pumped 300,000 barrels a day, and revenues reached $270,000,000 per month (Ecuador in Pictures 1987:5).

    This oil explosion and the immediate wealth accompanying it brought changes in several ways. First, more jobs were generated which helped create a stronger middle class. Second, the govern­ment had more money to spend and to invest. It began to subsidize just about everything. Yet, there was a grave negative side to this. When the oil prices began to drop drastically, a huge financial burden began to weigh down the economy. Since Ecuadorian politics have always been closely linked with the economy, the government once again found itself in great turmoil. These conditions have persisted up to the present day (Ecuador in Pictures 1987:5)

    Although Ecuador’s economy is developing, there is a long way to go. It remains one of the most underdeveloped nations in South America (Ecuador in Pictures 1987:5). A large part of the blame lies in the fact that more than one half of the people are farmers who raise only enough food to feed their own families. A high birth rate and inadequate transportation add to Ecuador’s low standard of living. According to 1993 statistics, the average yearly income per household is $1,040.00 U.S. dollars (4.9% of the US)

    The U.S. State Department report for 1994 states,

    Ecuador’s gross domestic product (GDP) will reach $16.6 billion for 1994. Due to austerity measures, economic growth was only 2% in 1993 but should exceed 3% in 1994. The economy is based on petroleum production, along with exports of agricultural commodities and seafood. The state oil industry makes up 11% of GDP, generates 35% of total exports, and provides about half of government revenue.

    Religious Mix

    In Ecuador, Roman Catholics comprise 94% of the population while Protestants make up 3.8% (Johnstone 1993:201). Johnstone writes,

    Ecuador had Latin America’s smallest percentage of evangelicals in 1960. Praise God for major breakthroughs and people movements that have brought rapid church growth since then, notably among: Spanish speaking urbanties….Quichuas in Chimborazo Province (1993:202).

    It is my opinion that Ecuador is entering a time of harvest. The hard, oftentimes fruitless labor of former missionaries are now paying rich dividends (note 46).


    Lima, Perú has served the seat of government for both the Incas and Spaniards, thus making Perú a land that is rich in history and culture.


    According to the 1994 State Department report, Peru has 22.9 million inhabitants and sixty-nine percent of the people live in the city. The main people groupings are Indian (45%), Mestizos (37%), and Caucasians (15%). Out of all of my case study countries, Perú has the highest percentage of indigenous people (note 47). Some Peruvians also are of African descent, and Lima and the coastal cities have Chinese and Japanese communities. As been mentioned earlier, Mestizos form a bridge between the Hispanic-European and Indian societies. Caucasians tend to be culturally homogeneous throughout the country, whereas the Mestizos and especially the Indians show greater cultural

    diversity. However, due to factors such as education, economic development, and the movement from rural to urban areas, a more homogeneous national culture is developing, especially in major cities.


    When the Spanish landed in 1531, Peru’s territory was the center of the highly developed Inca civilization. The Inca Empire, centered at Cusco, extended over a vast region, all the way from northern Ecuador to central Chile. In search of Inca wealth, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro arrived in the territory after the Incas had fought a debilitating civil war and easily conquered the weakened people. By 1533, the Spaniards had conquered the Inca capital at Cusco , and the Spanish had consolidated control by 1542. Due the large amount of gold and silver, Perú became the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America.

    Pizarro founded Lima in 1535. The viceroyalty established at Lima in 1542 initially had jurisdiction over all of South America except Portuguese Brazil. By the time of the wars of independence (1820-24), Lima had become the most distinguished and aristocratic colonial capital and the chief Spanish stronghold in America.

    Peru’s independence movement was led by Jose de San Martin of Argentina and Simon Bolivar of Venezuela. San Martin proclaimed Peruvian independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. Emancipation was completed in December 1824, when Gen. Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the Spanish troops at Ayacucho, ending Spanish rule in South America. Spain made futile attempts to regain its former colonies, but in 1879 it finally recognized Peru’s independence.

