William Strong left his business in New York along with his wife and two children and sailed for Chile in 1923. Having served as home treasurer for the “Bolivian Indian Mission” and having visited Bolivia and Chile previously, Mr. Strong felt God calling him to evangelize the soldiers stationed in Tacna, Chile, where a border dispute persisted with neighboring Peru. A secondary desire was to establish a “hospitality house” where missionaries serving in the jungles of Bolivia could recover from frequent sickness. God prospered Mr. Strong’s endeavors in Tacna until the town was turned over to Peru in 1929. Meanwhile he had opened a new station to the south in the city of Concepción where he continued to proclaim the Gospel to soldiers. As volunteers joined the Strong family in Chile, the Mission began to take form. Long term workers arrived in the 1930’s.
The earliest issue of Mr. Strong’s newsletter, the forerunner of the “Southern Sentinel,” is dated 1932. The Mission was first called the “Soldiers and Gospel Mission of South America.” When the military ministry was eventually turned over to the Gideons, the word “Soldiers” was dropped from the name.
Establishing local churches became a priority for the Mission in the 1930’s and continues as the primary goal in ministry today. Some of the early churches were established among the Mapuche Indians where not even the Church of Rome had evangelized. An evangelistic boat ministry in the Chiloé Islands, developed in the 1940’s, continues to this day where churches are being established.
The Mission was first incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and later in New Jersey. While the Pompton Plains, New Jersey, office developed in the US, a national fellowship of churches, the “Union de Centros Biblicos,” was incorporated in Chile in 1944. Sending councils were also formed early on in California, Oregon, Great Britain, and Canada.
God called Mr. Strong home in 1960 while he was handing out gospel tracts on the train in Temuco, Chile. He would rejoice to see the local churches, Christian schools, Bible camps, Bible institutes, and other supportive ministries now spread throughout the southern cone of South America as a result of his obedience to God’s call on his life.
In 1970 a Marxist government under Salvador Allende gained power in Chile and the Mission opened its first ministry in Argentina and Uruguay, fearing that Chile would soon close to missionaries much as had occurred in China and Cuba. Today, the Gospel Mission of South America continues to evangelize and establish local fundamental churches in these three countries. Bible institute and Bible camp ministries are also ongoing works that support the mission’s purpose statement.
GMSA has 36 full-time missionaries serving in South America or in supportive roles, including four associate workers. Another five workers serve part-time in the homelands. Six appointees are ministering on home assignments as they prepare for cross-cultural service. Some 19 board or council members in three countries along with 14 retired missionaries and many faithful supporters and local churches make up the “Gospel Mission of South America,” which continues to evangelize and establish churches in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.
The Mission continues to recognize its dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ for His supply of workers and gifts to accomplish His work. The Lord’s faithfulness is written all over every ministry and accomplishment of the Mission since 1923. Praise the Lord!