JERUSALEM – Some 450 influential Christian Spanish-speaking leaders from 37 countries are touring Israel on a unique visit of the Holy Land designed to connect them with local believers across Israel and combat rising anti-Israel sentiment in South America.
It was a first-time trip to Israel for many of the participants. Six well-known Latino musicians – who have a combined following of 12 million fans on social media – drew to the tour 80 pastors and ministry leaders from hispanic churches around the globe. Juan Constantino, pastor of Latin America Partner Development at Gateway Church in Texas, was responsible for assembling the participants.
Musician and singer Daniel Calveti, with nearly 3 million Facebook followers, and his wife Shari, said this visit to Israel has been impactful for them, less characterized by historic sites, and more about what God is doing now.
“Connections are being made,” Shari told KNI. “When you spend time with somebody, your hearts connect. We aren’t coming over to see the sites, we are coming to connect with the local believers.”
Dozens of Jewish and Arab believers from across Israel met the tour group in two separate gatherings in Jerusalem and Tiberias. Candido Giraldo of Emmanuel Families to the Nations, a church in London, arranged the massive meetings.
“Our heart, our common understanding and revelation about the purposes of God for Israel is … that evangelicals from the nations need to connect with Messianic Israel,” Giraldo told KNI.
Another popular Latin Gospel singer, Ingrid Rosario, a worship pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, was on on the tour. While here, she renewed her wedding vows with her husband, Tony.
Calveti met with Israeli worship leaders and, at concert on Monday with a few hundred locals in attendance, Latino and Israeli worship leaders and pastors prayed together while the event was live streamed. Within minutes 45,000 people from around the world were watching.
These moments, in the form of tweets, photos and status updates, were posted on social media, which was the point. Millions of followers in the Spanish-speaking world were exposed to positive reports from Israel.
Eduardo Silveira, an Argentinean-Israeli and CEO of The Land Tours, said the tour was designed to introduce Israel, the local body and ways to pray for the country to the participants. The hope is to chip away at barriers between the Latino church and Israel, Silveira said, and to dispel fears of the Jewish state.
The tour, called Israel Adora, was the first of its kind and, due to the immense enthusiasm it generated, a second tour has already been booked before this one even ended. Silveira, who is expecting the number of this year’s participants to triple, said that 120 people already paid in full for next year’s trip.
Former soccer player Fernando De Ornelas, the Venezuelan-born pastor of a church in Norway, was in Israel for the first time. He recalled their visit to the Garden Tomb – a life-changing experience for him, his wife and two sons.
“There are no words to describe it. This is such an opportunity to be in the land where Jesus was born, plus the whole Old Testament history – its the whole Bible just coming alive,” he told KNI.
In just the last few years, ties between Israel and South American nations have been tested. Chile and Brazil recalled their ambassadors after the Gaza War in 2014, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez repeatedly demonized and condemned the State of Israel until the day he died in 2013.