    After independence, Perú and its neighbors engaged in intermittent territorial disputes. Chile’s victory over Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific (1879-83) resulted in a territorial settlement. Following a clash between Peru and Ecuador in 1941, the Rio Protocol–of which the United States is one of four guarantors–sought to establish

    the boundary between the two countries. (Continuing boundary disagreement last led to a brief armed conflict in early 1981 and in 1995) (note 48).

    Political Situation

    The military has played a very important role in Peruvian history. Coups have repeatedly interrupted civilian constitutional government. The most recent period of military rule (1968-80) began when Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado overthrew elected President Fernando Belaunde Terry of the Popular Action Party (AP). Because of Velasco’s economic mismanagement and deteriorating health, he was replaced by Gen. Francisco Morales Bermudez Cerruti in 1975. In the May 1980 elections, President Belaunde Terry was returned to office by an impressive plurality.

    During the 1980s, illegal cultivation of coca was established in large areas on the eastern Andean slope. Rural terrorism by Sendero Luminoso and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement increased during this time and derived significant financial support from the illegal drug industry. It is estimated that these two Maoist terrorist groups killed 26,000 people and inflicted ten billion dollars in damage to the country (Johnstone 1993:444).

    In 1992, President Fujimori suspended the constitution and took over the country. Although constitutional authority was eventually restored, many criticized Fujimori’s actions. However, due to his radical moves and the capturing key leaders of the Sendero Luminoso, these two movement no longer terrorize the country. Perú is once again prospering economically and the approval of Fujimori could be seen by his overwhelming presidential reelection in 1995. .


    In the 1980s the economy suffered from hyperinflation, declining per capita output, and mounting external debt. Peru was shut off from IMF and World Bank support in the mid-1980s because of its huge debt arrears. An austerity program implemented shortly after the Fujimori government took office in July 1990 contributed to a third consecutive yearly contraction of economic activity, but the slide came to a halt late that year, and in 1991 output rose 2.4%.

    Lima obtained a financial rescue package from multilateral lenders in September 1991, although it faced $14 billion in arrears on its external debt. By working with the IMF and World Bank on new financial conditions and arrangements, the government succeeded in ending its arrears by March 1993. The Peruvian economy has become increasingly market-oriented, with major privatizations completed in 1994 in the mining and telecommunications industries.


    I felt that it was significant to note that under the 1993 constitution, primary education is free and compulsory. Interestingly enough, the Minister of Education appoints all public school teachers. It is estimated that eighty-four percent of Peru’s students attend public schools at all levels. Also, school enrollment has been rising sharply for years, due to a widening educational effort by the government and a growing school-age population. Still, illiteracy is more than 70% in isolated, mountainous areas and is estimated at 28% in urban areas. Elementary and secondary school enrollment is about 5 million. University enrollment is more than 250,000 (State Department 1994).

    Religious Mix

    Eight-nine percent of the country is still Roman Catholic, but they are only growing at a rate of 1.5%. Concerning the Catholic Church, Johnstone writes, “The Catholic Church is in a crisis. Over 80% of its clergy are foreign. It is polarized between the traditionalists and those who espouse liberation theology” (1993:445).

    On the other hand, Evangelicals have been growing and are now a significant source of leadership, stability, and hope (Johnstone 1993:445). According to the 1993 statistics (Johnstone 444, 445), 7.7% of the population is now Protestant (5.7% Evangelical) with an annual growth rate of 7.7%.

    Cultural Aspects

    As in other Latin American countries, the relationship between Hispanic and Indian cultures determines much of the nation’s cultural expression. During pre-Columbian times, Peru was one of the major centers of artistic expression in America. Pre-Inca cultures, such as Chavin, Paracas, Nazca, Chimu, and Tiahuanaco, were successful in developing high-quality pottery, textiles, and sculpture. Drawing upon these earlier cultures, the Incas continued to maintain these crafts but went one step further made some impressive achievements in architecture. The great fortress of Machu Picchu and the buildings at Cusco are excellent examples of Inca architectural design.

    Perú has passed through various intellectual stages–from colonial Hispanic culture to European Romanticism after independence. The early 20th century brought a new emphasis on the indigenous people with a new awareness of their culture and contribution. Since World War II, Peruvian writers, artists, and intellectuals have actively participated in worldwide intellectual and artistic movements, drawing especially on U.S. and European trends.


