A Lifelong Journey of Faith and Indigenous Ministry with Marcelo Vargas

Marcelo Vargas, a dedicated servant of God and a passionate advocate for his people in Bolivia, has a remarkable story of faith and ministry. From his initial encounter with John Stott in Brazil to his call to ministry and his contributions to the church of Latin America as a writer, Marcelo’s journey reflects a deep commitment to the Kingdom of God and the indigenous communities he serves.

Called to mission and ministry 

Marcelo’s connection with Langham traces back to its early days, even before it was officially named Langham Partnership. He met Langham founder John Stott in Brazil in 1980 during a national conference of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, where Stott’s preaching on the book of Acts deeply impacted him. 

He says, “And in this big meeting with a lot of students, I received the call to dedicate my life to mission, beginning with mission among university students in Bolivia. I went to Brazil to study to be an engineer, but God changed my plans.”

After this encounter with John Stott, and once he had finished his degree in electrical engineering, Marcelo took the path to ministry. He was working with Bolivian university students when he met John for a second time. Marcelo reflects, “He came to Latin America. I was part of a group meeting in Ecuador, and he was preaching on 2 Timothy.”

These encounters with John and the forming ministry of Langham Partnership spurred Marcelo on in his work. He went to London to study for a time, before returning to Bolivia.    

Another significant figure in Marcelo’s journey in ministry and with Langham was Christopher Wright, who visited Bolivia multiple times. Marcelo extended invitations to Chris, and his visits played a crucial role in the growth of Langham’s work in Bolivia and throughout Latin America. God’s hand was evident as these connections deepened, paving the way for Marcelo’s remarkable ministry.

Ben Homan and Marcelo Vargas stand together in El Alto, Bolivia above the city of La Paz, Bolivia.

Training, teaching and local mission

In 1996 Marcelo was part of starting the Training Centre for Mission. This institute stems from Marcelo’s desire to equip young people through student ministry, and aims to train lay people, leaders, pastors and students for ministry. 

Of their training methodology Marcelo says, “The theology we teach is holistic theology or holistic mission theology. At this time in Latin America, we are using the theology of the Kingdom of God.”

In addition to being a teacher, Marcelo is also a writer. His first book, based on his thesis, is called ‘Faith that Indigenizes’. Initially published by Langham Literature in English, the book explores how the growth of evangelicalism in Latin America, specifically among indigenous peoples, is changing the religious and cultural paradigms of the region. It offers insight into the growing impact of the Neo-Pentecostal movement, both in Latin America and beyond, as well as the significant role of indigenous peoples in shaping the future of Christianity across the globe. 

Marcelo says, “This book is for students of mythology, history, indigenous studies, and urban mission because it explores the encounters between indigenous culture and urban life.”

In Bolivia, two-thirds of the population is part of an indigenous group, so this is an important work to help Bolivian Christians and beyond. Marcelo is also currently working to get his book published in Spanish.

Another notable work as a writer is his involvement in the Latin America Bible Commentary.  

When speaking to Langham for this article Marcelo shared, “Just today I was using the Latin America Bible Commentary when I was leading Bible Study in church. And I’ll be leading another group later and will use the commentary.”

Marcelo wrote two articles for the commentary, one focusing on indigenous theology and on First Nations peoples. He shares, “This [commentary] is special. because more than a hundred Latin American writers contributed to its making. It’s also recognised that the platform that made it possible was Langham.” 

To the roots of faith

Through his career of theological research, teaching and ministry, Marcelo sees that people’s faith in Christ always takes them to their roots. 

He says, “We all have indigenous roots. We all came from the groups of people that God wanted to form. There is a verse in Acts 17 when Paul was preaching to the philosophers and he says that all the nations come from God.”

For Bolivia and for the whole of Latin America, Marcelo hopes to see the ideas of his book, ‘Faith that Indigenizes’ come to life in the people of God. He shares, “What I expect is that indigenous understanding of faith becomes a part of the spirituality of the church, and also the way that people do mission. I think the contribution of the indigenous understanding is very important in terms of spiritual mission holistically.”

Posted in