HARRISBURG – Lyle and Claren Dease, missionaries from Uruguay, have a message for our churches. They spent the first week of October in Pennsylvania encouraging members at First Baptist of Hanover and Redland Baptist Church with how they have seen God working over their 21 years in the mission field and the change they see happening before their eyes. They are back in the states after taking the VRI in March 2016 and have been granted Ameritus status thus remaining part of the IMB.
Sensing God’s call on their lives to international missions, the Dease’s journey began when they came from Alabama to Carlisle in 1986 to be a part of the Church Planting Apprentice Program. This fulfilled the two-year pastoral experience that the IMB required at that time. Their faithful work resulted in the Yellow Breeches Baptist Church where they ministered until 1993 when they left their growing church and headed to South America to work with Spanish-speaking Uruguayans.
Uruguay is one of only two countries in the world with no indigenous people groups within it. It is a country largely populated by descendants of European refugees who immigrated after the Spanish Civil War and World War I and II. Many were from Germany, Spain, France and other nations who brought with them the ideological sense of communism and socialism which clearly lingers in thought patterns of Uruguayans.
Because the government instituted a separation of church and state in 1907, evangelism in government places like schools, hospitals and parks is not allowed and subtle persecution occurs regularly. Lyle noted that in Uruguay younger men often attend seminary, but do not intend to become pastors. They are more likely to become a missionary in another country rather than to stay in their own. Much of this way of thinking is due to how poorly pastors are treated.
One of Claren’s favorite projects was the Passion Play based on the life of Thomas. In 2004 and 2005, Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis sent a group of 40 cast members and actors for two years in a row to perform its original work in theatres local to the Deases’s mission field. In Uruguay, religious plays would not be allowed in government owned theatres; however, the Passion Play was allowed to be performed as a historical play. By 2007, Claren had translated the script and the songs into Spanish and were holding it each year using all Uruguayan cast members from their church. This has been a phenomenal way to reach people with the truth about Jesus’s life, death and resurrection.
As they are traveling and speaking in churches, they often hear people comment that they are sorry for not giving more to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering and allowing missionaries like the Deases to stay on the field. Lyle and Claren strongly want Southern Baptists to realize that a lack of giving is not what precipitated their and other’s return. While it is true that the global economy has made it difficult to support as many missionaries, they clearly see that God is moving in a new way. He has asked them to step aside so the next generation can step up!
The Deases see evidence of this in their own family. Their 23-year-old niece is newly married to an Auburn graduate who holds an engineering degree and will soon attend seminary. They also feel called to the mission field, but will work under a new model that is gaining more traction, being sent to an area and working in his degree field as the sole way to provide their own support. They are called Kingdom Professionals; professionals who will go into countries on their own salaries. In this way, they are not dependent upon an organization for support to stay in an area. IMB gives them training and prayer support in countries that are closed to missionaries and where an open IMB connection would impossible. They call it Limitless: only a limited number of people can be sent due to restricted finances, but with Kingdom Professionals, God calls and sends a limitless number of people into a limitless number of extreme places. The model now is a both/and concept. Missionaries will continue to be sent out while others will be self-sufficient, increasing the number of missionaries worldwide.
Lyle and Claren are extremely grateful to the Baptist churches who have allowed them to fulfill the call. Having been the recipients of the Lottie Moon offerings meant that they could go back without the pressure of having to raise funds. It allowed them to be fully engaged with the Uruguayan people for 23 years.
Please keep the Deases in prayer as they wait on God to show them the next step in His glorious plan for them!