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.

Mission Organization

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.

William Strong

George Black

Bill Strong

Bernie Poole

Margaret  Poole

Sadie Minnis

Hilda Swanson

Lois Bohn

Louise Austin

Bill Austin

Dave Hamm

Richard Smith

Henry Nobleman

Al Landis

Lucille Jacobs

Nell Festa

Fanu Vallette

Evelyn Hamm

Betty Smith

Letty Black

Winn Strong

Ruth Toblemann 

Gertrude Landis

Ione (McKellop) Studer

Agnes Vallette

Bob Strong

Rich Vallette

George Tobleman

Marnie Poole

Hazel Poole

Leroy Hamm

David Landis

Ron Vallette

Nancy Strong

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.

GMSA Today

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.

William Strong, Sr. is saved at the age of 38 in New York City.
In March, Mr. Strong travels to Bolivia in search of God's direction.
In December, Mr. Strong arrives in Tacna, Northern Chile.
In late January, Mrs. Strong arrives with Bill Jr. (14) and Agnes (10).
The Strongs rent a large home and provide a place for missionaries from Bolivia to rest or recuperate from illness. Mr. Strong begins an evangelistic ministry with the Chilean military and travels extensively preaching the gospel and giving out the Bible to them. The Mission is called “Soldier’s Gospel Mission.”
The city of Tacna is returned to the country of Peru. The Strongs turn over the hospitality ministry to others and move their ministry south to Concepción.
Ione McKellop is Mr. Strong’s first official recruit from the US. She returns with them to the field after their first furlough in December of 1930.
The Strongs rent a home in Concepción, central Chile to serve as headquarters. The location is far better suited for Mr. Strong’s travels north and south to evangelize the military.
Mr. Strong purchases a farm in Coihueco and they name it Miraflores. It would become home to the Strong family, serve as field headquarters, the first stop for new missionary orientation, a major ministry hub including a church plant. The name of the Mission is changed to Soldiers and Gospel Mission of South America to reflect the new emphasis on rural church planting.
As a potential result of Mr. Strong's 1930 travels in the US, UK and Europe, councils are established in Portland, Oregon; Paterson, New Jersey; Zurich, Switzerland; and Wales.
Bill Jr. graduates from Philadelphia College of the Bible and marries Winifred Bixby. The next day, Bill Jr. sets sail for Chile and Auntie Win stays behind to fulfill a five-month teaching commitment. She arrives in Valparaiso in September of that year. When the captain of the ship hears of their separation, he gifts them several days aboard ship for a honeymoon.
Bill Jr. and Auntie Win begin church planting among the Mapuche in Galvarino.
Agnes Strong graduates from Wheaton College and returns to Chile to serve with her parents.
Emma Harlamert and Mr. and Mrs. Bucher join Mr. Strong after the C&MA pulls out of Mapuche ministries.
Ernesto, Margarita and Blanca Vallette, raised by their godly grandmother, begin ministering with the Mission. Margarita and Blanca work in Pinto with Mrs. Meier, who came to the field after losing her husband and son. Ernesto manages the farm and takes care of the local rural work at headquarters in Miraflores.
Thomas Davies arrives from Wales—GMSA’s first UK missionary. Many others would follow and the Mission is eventually incorporated as a charity in the UK.
Agnes Strong and Ernesto Vallette are married and serve together in Chile until Ernesto’s homegoing in 1984 and Agnes’ in 2002.
During the 30’s and 40’s, a wave of missionaries arrives in Chile to accompany the Strongs in pioneer church planting. Many were recruited in the late 30’s and arrived in the early 40’s who were graduates of Moody Bible Institute.
First summer camp held.
The Soldiers and Gospel Mission of South America is incorporated in Pennsylvania and joins the IFCA. All donations are sent to Paterson, NJ to Walter C. Allen, long-time SGMSA treasurer.
George Black arrives with Lucille Jacobs and Albert and Gertrude Landis in January. Uncle George works closely with Mr. Strong in the military ministry.
Letty Pudnam, first Canadian missionary, arrives on the field from British Columbia. She and George Black are married in January of 1943.
The fellowship "Unión de Centros Bíblicos" is organized in Chile. Today there are around 120 churches in the fellowship which was later organized in Argentina and Uruguay in the early 70s.