    Honduras is a small, mountainous land located in Central America. There are six million inhabitants with the largest concentration residing in Tegulcigalpa (800,000).


    92.6% of the population is Spanish speaking (87.4% Mestizo; 2% white; 2% Afro-American). Only 4.6% is Amerindians. Spanish is the predominant language, although some English is spoken along the northern coast and on the Caribbean Bay Islands. Indigenous Indian dialects and the Garifuna dialect also are spoken.


    The restored Mayan ruins near the Guatemalan border in Copan reflect the great Mayan culture that arose in the fourth century. Mayan artifacts also can be found at the National Museum in Tegucigalpa. This culture had declined by the time Columbus sighted the region in 1502, naming it ” Honduras” (meaning “depths”) for the deep water off the coast.

    Spaniard Hernan Cortes arrived in 1524. The Spanish began founding settlements along the coast, and Honduras came under the control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The cities of Comayagua and Tegucigalpa developed as early mining centers. Honduras, along with the other Central American provinces, gained independence from Spain in 1821; it then briefly was annexed to the Mexican Empire. In 1823, Honduras joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America. Before long, though, social and economic differences between Honduras and its regional neighbors exacerbated harsh partisan strife among Central American leaders and brought on the federation’s collapse in 1838. Gen. Francisco Morazan–a Honduran national hero–led unsuccessful efforts to maintain the federation, and restoring Central American unity remained the chief aim of Honduran foreign policy until after World War I.

    Since independence, Honduras has been plagued with nearly 300 internal rebellions, civil wars, and changes of government, more than half occurring during this century. The country traditionally lacked both an economic infrastructure and social and political integration. Its agriculturally based economy came to be dominated by U.S. companies that established vast banana plantations along the north coast. Foreign capital, plantation life, and conservative politics held sway in Honduras from the late 19th until the mid-20th century.

    Political Situation

    During the relatively stable years of the Great Depression, Honduras was controlled by the harshly authoritarian Gen. Tiburcio Carias Andino. His ties to dictators in neighboring countries and to U.S. banana companies helped him maintain power until 1948. By then, provincial military leaders had begun to gain control of the two major parties, the Nationalists and the Liberals.

    But in October 1963, conservative military officers preempted constitutional elections and deposed Villeda in a bloody coup. These officers exiled Liberal Party members and took control of the national police. The armed forces, led by Gen. Lopez Arellano and supported by the National Party, governed until 1970.

    The country enjoyed its most rapid economic growth, during the regimes of General Melgar Castro (1975-78) and General Paz Garcia (1978-83). This was partly due to greater international demand for its products and the availability of foreign commercial lending..

    Honduras has been a democratic civilian government since 1984. With strong endorsement and support from the Honduran military, the Suazo administration had ushered in the first peaceful transfer of power between civilian presidents in more than 30 years. President Callejas took office in January 1990. One of Callejas’ first acts as President was to have the Congress enact an economic reform package aimed at reducing the deficit and effecting widespread structural reforms. The government also took steps to deal with an overvalued exchange rate, major structural barriers to investment, and developing new exports.

    Despite the Callejas administration’s economic reforms, growing public dissatisfaction with the rising cost of living and with seemingly widespread government corruption led voters in 1993 to elect Liberal Party candidate Carlos Roberto Reina over Nationalist Party contender Oswaldo Ramos Soto, with Reina winning 56% of the vote.

    President Reina was sworn in January 27, 1994, promising a “Moral Revolution” to curb corruption. He has taken some steps to implement that policy, but much remains to be done. His government has been preoccupied by the need to meet a fiscal deficit crisis and an energy crisis, both inherited from the previous administration.

    The military now plays a less intrusive role in government, but as in many Latin American countries, it still seems to answer more to its own commander than tot he president of the country.


