THE SOUTH AMERICAN REVIVAL

Last December 27, 2013, the city of Bogota, Columbia, hosted an open-air prayer meeting in which more than 1,000,000 Christians took part. This was the largest event in the history of South America and initiated by the Worldwide Revival Center (Avivamiento), a young Charismatic Church. How can the city of Bogota--a few years ago rotting in a cess-pool of drugs, murder, crime--experience such an incredible transformation? Continue reading and you will learn why.

One Of The Greatest *Revivals of modern times began on a winter day in the early1950's when Tommy Hicks, a little-known American evangelist, walked up to the Palace of Dictator Juan Peron in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and asked to speak to the President. The armed guard laughed at him. The visitor had no credentials except the claim that God had sent him. The purpose of his visit with Mr. Peron, Tommy explained, was to request use of the 15,000 seat Atlantic Stadium for an Evangelistic and Healing Crusade.

The soldier was not interested in the Stadium or the Crusade--but he was very interested in healing. At that moment he was in serious pain and interrupted Tommy Hicks to ask, "Can God heal Me?" He then explained his need.

Without hesitating, Tommy said, "Give me your hands." He grasped the young man's hands and prayed. Immediately the power of God went through the soldier and every evidence of his disease, including pain, disappeared. He was healed. Wide-eyed, he gasped in amazement, "Come back tomorrow!," He assured Tommy, "You will see the President!"

In that strange moment on the steps of Casa Rosada, Argentina’s Presidential Palace, God opened a door for the gospel to invade the whole of Latin America. The young soldier's healing was the first in a long line of miraculous works the Holy Spirit would do.

The background of that wonderful event was that a few "Evangelicos" had invited Tommy to conduct a Crusade in Buenos Aires. They hoped to draw a crowd of 2,500, but had no aspirations for more than that. When Tommy suggested they acquire use of the Atlantic Stadium, the other pastors laughed nervously.

This was Catholic Argentina, not the U.S! Less than 2% of the population was Protestant. There was a strong military government. Peron was a dictator who jealously monitored every public meeting. His wife, Evita, was suspected of being involved with the occult and was not a friend of the gospel. It was for those reasons that Tommy Hicks was alone when he appeared at the Presidential Palace. Other pastors were afraid to go.

The next afternoon when Tommy returned he was quickly escorted into the spacious Presidential Office and stood facing Mr. Peron. A large desk was between them. Mr. Peron asked him to be seated and Tommy immediately explained that God had sent him to Argentina to hold a Salvation-Healing Crusade.

They needed a large stadium. He also needed free radio and press coverage. President Peron listened intently. Suddenly, he interrupted the evangelist, rose quickly to his feet, and said, "Can God heal me?" He stared at the young American, asking again, "Can God heal me?!"

Though the Argentine public did not know it, President Peron suffered from a dangerous eczema that was slowly disfiguring his body and causing a serious threat to his life. Doctors had been unable to help. Tommy quickly reached across the desk and said, "Give me your hands."

Mr. Peron responded and as Tommy prayed, the power of the Holy Spirit went through the President's body. With everyone in the room watching, Juan Peron's skin suddenly became as soft and clear as a baby's. "Dios mio! Estoy Cuardo!," Peron shouted, "My God! I am healed!" And he was.

Tommy had no difficulty getting the Atlantic Stadium, the free news-coverage--or the people. The Holy Spirit began to move, enormous crowds packed the Stadium until there was no more room. Ushers soon worked twelve hour shifts, bleachers were filled half-a-day before services began. Parking lots around the stadium were jammed, additional loud speakers were installed to broadcast sermons to the crowds outside. Peasants walked for miles from the surrounding countryside and camped under trees. Trains, busses, were crowded. Visitors flew in from other Latin American countries. Though it was winter, every available seat, the aisles, ramps, were filled. In many cases, people stood for hours.

Others slept all night on the metal walkways to be sure of getting a spot. Their effort was well rewarded. The Holy Spirit fell in power and thousands upon thousands were healed. Many thousands more were saved as God began revival in Argentina that has no parallel in modern times. When the crowds out-grew the Atlantic Stadium, they moved to the 85,000 seat Hurracan Stadium, the largest in the country, and immediately overflowed it.

