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Totonac Language Radio Program Sparks Church Planting Explosion

Felipe Ramos in the radio station

Dr. Dale Kietzman, President of Latin American Indian Ministries (LAIM) has announced the resumption of broadcasting of the Totonac Cultural Hour, an iconic 35 year old radio broadcast heard throughout the “Sierra Totonaca” of the states of Veracruz and Puebla, Mexico.

“Actually, this time it is in a 45 minute slot on Sunday afternoon, and this is at least the third revival of this broadcast since it first started in 1975,” said Dr. Kietzman, who was a former U.S. Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators and also for many years a board member of ASSIST Ministries.

“We have struggled with rising costs of airtime, then trying to get back on the schedule of a station that otherwise is broadcasting only in Spanish.”

Felipe Ramos, a Totonac Indian pastor, then a professor at the Totonac Bible Center near Villa Juarez in Puebla state, had led the evangelistic and church-planting efforts of the school. In a decade they had started about a dozen preaching points.

Felipe and trainee conducting a river baptism

Pastor Felipe recalls: “In 1975, we had the idea of putting a program in Totonaco on the radio, even though at that time it was forbidden to broadcast Christian programs. So we called the program the Totonaco Cultural Hour. It was only 15 minutes, but the people accepted it. In every Totonac village, they played the program at highest volume.

“While the drunks were in the cantinas dancing with the prostitutes, they all became very quiet when we got to the spiritual reflection. Some even cried, because they realized their own serious problem and the situation they would eventually face if they did not accept Christ as Savior. Many witches and witchdoctors accepted Christ.

“In one program I told them that if they were to invite me to come to their village or home, no matter how far away it was, I would visit them. It was like an explosion, as many invitations came from villages all over, so that it was impossible to respond to them all.”

Felipe Ramos, now pastoring a large church in the mountain town of Nancatlan, went to as many places as he possibly could, then turned the excess invitations over to others that he had trained. He recounts some of his early experiences:

Felipe leading a congregation in prayer

“There often were no roads,” said Ramos. “One had to take small airplanes to get over the mountains. When we would arrive at a landing strip, there would be crowds of people, so many that at times the plane could not land; it had to circle two or three times until the people had gotten off the strip.

“I carried a small recorder and would play recordings of the Cultural Hour. All the people that came out knew that we were from the Totonac Cultural Hour. They would say, ‘Come to my village, it is just around this little hill.’ And we would have to walk for three or four hours. But when we arrived, all the village seemed to be there; it was a great fiesta, with a lot of food, and women outside making tortillas by hand.”

Dr. Kietzman notes that the radio program has been an especially effective tool in church planting.

He said, “The evangelism work currently taking place is fueled by the radio program (in the native Totonac language). It is so powerful that churches are springing up spontaneously. Numerous requests each month come from believers and non-believers in remote villages, asking for evangelism materials and training. They often ask for Felipe to come and preach the Word of God to their group and to help show them how to form a church.”

Four Totonac pastors

Felipe knows the people want to see him, and he goes as often as he can. But the vast majority of the requests are now followed up by people he has trained.

In fact, Felipe Ramos now spends much of his time preparing training materials and supervising the training of others. He has placed laptop computers and video projectors with trusted associates in two other locations in the “Sierra Totonaca” to expand the training opportunities.

And the churches are multiplying in number due to the application of biblical principles. Felipe has lost count, but he thinks the number is now over 900…and growing.

For more information, go to: www.laim.org

Dan Wooding, Assist News Service

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