    Honduras is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. The economy is based mostly on agriculture. The 1995 State Department Report concludes that some of the basic problems facing the country include: Rapid population growth, high unemployment, inflation, a lack of basic services, a large and inefficient public sector, and the dependence of the export sector mostly on coffee and bananas, which are subject to sharp price fluctuations.

    Johnstone writes, “The broken terrain and unequal distribution of land and wealth have hindered development. Insensitive exploitation by multinationals and corruption of politicians have helped to keep Honduras poor” (1993:263). However, a far-reaching reform program, initiated by former President CALLEJAS in 1990 and scaled back by President REINA, is beginning to take hold.

    Religious Mix

    Protestants make up 11% of the population, of which Evangelicals are 10.4%. The annual growth rate is 6%. Response to the gospel over the past twenty years has been dramatic. Johnstone believes that this a large part of the receptivity is due to the economic upheaval (1993:264).

    Roman Catholics make up 85.5% of the population, but they have been declining due to 80% of the leadership is foreign and there is widespread nominalism, pagan practices, and immorality (Johnstone 1993:264).

    El Salvador

    This country has the reputation of being the smallest and most densely populated mainland Spanish-speaking state in the Americas (Johnstone 1993:207).


    Of the six million inhabitants, less than 6% would be considered indigenous. Mestizos make up 92% of the population with Whites comprising 1.7% of the population.


    Before the Spanish conquerors arrived in 1522, El Salvador was called “Cuscatlán” a word that means ” Land of Gems and Jewels”. The civilization who lived in what now is El Salvador had its roots in 1500 B.C. as it is demonstrated by the many archaeological pieces found at the Tazumal ruins. The many archaeological sites in the country make us believe that the Salvadorean land has been one of the most inhabited places in the world during the last 3500 years (Biron and Jimenéz 1995:History).

    The first inhabitants were Potomanes, Lencas and Chortis, followed by the Pipiles and Uluas, tribes that settled in the country’s Central and Western zones. The first Spanish attempt to subjugate this area failed in 1524, when Pedro de Alvarado was forced to retreat by Pipil forces. In 1525, he returned and succeeded in bringing the district under control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which retained its authority until 1821 despite an abortive revolution in 1811.

    Political Situation

    Concerning the tragic civil war that has plagued El Salvador, Patrick Johnstone writes,

    A long series of corrupt dictatorships and gross inequalities between the rich and poor provoked armed leftist insurrection in 1981. Over 75,000 were killed in fighting, cross-fire or through right-wing death squads (1993:207).

    However, the good news is that in 1992 a peace accord was signed which has successfully brought an end to the bloody civil war that has plagued the country.


    In 1992-94 the government made substantial progress toward privatization and deregulation of the economy. Growth in national output in 1991-94 nearly averaged 5%, exceeding growth in population for the first time since 1987; and inflation in 1994 of 10% was down from 19% in 1993 (University of Texas 1992).

    Religious Mix

    Protestants make up 20.6% of the population, of which Evangelicals are 19.8% (Johnstone 1993:207). The bitter civil war has brought a new openness and harvest (in 1960 Evangelicals were only 2.3% of the population). Growth among the Pentecostal groups have been especially dramatic.

    Although the official Roman Catholic figure for El Salvador is 88.4% of the population, Johnstone notes that in reality only 75.1% of the population would be considered Roman Catholic (1993:207).

    Cultural Aspects

    El Salvador retains a rich background from the many native cultures that inhabited the country thousands of years before the Spanish first stepped onto this land. A background that is still brought to life through dances, ceremonies, beliefs, and a wide variety of artifacts which contribute to define the special identity of this people, an identity that is the product of the bonding of two different races: The native Indians and the Spanish.

    San Salvador’s festivities are celebrated during the first week of August-with great gaiety, color and religious spirit, in honor of its patron, The Savior of the World. The popular celebrations include folk dances, parades, and many different games and competitions for young people and children. There is no city, village or town, that does not count on the protection of its own Patron Saint, whose festival is celebrated with splendor once a year.