Until that time, this stadium had never been filled. No sporting event or political rally had ever been able to draw enough people to occupy it. God changed that. He turned Catholic Argentina upside down and planted the Tree of the Gospel deeply into its soil. God's hand "was stretched out upon the nation and there was no turning it back." In a short time every available Bible in Argentina was sold–55,000 copies. New ones were ordered from other countries. An English newspaper in Buenos Aires reported that the congregation grew to more than 200,000. The Vice President of Bolivia's sister brought her children to be healed. The Argentine Vice President's wife began prayer meetings and Bible studies in her home. One of the nation's Provincial Governors was healed. A nationally-known publisher who had spent his life in a wheelchair leaped from it and ran around before an astonished crowd. Magazines and newspapers daily printed articles and photographs of invalids on stretchers and wheel-chair patients walking. Children were healed. Old people were healed. These were not fakes. Some were public figures everyone knew. Soldiers, policemen, others, who came to the meetings intending only to direct traffic, reverently dropped to their knees when they saw the power of God sweeping through the people. The rich, the poor, country peasants, and Spanish aristocrats, found themselves praying together and weeping for joy. Jesus was alive. He was real. And He was in Argentina.

Catholic hierarchy went into panic. They could not deny the Holy Spirit's presence in the evangelicals–and they began losing thousands of members to new Spirit-filled churches.

When I was in Argentina, I spoke at congregations who were out-growths of Tommy Hicks’ Crusade. One church was Pastor Omar Cabrerra's 300,000 member congregation. No stadium in Argentina could accommodate his whole membership. This church, plus numerous others of the 30,000+ member size, where I also preached, are outgrowths of Tommy’s visit. One huge assembly that met in a downtown theater in Buenos Aires, held services every night of the week and ten services on Sunday. One congregation pushed its way in at the same time another congregation was trying to get out. This created holy pandemonium. These believers are all former Roman Catholic. The custom in Argentina is for men to kiss each other on both cheeks. After being greeted by a thousand men and my neck turned twice I was hurting.

It is estimated that in 1900 there was less than 20,000 evangelicals in the whole of Central and South America. Today the number exceeds 100,000,000 . More than 20,000 new converts are added every day. Secular researchers calculate that 400 Latin Americans change to evangelical Christianity every hour. During one decade, the population of Latin American Protestants grew from 18.6 million to 59.4 million. That represents a 220 percent increase in a ten year period–nine times the growth rate of the general population. Little of that growth is in churches who deny the Holy Spirit’s gifts.

I experienced that awesome power of God when I attended an open-air, Carlos Anacondia meeting. With thousands of Latinos, we crowded into a pasture where cows had been the day before. After the sermon I hurriedly got into the prayer-line with countless others who wanted to receive ministry from Pastor Anacondia.

Carlos moved past us laying-on hands with a virtual wave of the Holy Spirit surrounding him. Everyone he touched crashed to the ground. I–next to a dried cow-patty. But it did not matter. We were all blasted by the awesomeness of God. Many lay calmly, others began writhing, growling, convulsing, in demonic manifestations. These were quickly put on stretchers and taken to a large tent behind the platform. In a more private setting, teams of experienced workers ministered exorcism to them.

No one was allowed to leave until the team was assured that their deliverance was complete. Latin America is full of witchcraft and voodoo. Thankfully, the full-gospel churches not only have the wisdom but the power to correct it. Other churches do not. Once freed, these new Christians take their testimonies to their families, friends, strangers on the street. In Chile today it is impossible to get on a city bus and not have another passenger stand up and preach the gospel. Salvation is not just a religious idea but the powerful testimony of a changed life. The result is that those who hear about deliverance also attend the Crusade. They get saved, freed, filled with the Holy Spirit, and immediately become sidewalk evangelists.

There have been numerous cases where a person experienced the power of God, went home, and would not stop witnessing until the entire family attended the next meeting. These also received a new life. In a wonderful way, the cycle repeats itself. It is in that way the Spirit-filled church in Latin America is growing radically. Read 1st Corinthians 12-14. The answer is there! Believe it, embrace it, and live in the glory of it!

Carlos Anacondia, whose ministry resulted from Tommy Hicks, has shaken the whole of Latin America and birthed thousands of other ministries. These Latino-preachers differ from us in the U.S. in several important ways. First, in Latin America, more than 90% of the people who are saved in public crusades stay committed to the Lord. Here in North America, we average less than 6%. That is a horrific statistic! And there has to be a reason for our shameful failure. In a conversation with Randy Clark, Carlos explained: "In the United States you get people forgiven but you do not get them free." His point is clear. Emphasis in our hemisphere is getting people "born again"--and leaving them there. There is no follow-up ministry that targets alcoholism, addiction, abuse, and other spiritual crises. Latin Christians eagerly want spiritual gifts. They are not afraid of them--and they get them. The theme for Bogota’s huge gathering last December was "We Are Going For More!" And thank God, they got it!

