Inside Story

He’s Simply “Carlos”

By Andrew Mcchesney

If J. Carlos Sanchez Ruiz were president of a Seventh-day Adventist union office in his native Peru, church members would courteously address him as “Pastor-President.” But in Uruguay, where Carlos is president of the Uruguay Union of Churches Mission, he is known simply as “Carlos.”

Men call him “Carlos.” Women call him “Carlos.” Even small children call him “Carlos.”

No one addresses him as president. No one uses the word pastor. He is just “Carlos.”

Coming from Peru, a country where people are very conscientious about hierarchy, it took Carlos about a year to adjust to Uruguay when he first was elected president in 2011.

“Uruguay is a country unlike any other in South America,” Carlos said. “Even though Uruguayans recognize and respect leadership, they do not accept the hierarchical model. A leader is equal to everyone else.”

The Uruguayan mind-set, which Carlos linked to a strong European influence, makes the country a promising mission field, church leaders said. The Adventist Church has only 7,358 members in the country of 3.5 million people, or one Adventist for every 470 people, one of the smallest ratios in South America. About half of Uruguay’s population lives in the capital, Montevideo.

“How will we reach Montevideo and other cities around the world?” Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson asked pastors during a 2019 visit.

Opening his Bible, he read Jeremiah 32:27, which says, “ ‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?’ ” (NKJV).

“God responds to His own question in a powerful way,” Wilson said. Then he turned to Jeremiah 33:3 and read, “ ‘ “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” ’ ”

“Claim this promise for Uruguay and for your work in the cities,” Wilson said. “You face challenges of secularism and materialism very much like Europe. But nothing is too hard for the Lord.”

In an indication that nothing is too hard for the Lord, people are being baptized in Uruguay after attending programs at community centers, or “urban centers of influence,” operated by the church. Among the new members is a young man, Fernando Aguirre, who gave his heart to Jesus in 2019 after taking stress-management courses at an urban center of influence in Montevideo. Please pray for Uruguay and the other promising mission fields in secular societies around the world.

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