La Boca. Frances and I started our first service December 4, 1973 in an open parking lot on a dingy street in the heart of a ghetto area of downtown Buenos Aires.
They call it “La Boca”, meaning “The Mouth” named for the mouth of its polluted river. Here Tim Hiatt plays his trumpet, Ron Hiatt, his guitar and Sergio Scataglini (now a well known international evangelist) plays his accordion alongside the river in La Boca in one of our many "lightning street-meetings."
16 year old Elisabet, Ron's Argentine girlfriend and future wife, sings with Tim and Ron on another street corner meeting.
In those days the narrow main street was lined with "cantinas" restau-rants, much like night clubs (today most are closed). A few Bible School students became our faithful team and we went at it with all our hearts, preaching on the streets, praying, visiting families and loving on needy people.
After 9 months, 209 services on that open parking lot and well over 900 “lightning street-meetings,” God gave us the largest and best cantina building in La Boca, right alongside the parking lot where we had been meeting.
I say, “God gave it to us”, but I must confess that hundreds of our generous team of supporters helped with the down-payment. And then 6 months later when I had exhausted all my known resources and still lacked $8,500 for a balloon payment due in a few days. It was either pay or lose the building and down-payment! Our fellow missionaries in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil in a single retreat prayer-meeting raised the $8,500 I needed in 10 minutes. With tears I say, “Thank you, team!” Some of you are now in heaven.
December 1, 2013 the La Boca Church celebrated their 40th anniver-sary. The fact is they celebrated all the month of November, night after night inviting many of the pastors that had been sent out from this church to return to minister. They invited me to preach the final Sunday night, December 1. The building overflowed. Upstairs another crowd was watching on closed circuit video. I visited the kids in another hall and did a Felipe thing for them.
At least 30 ministers and wives were present and were each honored with a red rose. Pastor's wife, Isabel (left) and Pastor Jose Manuel, (right) are giving out the roses This results from a vision that a one of the young pastors had many years ago of a rose plant with many roses. As each one was clipped off and stuck in the ground somewhere else, each blossomed into another rose plant to repeat the same process.
This history of the church is now printed in a book in Spanish called "Rosas del Rosal"... "Roses from the Rose Plant." I wrote several of the chapters and younger pastors that went out to blossom elsewhere, wrote others.
By actual count over 100 pastors and wives have now been launched from La Boca into the world’s harvest fields. Several of them now pastor mega-churches of tens of thousands. Conservatively I feel we can say that at least 100,000 people worship at the feet of Jesus as a result of the daughter ministries and granddaughter ministries from this ghetto church!
That night I was honored far above my merits. The real secret is not Ralph Hiatt. The real secret is Pastor Jose Manuel Carlos with whom we left this work in 1976. He has been more successful than any other servant of God that I know in mentoring young ministers. He has achieved what I call "The Elijah/Elisha Transfer” by placing his same spirit of joy, his vision, prayer ethic and his passion for the lost into the hearts of young men and women. Like photo-copies of their pastor, they have gone on to Bible School and graduated to take the world by storm! To God be the glory!
Yesterday morning I preached for the final day of a family camp held just for the volunteer leadership serving at La Boca church. I could not help myself. I preached again from John 12:24 and told how God had promised me much fruit if I would only plant the seed of my life in the soil of Argentina and let it die there. All heaven came down on us. Seeds were being planted deep, watered by many tears and left there to die. I finally had to leave the altar service at 1:30 PM in order to drive to my evening service commitment… but I left almost the whole group still on their faces, pouring out their souls… dedicating their all to Jesus one more time.
The wonderful process begins again! God is up to something!