Death, even if we wait for it, always surprises us. The death of Rubén Proietti on the morning of September 9, at age 74, not only affected his family and friends but also touched the church across the Hispanic world.
The organizer of Latin America’s greatest evangelistic events, the mobilizer of crowds, the creator of bridges, passionate about evangelization and a paladin of unity, he is now in the heavenly homeland.
Rubén became the latest of more than 400 pastors in Argentina to die from COVID-19.
But he was much more than that. This is why, in the wake of the news, his family and the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Argentina (ACIERA) received messages of condolence from all the World Evangelical Alliance chapters of Latin America, Spain’s former minister of religious affairs, politicians across the continent, the former and current presidents of Argentina, the embassy of Israel, and even a handwritten personal note from Pope Francis (the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, whom Argentine evangelicals knew as a friend).
Rubén belonged to a generation of evangelicals who, at around 30 years of age, in the late ’70s dreamed and committed themselves to the unity of the church and to evangelization. During the organizing of Juventud 77, an evangelistic campaign held in Buenos Aires, the team of Luis Palau, who passed away in March, met Rubén and invited him to join their ranks.
Soon Rubén became the face of the Luis Palau Association in Latin America and served as its key man throughout the continent. He began to weave relations between the most adverse groups, building bridges and carrying out feats of unity never before imagined.
The goal was clear: Be one, so that the world may believe.
It was not unity for unity’s own sake, but unity with a clear purpose: the evangelization of the world. Thanks to the generosity of Palau’s ministry, Rubén was able to extend his ministry of service to the kingdom and to work at the continental level for unity, both from CONELA (the Latin American Evangelical Fellowship) and most recently as president of AEL (the Latin Evangelical Alliance).
Yet his continental projections did not prevent him from developing a fruitful ministry in Argentina. As president of ACIERA, he took the alliance from what it was—a simple space that tried to represent the evangelical church before society—to what it is today: the strongest evangelical alliance on the continent, with a solid structure of national scope, more than 15,000 churches represented, and a significant presence in Argentine society.
From this alliance, Rubén opened opportunities for the ministry of women (ACIERA Woman) and created a space for the development of new leaders (Passing the Torch). His concern was to achieve a space of recognition for the evangelical church in society, in order to make the prophetic voice of the church heard in every situation that challenged the faith and values of the kingdom of God.
We recognize in Rubén, in addition to his passion for unity, his enormous generosity. He was always at the service of others and knew how to honor each one. His treatment was equal toward an unknown pastor or a renowned pastor of a megachurch. For those of us who had the opportunity to minister with him and to meet him in public and private, we feel the loss of his presence while valuing the weight of his legacy.
As the church in Latin America, we understand that the best way to honor the memory of Rubén is to redouble our commitment to the unity of God’s people in the midst of diversity, to strive to hold high the values of the kingdom, and to serve with passion.
Rubén never wrote a book. He was not a great preacher, or the pastor of a megachurch. Yet his legacy has left a deep mark on the church in Latin America. We hope that at the end of the race, our good God will receive us in the same way he has received Rubén:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Norberto Saracco is senior pastor of Iglesia Buenas Nuevas (Good News Church), director emeritus of FIET Theological Institute, and coordinator of the Council of Pastors of Buenos Aires.
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