ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–As far as the North American Mission Board goes, Carlos Ferrer has journeyed full circle.
Ferrer, 55, is temporarily leading NAMB -– the same Southern Baptist entity which in the 1960s aided a young Carlos and his family after they escaped in the darkness from Fidel Castro’s brutal regime in communist Cuba.
Recently named as NAMB’s interim chief operating officer until an interim president is named, Ferrer is carrying out all executive leadership responsibilities that had been handled by former NAMB President Bob Reccord, who resigned April 17.
In 1992, Ferrer joined the then-Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) as controller and was named NAMB’s chief financial officer in 2004.
Barry Holcomb, president of NAMB’s board of trustees, said Ferrer “is a man of great giftedness and integrity who will provide outstanding leadership during this time. And, the testimony of he and his family is one of courage, determination and thankfulness to the Lord and to Southern Baptists.”
Witnessing firsthand the bloody struggle between Castro and Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, Ferrer grew up in a violent environment. “Cuba was a land at war, where you always lived in fear,” he said.
Ferrer’s father, who owned a prominent business school in Havana, originally supported Castro, hoping the Cuban revolution would bring change and a better life for him, his wife, Carlos and his sister. But after Castro won and nationalized many privately owned businesses -– including the elder Ferrer’s school -– the family knew it was time to leave their beloved Cuba.
Late one night, the Ferrers drove their family sedan to the port of Havana, abandoned it and boarded a Spanish freighter for Veracruz, Mexico, taking only the clothes on their backs.
From Veracruz, the family traveled on to Mexico City, where they stayed pending their clearance into the United States -– an immigration process that took nine months to complete.
When the Ferrers finally made it to Miami in April 1962, they joined thousands of other Cuban refugees, most of whom knew no English and lacked jobs.
“You saw people who were once doctors or lawyers in Cuba washing floors and painting,” Ferrer said. “My dad worked in a TV repair shop.” The family of four shared one bed in a rented 12-by-12-foot room.
With the assistance of a refugee office in Miami partly supported by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board, Ferrer’s family relocated to California. There, First Baptist Church in Santa Barbara provided a house with beds, furniture, linens, utensils and food. The church’s Woman’s Missionary Union bought jeans and shoes for young Carlos’ first day in sixth grade and also found a job for his dad. The future mission board leader had his first glimpse of what missions is all about. He would not forget.
“It was a tremendous outpouring of love,” Ferrer said. “We went from being rich to being poor, and now people were helping us get back on our feet. We wondered why. We weren’t Baptists. Those people in Santa Barbara planted the seeds of love and of the Gospel in my life.”
In 1969, Ferrer left home to attend the University of Texas at Austin. It was there that a Christian classmate witnessed to him and he made a profession of faith.
“I finally realized why those Southern Baptists in California did what they did for me and my family,” Ferrer said. “They gave us all those things unconditionally because they had the love of Christ.”
As a sophomore at Texas, Ferrer married the former Cindy Marshall, a Baptist girl whose father was helping Ferrer’s father attain U.S. citizenship.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1973, Ferrer became a state tax auditor in Texas. In 1980, as a certified public accountant, he went to work as a senior accountant for the Velero Energy Corp. in San Antonio. After serving three years as controller of the Hispanic Baptist Seminary in San Antonio, Southern Baptists offered him the opportunity to serve the people who had served, ministered and witnessed to him and his family so many years ago.
Ferrer, who has two grown sons and three grandchildren, said he is “appreciative and humbled to have the opportunity to serve our Lord through the North American Mission Board.”
“My prayer since coming to the Home Mission Board nearly 15 years ago is that I will be able to make a difference for our Lord and for Southern Baptists. I covet the prayers of our people as I serve them, our missionaries and mission partners and my wonderful colleagues here at NAMB.”