    Especially famous are the July festivities in Santa Ana, second largest city in the country, which is a prosperous urban town with plenty of commercial and industrial activity. The Department of Santa Ana is characterized for being one of the largest coffee bean producers, El Salvador’s first export product. Its festival is dedicated to the Mother of the Holy Virgin Mary. (Biron and Jimenéz 1995:Culture)


    1. At the same time, most books on Latin American culture do not distinguish between Latin America north and south. The reason for this delineation mainly concerns personal illustrations that I will be using, measuring the Indigenous population versus the Mestizo population, and avoiding the need to make exceptions (Argentinean and Brazilian cultures are very distinct).
    2. Having spent one year in Costa Rica (living with a Tico family) and four years in Ecuador, we have found this to be exceedingly true. I remember my first year as youth pastor of the University students in the El Batán Church in Quito, Ecuador. It always amazed me that the youth were almost unconcerned when very few showed up at the time of the particular event. These students demonstrated to me that they weren’t so concerned about the starting time of the event as much as the event itself. Oftentimes, one hour later the other students would arrive, and everything would function as planned
    3. I’ll never forget our good friends, the Urbans, who visited Ecuador for the first time. They reported to us that a banquet that they attended was supposed to start at 7p.m. However, it was not until 8p.m. that “things began to happen”.
    4. This is in contrast with our linear view of time which says that time is gone forever and the present is a fleeting moment between the past and the future. Hall talks about how that Latin Americans like to do two things at once, whereas the North American practically thinks that this is immoral. Hall says, “In Latin America it is not uncommon for one man to have a number of simultaneous jobs which he either carries on from one desk or which he moves between, spending a small amount of time on each (1973:8).
    5. We noticed in Ecuador that so many of the people had fincas or haciendas. These haciendas were located out in the country and were ideally designed (recreationally) for visitors. It wasn’t unusual for church members to spend every weekend together at these haciendas (at least Saturday).
    6. Sometimes, we as North Americans don’t realize that there is a great deal of cultural motivation (priority of having friendships) behind the constant face to face activity in Latin America. Some might consider Latins lazy or wasters of time, because they spend so much time with people and don’t ‘get things done’. Sadly, there is a lack of understanding that spending time with people is the major ‘thing to do’ in a Latins mind. It might be added that Latins often look at North Americans with a disbelief at their busy schedules and apparent loneliness.
    7. Oftentimes, when asked to a meal in someone’s home, we’d find that other guests had also been invited. At times, this became very irritating to us, because we wanted to be viewed as ‘special friends.’ However, as Dealy points out, amassing friends boosts the feeling of significance for a Latin, and thus one of the reasons for having a lot of people at the dinner table.
    8. The head pastor (pastor titular) with whom I have worked for four years is not well-known for his pulpit ministry. He just doesn’t seem to spend enough time studying. We have become very frustrated at times trying to help him improve his skills but to no avail. At the same time, this man is exceedingly well known for being an excellent public relations person. He spends lots of time with people. There is almost always someone in his office. Again, for him the priority is people.
    9. I have certainly found this to be true in my experience. I remember being so puzzled at the friendly introductions between the head pastor and certain board members several days after the pastor had been mistreated by these people. I knew that his hurt was great, yet I now realize that the outward etiquette and sense of friendliness required this type of behavior.
    10. Perhaps another aspect of this conflict between idealism and realism is the tendency to say ‘yes’ when there is no concrete intention to fulfill that commitment How often did we forcefully agree on a plan of action in the pastoral staff meeting, only to see those plans fall by the wayside. How often did various workers tell me they were going to fulfill something only to have a change of plans later on. Again, I must be very careful here not to over generalize, yet, it does seem that there is a wider gap between idealism and realism in Latin America than in North America
    11. This has been confirmed in my own personal experience. We ministered in the El Batán church in Quito, Ecuador. This church happened to be more middle to upper class. Yet, I soon discovered that the higher class people of that church struggled with accepting and submitting to the national pastors who came from a lower class. I witnessed this superior attitude and disrespect time and time again. In fact, the only pastor that the upper class of the church has ever accepted was an Argentine who appears very ‘white’
