As a Lee College student in the early ‘80’s, Beth Trussell had the same dream multiple times a week.
She was on the mission field, not sure of the location, and she was living in a house. Each morning, she would grab a basket and fill it with fruits and vegetables from a big field. She sold the fruits and vegetables on a roadside stand and used the money for ministry. The dream changed after half of a year. She would still get up and go pick the fruits and vegetables, but the Lord came to her and said “I want you to take these vegetables and fruits and can them in jars and sell them. I want you to preserve the harvest.”
She kept this dream tucked in her heart, not knowing that God was preparing the way for her and her husband Terry to be Church of God missionaries in Uruguay, a country known as the “graveyard” of missions, nearly 35 years later.
In the years before they entered the mission field, the Trussells built a family, a business, and were heavily involved in ministry and their church. Beth had always felt a pull towards missions, but it wasn’t until Terry took a trip to Guatemala in 2008 that God began to speak to him about it.
“I remember looking back to when missionaries would come to our church, and I would always cry,” Terry said. “That’d be the only time I’d have emotions in church. I never put it together that maybe God was dealing with me about missions at that time.”
Beth noticed a distinct and visible change in him when he returned from the trip. The two began to pray about what direction God was leading them to. After six months of intentional praying, Terry woke up three mornings in a row with Uruguay being the first thought on his mind. He did not tell Beth for the first two mornings and began to realize that he had not heard Uruguay recently in the news or heard anyone discussing it.
When it happened on the third morning, he told Beth and she began to research about the country. What she found was a place that seemed to be in great need of the Gospel. They began to feel the pull to plant churches, but they wanted to do a fact-finding trip to find out more. After several months, they were able to make the trip to see what the nation was in need of.
The details that began to line up when they arrived brought confirmation to them; they discovered that the overseer of Uruguay had been praying for someone to come that was passionate about church planting.
To add to the sense of clarity, Beth met a missionary from another denomination who had been serving in the country for nearly 20 years and who had made the move there based on a dream that was almost identical to hers. The missionary was about to retire, and the Trussells came at the perfect time for the mantle to be passed on to them.
“The dream that brought us here and all of the things that lined up was insane,” Beth said. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
Not only was God revealing that their hearts’ desire was an answered prayer for the ministers of Uruguay, but also God was confirming the darkness that seemed to be covering the country. The Trussells soon realized the reality of the facts that they had spent time researching.
The country is predominantly atheist and it is the most secular country of South America; they were the first to legalize abortion, gay marriage, marijuana use, and prostitution. The occult is heavy in the area and Uruguay has the highest rate of suicide on the continent and ranks as fourth in the world. Most other countries in South America have a Catholic influence, but the indigenous people were killed off when Uruguay was formed. Its young foundation is one of atheism.
They also learned that the Church of God there was new, under fifty years old. There were 40 active churches, but a new one had not been planted in many years. Their burden to plant churches grew and the Trussells moved there with a goal to plant 50 churches and to pour into the pastors and their families.
The clarity God gave them helped them take this leap of faith and enter a country where they did not know anyone and could not speak the language. On top of that, they left their children and grandchildren in the States.
Since that leap of faith seven years ago, they have seen a slew of victories and challenges. 38 churches have been built, they have developed an internship and training program for pastors, and they host a retreat for pastors and their families. They also are making an effort to build a missionary community through a Bible study that Beth does with missionaries from different denominations.
They have seen a major growth in the strength of Church of God churches in the nation.
“When we first got here, we saw that a lot of churches were mixing mysticism with Christianity,” Beth said. “Many people didn’t have enough knowledge of the Word to know the difference.”
She gave the example that if a woman had a sick son, she would come to the pastor for prayer only after going to “truth tellers” and spiritual advisors. Christianity is seen as a last-ditch effort, even for those who are members of the church.
The Trussell’s ministry has helped the pastors of these churches receive training and discipleship that they were once lacking. They bring in overseers, pastors, and teachers to help the local pastors and to encourage them.
“We want to empower the culture here and for the pastors to do their own thing,” Beth said. “We’re not ‘the great white savior’ coming to Uruguay to tell them how to do something different.”
The church plants are spread throughout the country and some face resistance, depending on the area. Some have been repeatedly broken into and robbed. Most of the pastors who are leading the church plants are bi-vocational, and it can feel like a huge setback and weight when their church is facing these difficulties.
“In some of the larger cities, it has been difficult for some of the pastors to face resistance,” Terry said. “But once they build that community relationship with the people, they begin to find out that they’re there to help and not dictate to them. They’re there to love on them and show them the love of Christ and to be there for them.”
They have learned that the best way to impact a person and broader communities is to build relationships. Christianity is so new there that they have seen that there are not yet enough Christians to evangelize all of Uruguay. “Evangelism is a marathon here — it’s not a sprint,” Beth said.
The marathon of evangelism in Uruguay is spreading among pastors, leaders, and believers in general. Uruguain churches are sending out missionaries, the church plants are producing other church plants, and life-changing relationships are being formed.
“This is an atheist nation and the people that are coming to know Christ are first generation Christians,” Beth said. “They’re going to be able to mark time and history of when they became a Christian and they will be able to say ‘Because I became a Christian, I introduced Christianity into my heritage. No family members before me knew Christ, but all family members after me will know Christ.’”
When the Trussells first moved to Uruguay, there were 2,400 Church of God members. This number has significantly grown to 8,000-11,000 members. The majority of the new churches demographics are age 35 and under.
They ask that you partner with them in praying for a revival in Uruguay and all of South America.
To partner with the Trussells, visit their profile page.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Evangel magazine.