Thomson, James “Diego” (1788–1854). Innovative Scottish pioneer missionary to Latin America. Born in Scotland, Thomson was one of the first Protestant missionaries to Latin America, arriving in Argentina in 1818 as an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

He also represented the Lancastrian Educational Society, which promoted schools in which older students helped teach the younger ones and the Bible was the primary textbook. The liberal political climate in the newly independent South American countries and discreditation of conservative Catholic clergy from Spain opened the door for amazing success.

Thomson established some one hundred Lancastrian schools in Buenos Aires alone and was made an honorary citizen of Argentina and of Chile, where he was invited by the government in 1821.

In 1822 he went to Peru at the request of the Liberator, San Martin, and then to Ecuador, distributing Bibles everywhere. In Colombia he founded a national Bible Society whose directors included ten Catholic clergy. Sadly, a conservative political reaction and Vatican pressure undid most of Thomson’s work in South America, although seeds remained. In 1827 Thomson was sent by the Bible Society to Mexico, and later worked in the Caribbean. After another attempt in Mexico in 1842, he spent the rest of his ministry in the evangelization of Spain.

Stephen Sywulka

 A. Scott Moreau, Harold Netland, and Charles van Engen, Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Baker Books; A. Scott Moreau, 2000), 959–960.

About the author

Austin Gardner is pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Previously he was church planting missionary in Peru for 20 years.
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