    12. At the El Batan church one of the missionary team suddenly had to leave the country due to the cancer of his mother. He made quite an extended presentation to the congregation concerning why he had to leave the country. Later in a pastoral meeting my fellow Latino pastors made it clear that the only thing that the missionary had to explain to the congegation was that he needed to leave due to family concerns.
    13. This is contrast to the North American whose sense of national identity comes from individual involvement within the ‘bulk’ or corporate entity ‘nation’.
    14. This is in contrast to the North American practice of friendships outside of the home. Oftentimes, one’s closest friends are class mates and not family members (nuclear or extended). I’m just beginning to reconcile myself with my younger brother who I hardly knew even though we were part of the same family.
    15. I remember counseling a Latin University student in Quito who was extremely concerned about Paul’s advice to Timothy concerning the need to care for one’s family (I Tim. 5:8). He wanted to plan for the care of his family far in advance. Interestingly enough, in my own family, I have discovered among my brothers and sister an attitude of ‘wait and see’. Although speaking here from my own experience, I believe that these two attitudes can be seen in both Latin America and North America.
    16. I need to reiterate that I’m talking about popular culture in Latin America. Due to the powerful impact of Evangelical Christianity, much of these cultural characteristics are changing. Men are learning to treat their wives with greater dignity and self respect.
    17. As a result of hundreds of hours of counseling with Latin families, I have observed this tendency for Latin men to build their social network around the work place. The sad result is that oftentimes the male discovers an emotional attachment at work and the destructive process of machismo continues.
    18. Oftentimes, I discovered this to be true in my counseling ministry with Latin American women who came for help at the El Batan Church.
    19. I oftentimes found myself in an extremely difficult situation when I was counseling wives who had been abused by their husbands. On the one hand, I felt like they needed to leave immediately. On the other hand, the harsh realities of pragmatism caused me to think twice. The court system seemed non-existent, and oftentimes it wasn’t possible for the woman to receive support from her family. Without a doubt, such counseling was indeed very draining.
    20. From my experience as a missionary in Latin America, the one manifestation that kept on reoccurring time and time again was the pattern of unfaithfulness in marriage. In other words, to be a real man (machismo), one had to have other sexual partners outside of marriage.
    21. The El Batán Church specialized in providing counsel for broken marriages. The pastors became the chief counselors. The ‘pastor de turno’ for that particular week would counsel all those needing help. I remember, at times, having eight counseling sessions a day. Most of the time, the problem had to do with a broken home due to the husband’s unfaithfulness.
    22. As Latin America becomes more Evangelical, this is one area that is changing. Christian women are not just allowing their husbands to have other affairs while they patiently accept such behavior. There is a Biblical awareness that such behavior is simply not acceptable.
    23. In the El Batan Church I saw several of these ‘power confrontations’ first hand between the board (made up of successful businessmen and the pastors). I was amazed by the open boasting among these ‘powerful people’ of their power and influence. The situation became so pronounced that in June, 1996 this powerful board left the church (partly asked to resign by the national church) along with 200 people and formed their own new church under Alfredo Smith.
    24. This is especially true with regard to cell-based ministry. The issue of authority, both from the pastoral leadership perspective as well as it relates to cell leadership, seems to come up on a repeated basis.
    25. The white (purer Spanish population) have always exalted the city above the more rural areas. For them, the city is the place for more cultured man. In the city, man can more readily be around his important social contacts (Dealy 1992:194).
    26. Rivera notes that in Asia the Jesuits practiced an evangelism that sought to discover the Divine within the religion of the indigenous people in order to win those people. However in Latin America, that type of evangelism was not practiced (1992:161).
    27. I remember eating with a professor from our C&MA seminary in Canada. He had earned his doctorate degree from a Catholic seminary in the Philippines. When I questioned him with some incredulity concerning his degree from a Catholic seminary, he clearly explained to me the different shades and colors of Catholicism. In his mind, the Spanish variety was the most rigid and less Biblical type of Catholicism. I must also add that my critique of Catholicism is now much more negative, having spent four years of my life in Ecuador.
