SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — When the global population crossed the 7 billion mark — according to United Nations estimates — about 125 of the world’s souls were singing, praying and contemplating the divine in this Central American capital.
“Why would God, who made the world, want to be in a personal relationship with us?” Bart Dodson, a missionary in Honduras, asked attendees at the 48th Pan American Lectureship, shortly after the imaginary line was crossed.
“But he does — all 7 billion of us,” Dodson said.
The earth’s booming population and its impact on evangelism was a recurring topic at the annual lectureship, a gathering of local Christians, missionaries in Latin America and U.S. supporters.
“It means to me, we have no time to stop and rest,” Bob Prater said about crossing the 7 billion mark.
Prater, a longtime missionary in Africa and Europe, traveled to Central America from Erlangen, Germany, where he studies the Bible with a wide variety of nationalities, including Brazilians.
At the lectureship, he gathered ideas to help him reach Latin Americans with the Gospel — no matter where they live.
The number is simultaneously inspiring and discouraging, said Howard Norton, president of the Baxter Institute, a ministry training school in Honduras.
“This number shows the need to use mass media and technology” to reach lost souls, Norton said. However, “this number should not diminish the fact that evangelizing 7 billion still depends mainly on one individual reaching out to another person.”
The Christians at the lectureship represented the increasing range of ages on the planet as average lifespan increases.
Bobbie Hicks, 87, a member of the Brownfield Church of Christ in Texas, attended the first Pan American Lectureship in Guatemala in 1963. This year, she brought her 29-year-old granddaughter, Cynthia Rowan.
Dodson’s wife, Melissa, said she found the diversity of ages at the lectureship — and their commitment to Christ — inspiring.
“The fact that we have approximately 7 billion people … I think this was a really neat place for us to be when that happened,” Melissa Dodson said. “Almost every generation is here, and the thing we have in common is why we’re here.”