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Family festival promotes Hispanic outreach

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–After months of preparation and a week of intensive evangelistic effort, Hispanic Baptists came together June 20 at the Iroquois Amphitheater and Park in Louisville to celebrate “Festival Familiar para toda la Familia” (Family Festival for the Whole Family).

Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention president, took part in the outreach, which tallied about 1,125 registered guests and involved scores of volunteers from nine local Hispanic congregations.

“Hispanics are the largest minority in the nation,” Hunt noted, “and I am grateful for the way Hispanic Baptists are making a difference.”

Professional clowns, including Maribel Pantin from Atlanta, known as “Caramelito,” balloon artists and inflatable games entertained children who also heard the Gospel shared in a variety of ways.

Reporting 115 professions of faith at the festival and another 198 decisions at Crossover-related events during the previous week, Joshua Del Risco, Hispanic and multi-ethnic people group coordinator for the North American Mission Board, said local churches would follow up with those who had made decisions.

Yurian Santiesteban, the festival’s local coordinator and pastor of Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz, credited the many who worked together to make it a success.

“The most effective way to reach people for Jesus is to do what Crossover does,” Santiesteban said, smiling ear to ear in spite of his sweat and fatigue. Because of the festival and Crossover, he added, Hispanic churches are already better known in the city.

“Hispanics are beginning to notice that our churches are here for them,” he said.

The nine congregations involved in the festival were Iglesia Bautista Victoria (pastor, Ernesto Font), Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz (pastor, Yurian Santiesteban), Iglesia Bautista New Cut Road (pastor, Daniel Pupo), Iglesia Bautista Parkland (pastor, Eduardo Cutiño), Iglesia Bautista Cooper Chapel (pastor, Cesar Cano), Iglesia Bautista Getsemani (pastor, Sharaf Gamiochipi), Iglesia Bautista Shelbyville (pastor, Francisco Llerena), Iglesia Bautista Jeffersontown (pastor, Dario Gonzalez) and Iglesia Bautista Fe y Esperanza (pastor, Teofilo Pino).

Jose and Mercedes Rodriguez and their two boys, who have visited one of the churches, Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz, enjoyed the festival. Jose is a native of Mexico and Mercedes is from Cuba. “There was good organization and everyone had a great time.” Jose said.

Carmelo Arias, a member of Iglesia Bautista Northside in Hialeah, Fla., and a veteran volunteer at many Crossover events, said the ethnic-oriented activities make important inroads into reaching specific communities. She said she personally prayed with 10 people who received Christ.

“It is wonderful to see the great response to the Gospel of the people here at the festival and at the other events,” Arias said. “This is a great way to reach the community for Christ.”

Musicians and worship leaders at the festival included Grupo Caballero (from Denver), Grupo CARMESI (South City, Calif.), local band from Iglesia Senda de Luz (Louisville, Ky.), soloist Mario Solorio (Madera, Calif.) and Marisol (Little Rock, Ark.)

Carlos de la Barra, ethnic associate for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and member of Iglesia Bautista Getsemani in Louisville, said, “[T]he greatness of this event is not just in the outreach but in the manner in which it brought together the nine local churches and their pastors to work in unity and reach out to the community.”

De la Barra said Crossover literally has brought a twofold increase to one congregation, which had 40 members “and now they have 20 new prospects and 20 new believers waiting to be baptized. This is very good for the work in Kentucky.”

The Long Run Baptist Association, Kentucky Baptist Convention and North American Mission Board partnered with the nine local Hispanic congregations in sponsoring the festival.
David Raul Lema Jr. is director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Center for the Americas in Miami and a correspondent for Baptist Press.

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  • David R. Lema Jr.