- Baptist Press - https://www.baptistpress.com -

Annuity Board regional director dies in Dallas automobile accident


DALLAS (BP)–Elías D. Pantoja, regional director for special groups in the Annuity Board’s Church Retirement Marketing department, died in an automobile accident April 30.
He died in a multiple car wreck in the south Dallas area. Funeral services will be held at First Baptist Church, Duncanville, where he was a member, May 5, at 1 p.m.
Pantoja, 49, joined the Annuity Board in 1993 after serving three years as an associate in the missions department of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. In his current position, Pantoja related to more than 6,000 language/ethnic and 2,400 African American churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.
When he came to the Annuity Board, Pantoja said he “looked forward to communicating the need for participation in the Church Annuity Plan and the rewards it offered all participants.” During his years of service, Pantoja was instrumental in doubling the number of language and ethnic groups served by the Annuity Board and in developing materials for these groups. The Annuity Board currently has materials translated into Spanish, Korean, Chinese, French-Haitian, and Vietnamese.
“Elías Pantoja was the embodiment of leading ‘with the integrity of his heart and the skillfulness of his hands,’” said O. S. Hawkins, president and chief executive officer of the Annuity Board. “He will be greatly missed here at the Annuity Board. His passion for helping pastors and church workers in need will live on in all of us. He had a genuine love for people which emanated from his deep devotion and love for the Lord.”
Pantoja was born in McAllen, Texas and attended Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas. In 1973 he earned a bachelor’s degree from Dallas Baptist University and in 1976 received his masters in religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
While a seminary student, Pantoja was the associate pastor of Iglesia Bautista Calvario in Dallas and later pastor of Prímera Iglesia Bautista in Carrollton. In 1977 he was appointed a home missionary serving as a multi-ethnic catalytic missionary for Shelby Baptist Association in Tennessee.
In 1983 Pantoja left the Home Mission Board to become a consultant in the missions department of the Missouri Baptist Convention, and in 1987 he worked in the student ministry department at the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville, Tenn.
Pantoja is survived by his wife, Martha; a son, Elías D. Pantoja Jr.; a daughter, Maria Esther Pantoja; brothers Marcos Garcia and David Pantoja, McAllen, Texas and Raul Pantoja, Midvale, Utah.
Fermín A. Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, first met Pantoja when he was a home missionary. “Elías Pantoja was a compassionate, caring leader who had kingdom interest in his heart. He was one of those few individuals who crossed all barriers — racial, social and economic — to help ministers prepare for their future and give them a sense of peace while they ministered in reaching the lost for Jesus.
“I have had a few special friends in my life. Elías was one of them,” Whittaker said. “He was one of the few men I know who impacted the lives of ministers and their families through his ministry of having worked in several areas of Southern Baptist life.”