    28. In June, 1991 we witnessed the fiesta of St. John in Otavalo, Ecuador. The mixture of animism with Catholicism was striking: There was life size image of Mary who was covered with real money. There was a rider on a white horse who seemed to be the center of attention. At the same time, there was drinking of liquor, intense dancing, and many other indigenous practices.
    29. When I first arrived in Ecuador, I had to complete a course from Columbia International University on the Reformation (completion of M.Div.) I was amazed to discover that the Medieval Church that Martin Luther and the other reformers confronted at the time of the reformation was very similar to the present day Catholic Church in Ecuador. Many of the same Medieval doctrines and traditions are taught and believed.
    30. For example, at the El Batán Church we have personally witnessed this transformation in the marriages that have gone through our counseling ministry. Husbands have learned Biblical values concerning their place in the home, and the importance of remaining faithful in marriage.
    31. The success of Marriage Encounter is also testimony to this fact.
    32. This might not be so true in an Argentinean setting which is more European (schedule oriented) than Indian.
    33. Oftentimes, we found that the groups would stay together until 11 or 12 p.m.. We eventually had to insist that the meeting only last for 1 ½ hours, whereas the refreshment time could last as long as necessary.
    34. Some of the groups would spend a weekend at someone’s hacienda in the country; Other groups would plan a sports day or other special outings. Such social gatherings would probably not work here in the U.S. because of people’s tight schedules, task orientation. and individualism.
    35. Each member of every cell group is encouraged to: 1 Spend one hour per week with non-Christians. 2. Invite friends and family versus strangers. 3. Be helpful to those around them and thereby win them to Christ and to the cell group
    36. This is not entirely true. I have worked on two highly successful pastoral teams in Ecuador (mother and daughter church), in which the head pastor acted very democratically.
    37. More than any other area, I have had to repeatedly deal with this problem. As director of the cell ministry in Ecuador I would rotate from cell to cell on a weekly basis. I discovered that it was an unusual cell leader that truly guided his or her cell into a lively conversation.
    38. Interestingly enough, it seems that North Americans are more open to sharing deep needs and personal concerns in group settings. This is because vulnerability is an highly esteemed trait in the US as opposed to Latin America. Although North Americans do not prioritize people as much as Latins, they are very confident about sharing their feelings and expressing their needs in a group setting. This can be seen in the plethora of support groups that are springing up around the U.S.
    39. We divided our cell groups into the major departments in the church (University, young married couples, adults, etc.). This worked well and members with similar backgrounds were free to join the group of their choice.
    40. I remember one Latin pastor in another province of Ecuador that spoke against small groups because tey were too small. He insisted that his church only liked large small groups. Perhaps it was because of the above mentioned reasons.
    41. This is a very difficult issue for a North American missionary. My tendency is to say that cell groups must start on time (for the sake of those who do come on time), and in fact, that is what we’ve said. However, as I’ve analyzed the Latin culture in a more in-depth way through this tutorial, I’d be hesitant to insist that all groups start on time in the future.
    42. I’m referring here to popular North American culture, as opposed to Christian culture. We know as Christians that our significance should be ‘in Christ’.
    43. Since arriving from Ecuador, I have spoken in almost sixty churches. The first year (June 20, 1995-Junr 20-1996) I spoke 139 times—-just about once every 2 ½ days! I’m speaking from my experience when I say that the North American Church is suffering.
    44. I in no way criticize the ‘seeker sensitive’ churches. Rather, I believe that it’s the only way to reach the secular mindset. I’m more concerned about the desperate situation here in the U.S.
    45. Throughout the paper, I have tried to diligently cite my sources. In this section, most of my information has come from the US State Department Reports, CIA Reports, Patrick Johnstone’s research, and a few other sources. I have tried to synthesize their material into concise summary. Again, this information simply serves to give me an initial introduction of some basic facts. It by no means is meant to be exhaustive.
    46. In other places I talk about the incredible growth that the C&MA is experiencing in Ecuador.
    47. This is not as significant to my study in that I will primarily be focusing of the urban dwellers of Lima, of whom the majority is Mestizo.
    48. The social hatred that Ecuador still feels towards Perú has hindered the acceptance of the Encounter With God progam—a program that Perú initiated.

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