One Man's Willingness to Obey God's Call
In 1923, 46-year-old William Strong Sr. left his successful insurance business in New York and sailed to Chile, followed by his wife Jessie, and two children, Bill and Agnes. Mr. Strong had served as Home Secretary for the Bolivian Indian Mission. He became increasingly convicted about his personal responsibility to the lost, but initially resisted God's call. After a brief, but severe, illness which he attributed to the Lord, he fully surrendered.
With Jessie's blessing, Will visited Bolivia in early 1923. After several months, and with no clear sense of God's direction, he returned to Chile for his trip back to New York. With just a few days left before his boat would set sail, he felt compelled to visit Tacna, Chile, where he discovered an open door to preach the gospel to soldiers stationed there. He returned home, convince of God's calling.
The Early Days
Will arrived in Tacna before the end of the year and began learning Spanish. In addition to evangelizing soldiers and giving out thousands of Bibles over the years, he also extended gracious hospitality to fellow missionaries serving in the Bolivian jungle who came to recover from frequent sickness.
God prospered Mr. Strong's endeavors in Tacna until the town was reincorporated into Peru following a plebiscite in 1929. Meanwhile, he had opened a new ministry location in the southern city of Concepción, where he continued to proclaim the Gospel to soldiers. The mission was first called Soldiers' Gospel Mission. When GMSA missionaries began planting churches, the name was changed to Soldiers and Gospel Mission of South America. Finally, when the military ministry was turned over to the Gideons in the 1960's, the name Gospel Mission of South America was adopted.
During the 1930's, the mission began to take form. One of Mr. Strong's early newsletters, forerunner to the Southern Sentinel, is dated 1932. Long-term volunteers joined the Strongs in Chile and received orientation at a new property in Miraflores (near Chillán) where the first national church was planted.
From then on, establishing local churches became GMSA's passion—a passion nurtured for nearly nine decades. Many of the early churches were planted in rural areas among the unevangelized Mapuche Indians. Our national fellowship of churches, the Unión de Centros Bíblicos, was incorporated in Chile in 1944.
The GMSA group pictured here gathered for a photo at the 1958 Annual Missionary Conference. You may enjoy learning their names by moving your pointer across the screen.
Ione (McKellop) Studer
A Legacy of Service
God called William Strong home in 1960. He had just handed out his last gospel tract and was about to board a train in Temuco, Chile when he collapsed. He had been ushered into heaven. Four generations of the Strong family have been a part of the GMSA team. Will and Jessie's children married and served the Lord their entire lives in Chile, as did some of their grandchildren. A few of their great-grandchildren minister in Chile and Uruguay today.
Expansion Into New Fields
In 1970, Chile fell into the grip of Marxism. Concerned that the country might close to missionaries, as in China and Cuba, and convinced of the Lord's leading, GMSA expanded across the Andes Mountains to Argentina and Uruguay.
Mr. Strong would rejoice to see the many local churches, Bible camps and Bible institutes that have been established.
Today, we are comprised of full-time missionaries and associate missionaries serving on the fields, appointees ministering in their home countries preparing for cross-cultural service, and board and council members in the US, Canada, and Great Britain who represent the ministry in the homelands. Retired missionaries, faithful supporters, local churches, and many who have participated in internships and with work teams also make up the GMSA family.