Zondervan publishes "Soldiering for Christ", written by SGMSA missionary Edith Nantz telling the story of Mr. Strong Sr. and the founding of the Mission.
A property is purchased in Temuco, Chile south of Miraflores. A large 2 ½ story building is donated to the Mission by the Anglicans, dismantled, and moved over 60 miles to the new property, and erected. It becomes the new Mission headquarters, known as the "Temuco House," and later served as a Bible Institute until 2017.
“GOOD NEWS FOR OUR ENGLISH MISSIONARIES! After six years of war and two years of ensuing peace, the British government has at last given us permission for the transmission of funds out of England for our own British workers. We praise the Lord for this.”
Albert and Gertrude Landis begin ministering in the Chiloe Islands (Achao). Numerous missionaries would evangelize the Islands until the departure of Curtis and Diane Steward around 1990.
Mrs. Strong is promoted to Heaven.
William Strong Sr. resigns as General Director and George Black is unanimously elected the second General Director of the Mission.
21 Evans Place is purchased in Pompton Plains, NJ and becomes the first "owned" US Headquarters.
83 year-old William Strong Sr. boards a train in Temuco bound for Miraflores to preach for his son-in-law. After he gave out his last tract, he collapsed and was promoted instantly to heaven. The Lord gave him nearly four decades of ministry in Chile.
Upon the 40th anniversary of the Mission, the name was changed to "Gospel Mission of South America." The name was chosen because, in the words of General Director, George Black, "The work of bearing a witness to the young men in uniform now represents a small portion of the activity of the Mission. For that reason the missionary body has unanimously voted in favor of a change in name in an ever-increasing desire to fulfill the total commission of the 'Gospel to every creature'."
The first full time Bible Institute is established in Santiago, Chile under the leadership of Cliff Truman and David Hamm, and dedicated to the memory of Mr. & Mrs. Strong Sr. The Bible Institute in Temuco, Chile was started about the same time at Headquarters.
A property is purchased in Licán Ray, Chile on Lake Calafquén where a Bible camp facility and ministry is developed and continues today. Camps would later be established near Santiago and El Molle, Chile; Paysandu, Uruguay; and Chivilcoy, Argentina.
Due to the ongoing threat of communism in Chile, the Egglestons are sent to open Argentina and the Durants are sent to open Uruguay. If the missionaries were expelled from Chile they would have somewhere to go. This never occurred, but God used it to expand the GMSA’s ministry eastward.
The Mission sells the Pomptain Plains, NJ property and purchases a home with a large addition in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A five-minute walk away, a lot is purchased next to I-95. The addition is used for the office until the present office complex is built on the vacant lot in 1976.
George Black retires as General Director and Hudson Shedd is voted third General Director of the Mission.
George and Letty Black cannot tolerate retirement and return to northern Chile to do church planting until their home goings (Letty 1998, George 2009). Their golden years yielded the establishment of two churches in northern Chile.
Ronald Holmes begins classes establishing the Bible Institute in Monte Grande, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Hudson Shedd retires as General Director and Terry Thompson is voted new General Director. Apart from founder Mr. William Strong Sr., Terry Thompson was the longest serving General Director. Upon retirement, he and his wife, Carol, returned to Chile to continue church planting in 2018.
Matías Espinel of EMU International (a sister agency) works with GMSA missionary, Sergio Duarte, and others to found FEBU (University of Biblical Studies of Uruguay). This “inter-mission” effort under the leadership of Matias Espinel brings missionaries together from various agencies to train new generations of pastors and Christian workers in Uruguay.
After 28 years of church planting ministry with GMSA in Argentina, Tom Gibbons is voted General Director. He and his wife, Debbie, transition to ministry at headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, FL.