Only someone who has tasted failure would understand the atmosphere in the car that evening as we made the eight-hour trip home. So much effort had gone into the outreach event! At twelve, traveling with my dad and another missionary and his daughter who was close to my age, I was old enough to sense the heaviness in the air.
The plan had been to do a tent campaign, something that was very popular in those days. It involved a huge tent that could fit 200 -500 people, folding chairs, loudspeakers, a good soloist or maybe a quartet. And, of course, a good evangelistic message, with an invitation for people to come forward. Oh, and flyers distributed around the neighborhood in advance to invite people to come. This particular campaign lasted three days, if I remember right.
We had seen responses in other places. In fact, one of my best friends and her family had come to Christ through a tent campaign and were involved in our church. But as I heard the two dads talking in the front seat, it was obvious they were disappointed and confused. A long dusty trip, so much effort, and no results.
I hadn’t been at all the meetings, so I piped up, “Didn’t anyone come forward?”
My dad answered, “There was an eight-year-old girl, and her mother came up with her. But we’re not sure they understood.”
My heart ached for my dad. He was so passionate about Jesus, and about helping others come to know him! Why this terrible disappointment? Hadn’t he been faithful? Wasn’t he agonizing constantly about those who needed to come to Christ? He invited us into his heart’s wrestling each evening during family devotions, asking that we pray for certain people to come to Christ. He had an even bigger dream, though. His dream was that the people in our churches in Argentina would have a vision to reach people in the countries around them. He wanted to see missionaries from Argentina going around the world to spread the gospel.
A lot of people thought he was getting carried away. The economy didn’t even allow the churches to support their own pastors. How could they send missionaries? But Dad faithfully presented the vision to his family, and we knelt together and prayed that it would happen.
Almost thirty years later, I returned to Argentina on a short-term mission trip. One afternoon our hosts asked Gladys, one of the women’s leaders in the local church, to share her testimony. She told how, as a child, she had found a flyer on the sidewalk about a tent campaign, and she talked her mother into taking her. She accepted the Lord, and so did her mother. They talked with her older brother, and in three days he accepted the Lord.
Their father was a ship’s captain who traveled all over. He was very opposed to this new religion his family was adopting. One day, though, through the kindness of a Christian co-traveler on a train, his defenses broke.
When he accepted Christ, everything changed. He was a congenial, extroverted person, and he wasted no time sharing with others his new-found faith. He led a couple from Uruguay to the Lord, and they contacted him soon after to ask if he could come and help them find a good church. He and his wife took their vacation to Uruguay, but couldn’t find a church for their friends. In the meantime, the friends had led others to Christ. So Glady’s parents decided to take early retirement and move to Uruguay to start a church. In time, the churches in Argentina began to help support the work they were doing. Encouraged, young people from Argentina started considering the needs around the world. The son of one of the pastors my dad had mentored became a missionary pilot. Argentines have served with Encompass World Partners in Uruguay, Chile, the Chad, Mexico, and Cameroon.
As Gladys finished sharing, she added: “The campaign I was saved at has been called The Failed Campaign. From my perspective, it wasn’t a failure at all!” — by Viki Rife, first posted at wgusa.org.