ELS Mission work began in Chile when the Board for World Outreach, known as the Board for Foreign Missions at that time, feared that political unrest in Peru might eventually drive its missionaries from that country. Chile was chosen as an alternative mission field and work began in 1993.
Throughout the mission’s history, several missionaries have served in Chile. While the missionaries performed pastoral duties, served as seminary professors and provided administrative leadership, the goal was to have a self-sufficient Chilean national church. In order to work toward a self-sufficient national church, the Chilean mission elected its first national board in January of 2012. To realize this goal in part the men, training to be pastors, selflessly pledged to fully support themselves with secular work.
The year 2017 marked twenty-five years of mission work in Chile. A special celebration was held in Linares to celebrate this milestone in conjunction with the ordination of the first Chilean pastor, Mario Galvez. Three Peruvian pastors attended this event and participated in the ordination.
Today, work is centered in Santiago and Linares and is carried out by Pastor Galvez. Pastor Galvez began his ministry by fully supporting himself from a successful Kenpo studio business. The pandemic, however, significantly reduced his student body. Pastor Galvez had to make a decision between giving himself fully to reinvesting in his secular business or fully serving the church. Pastor Galvez decided to serve the church. In order to enable him to do so, the Board for World Outreach in the spring of 2022 issued a joint call with the Chilean national church to Pastor Galvez. The joint call directs him to continue with the full time work of caring for Chile’s congregations, to serve as missionary at large in Chile, and leading the national church of Chile. Pastor Mario also enjoys the support of a seminary student and lay leader, Segio Guiterrez, of Linares.
The Chilean church has a congregation in the Santiago community of La Cisterna. The congregation has been blessed with a new church facility located near a major metro stop. Another congregation is located approximately 300 km south of Santiago in the city of Linares. It has been blessed with a visible church facility in a Linares neighborhood. Both the La Cisterna and Linares attractive church buildings and sites were made possible by donors from the United States. The Chilean church also has contacts with new groups. They have been formed in various places throughout Chile by the online Spanish speaking Bible institute. The Bible institute is conducted by missionaries from our sister synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The institute is called Academia Cristo. During the pandemic and thanks to an important donation from a sister church in the United States, the Chilean national church began to carry out the important work of recording and editing online services every Sunday. The online services are hosted by the Academia Cristo website and reach throughout the Spanish-speaking world. During the nearly two year pandemic lockdown these online services were especially important to reach the Chilean national church members in their homes.
Together with his supportive wife Mildred, an English teacher, they were invited to the October 2022 General Pastoral Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The invitation gave Pastor Galvez the opportunity to talk about the work in Chile and to preach in ELS congregations.
The Lord has certainly blessed the spreading of his Word in Chile and we look forward to seeing how it continues to spread and take root in the future.