Thirty percent of Jesus’ recorded ministry was in direct conflict with unclean spirits. In Luke 9:1, He extended that power to all believers. In the U.S. there is no additional ministry for spiritual injury. In many cases, the old life-style quickly reclaims them. We say they "back-slide" when, in reality, the church never gave them the full benefits of the Cross. Converts not only need forgiveness for Heaven; they need to be set free for life on earth. That power is still available to those who will receive it. Mark 16:17.

Sophisticated Christianity in north America refuses to learn that the new birth is only part of the experience of being "saved." Complete New Testament salvation (sodezo in Greek) offers "deliverance, protection, safety, healing, wholeness," etc. Latin believers are going for the full Covenant-provision. They are not afraid to receive God’s empowering or to cast out demons. I Corinthians 12-14. Equally, they are quick to accept Jesus’ offer of the baptism in the Spirit. Acts 1:5-8.

Before leaving Argentina, I had lunch at the national Capitol building with several senators--all of whom were Spirit-filled believers. From there I went to my most important destination, Casa Rosada–the Presidential Palace. Visiting this site was a highlight of my trip. Reverently, I stood on the steps near where Tommy Hicks and the guard must have talked that momentous day. Here, the destiny of South America was re-cast. In that moment, with tears, I thanked the Lord for letting me get that close to the Burning Bush in Argentina--to witness His amazing grace that equipped an ordinary preacher with the power to heal the sick, free the oppressed, save the lost, and change the destiny of a continent. More than that, I prayed, "Lord, do in North America what You did in Argentina--and the Continent."

A few years ago the city of Bogota, Columbia, was a grave-yard of death and disaster. It is now becoming an example of the Holy Spirit's power! What made the change? Churches who welcomed the full teaching and presence of the Holy Spirit! What is happening there can happen here in the U.S!

The revival is transforming the religious and political landscape in Latin America. In Peru, a new Protestant church is planted every eight hours. In the city of Rio de Janeiro, another congregation is born every day. Brazil's largest denomination, the Assemblies of God, has grown tenfold since 1980 with15 million members and 90,000 local congregations.

It seems strange to us who have experienced the Spirit’s power that others can deny what is happening. Dr. John MacArthur, an American Baptist pastor, is one of them. He has taken the position that all ministers today who claim to experience spiritual gifts are "Satan’s false teachers, spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans." Dr. MacArthur’s accusation points toward such men as Jack Hayford, Derek Prince, Mark Rutland, Kenneth Hagin, Duncan Campbell, David Du Plessis, Demos Shakarian, Smith Wigglesworth, and a thousand other saintly believers.

Am I "charismatic?" Yes!, and as such I believe that every line of the New Testament is still truthful. The word "charis" is the New Testament Greek term for "grace gift" or "spiritual gift." Opposing Christians–usually called "cessationist"–believe that many New Testament passages are not valid and should be ignored. Astonishingly, no one has yet been able to supply a list of those invalid verses. Actually, the debate does not regard spiritual gifts but whether or not the New Testament is reliable.

My question is this: If Moses sanctified the Old Testament by sprinkling it with the blood of animals and Jesus sanctified the New Testament by sprinkling it with His own blood ( Hebrews 9:11-23)–and Moses’ book was unalterable–can Jesus’ book be less so? Was the Old Testament inviolate while the New Testament is not? Was there spiritual power in animal blood that Jesus lacked? For myself, I can take only one position: The New Testament was, is, shall ever be, true in each line. None of it has lost is power or purpose. The need of the church is not to edit the Bible but to believe it.

To my non-charismatic readers I plead: Open your eyes! Open your ears! Open your heart! Believe the Scripture!

Believe all of it! Accept the full New Testament as God’s eternal, life-imparting word! The key to your own success is in First Corinthians 12. Receive the Holy Spirit’s empowering! Your church need not perish in the dried-up pools of partial-Christianity!        

Chas

Numerous documents detailing this history with photographs of Tommy Hicks and President Peron are available on-line under "Tommy Hicks, Argentine Revival," etc.