Paving the way
Uruguay | OM InternationalAlejandro Las, from Uruguay, thought he’d never come back to OM—but he did. For two and a half years now, he has been the field leader of OM Uruguay. With a focus on mobilising the Uruguayan church for missions, Alejandro wants to see his field grow. Recently, he shared his view on missions with OM writer Anneke Bolt.
Anneke: Twenty years ago you were working in a bank and your future was safe. How did you end up working with OM?
Alejandro: Good jobs are rare in Uruguay. The idea of giving all that up was crazy. But the Lord spoke to my heart. While I was still working in the bank, I started ministering to youth and kids in our neighbourhood. In all this, God prepared my heart for missions. I took a one-year training in Brazil, spent two years on board Logos II and went back to Uruguay to study and work as an English teacher. Then I left the country again to work in ministry with OM in South Africa and Mozambique. Finally I returned to Uruguay and met my wife, Cristina. She was working with OM Uruguay at the time.
Anneke: Once back in your country, you never thought you’d come back to OM. What happened?
Alejandro: Cristina and I left OM, but always kept in touch. Two years after we got married, we planted a church. I never thought I’d come back to OM. But a few years ago I was asked to take over the leadership of OM Uruguay. We prayed for almost a year about it. Finally I accepted.
Anneke: Coming back to OM wasn’t the easiest choice for you to make. How has your experience been the last few years?
Alejandro: It’s been two and a half years since I started and now I finally feel that I can focus on the really important stuff, instead of dealing with difficult situations. Although we’ve been going through many situations, God has been faithful.
Anneke: In what direction is OM Uruguay heading?
Alejandro: I want OM Uruguay to grow; I want to see changes. Our goal is not to do social work. Many other organisations in Uruguay are already doing that and we won’t compete with them. Our focus is mobilising churches, giving training and organising events. Basically what it all comes down to is serving the church.
Anneke: Serving in what sense?
Alejandro: We want to help the churches develop mission-mindedness. Of the Christians in Uruguay, only about five to seven per cent are evangelical. The church is growing, but not like in Brazil or Argentina. The mindset in Uruguay is very secular. Churches that do exist generally don’t have an evangelistic focus. That’s where we come in. We can help churches set up a missions prayer meeting. We can offer a two-hour programme, a conference or a youth camp. We try to challenge churches to minister in their own neighbourhood, high school or hospital. I really believe that churches should take a close look at the profile of their neighbourhood.
Anneke: Do you believe more in local than in global missions?
Alejandro: Both are important. But in order to change the mindset of Uruguayan churches, I think it’s better to start locally. They can go global later on. You see, I know exactly what pastors fear; I’m still one of the pastors of the church we planted. As a pastor, you want to see your church grow—you don’t want to send people away to China. So as OM, we have to pave our way and we’re in the early stages of doing that. We have to build trust and be polite with the church, not appeal to them until it is the right time. So far, the results of this process have been good. We’ve sent several people from Paraguay to the field, but this year we’ll be sending the first Uruguayans. I’m very happy with this.
Anneke: What have the past twenty years taught you about leadership?
Alejandro: I think leaders need to be visionaries, and they should have character. Of course, you have to know the Bible and you have to be a good teacher. But only if your character reflects this does it work. A good leader can be discontent with a certain situation; however, he doesn’t complain—he would rather be the person working to see the reality different in the future. In OM, we are a reference for others. We should always be aware of that.
Anneke: Do you have any new plans for OM Uruguay this year?
Alejandro: Besides TeenStreet, a four-month training school and many church visits, we recently started a new programme called “I love evangelising”. It’s a one-week programme for church members. It is three days of training and doing evangelism, right on the spot. I’m very excited about this. I feel we’re advancing with OM Uruguay. We’re touching people’s lives. I’m looking forward to see what God will do in the years to come.