The task for the day was sharing the Gospel – with total strangers.
Talking about Jesus in public can be intimidating for some, but Danny Buitrago was up for the challenge while serving in Mexico. On a GoIMPACT mission trip in Guadalajara, Buitrago and his team walked into a local park. Buitrago approached a man standing by a tree reading a Bible and thought it would be an easy conversation.
The stranger told him to go away.
Buitrago was not deterred. In the same park he greeted an 82-year-old man named Eduardo, or “Lalo,” who told Buitrago he was just sitting there waiting to be put in his casket. Buitrago shared the Gospel and along with his evangelism partner for the day, Alejandro Garcia, prayed with Lalo as he gave his life to Jesus. They spent more time throughout the trip getting to know Lalo and discipling him in his new faith.
Lalo’s eternity was transformed because two Florida Baptist churches came together to send young people to serve with International Mission Board missionaries in Guadalajara. The trip reinforced key facts about missions: reaching the nations can be accomplished together; short-term trips have long-term value, especially with a minimal language barrier; and the next generation is key in reaching the lost.
A team from Iglesia Bautista Ebenezer in Belle Glade, Fla., consisted of two college students and one high schooler, all on their first mission trip. The students partnered with nine members of Peters Road Baptist Church in Plantation, Fla., many of whom were also young adults on their first or second mission trip. The team was led by Mike Pileggi, associate pastor of Peters Road.
“This NextGen Hispanic mobilization is a breakthrough for us,” said George Siler, IMB’s manager of volunteer programs..
A unique aspect of this team was that all but one member spoke Spanish. Together, they spent a week serving with IMB missionaries Dan and Margie Potter.
Margie said the team saw a “conversion rate of 28.5 percent” — that is, nearly 3 in 10 people who heard the Gospel clearly explained accepted it. That success was as strong as any evangelical missionary in this area of the Americas, she said.
In El Centro, the team focused on street evangelism as well as inviting people to lunch or dinner. They went out in twos and connected with others on park benches in the grass or standing in the hot sun.
Eréndira Sedano, a translator for the non-Spanish speaker on the team, said she appreciated the team’s efforts in her country and for her people.
“God is having mercy on Mexico,” she said. “Our culture is open and ready to listen. You are focused on eternal life. Thank you for what you are doing for my country.”
Margie said the team’s success “boggles [her] mind” because it “proves that as a territory, we need not only the training and passion that they came in with, but we also need that language, because they were able to get to the Gospel!
“…We want to emulate what we saw in these young adults. I loved what Mike prayed last night – ‘Lord, we don’t need a Pentecost moment, we need people who can speak Spanish to come here.’”
Novel approaches to sharing timeless truths
The team participated in other evangelistic events, including partnering with a chalk artist to share the Gospel through drawings on sidewalks and other public outdoor surfaces. A world-renowned madonnari artist (sidewalk chalk artist) who practices his craft in Guadalajara, chalked the “Good Shepherd.”
The artist is not a believer, despite the Potters’ ongoing relationship with him and their consistent sharing of the Gospel with him.
Nevertheless, he joyfully works with the Potters on events like this, because it is “for a good cause and Dan and Margie are good people,” he said. The Potters, and now the entire Florida mission team, are praying for the artist to come to know the Lord he helps the Potters and their friends proclaim.
The team, who had prepared by studying John 10 and the story of the Good Shepherd, asked onlookers, “Do you know what he is chalking? Do you know about the Good Shepherd?”
After the first day, team member Marqui Cambronero shared his experience. Since he does not speak Spanish, he used a translator, making his experience different from the others.
“I was nervous as I am the only one that doesn’t speak Spanish,” Cambronero said. “Praying through John 10 this morning was excellent! I had about 30 conversations and six came to Christ. The Holy Spirit moves even through a translator!”
Team member Mayra Juarez added, “Only God could have done what we did today!”
The team also spent time doing other forms of street evangelism and following up with new converts to begin the discipleship process.
Team member Juan Cristobal found street evangelism more natural by using a survey to help get started.
“What do you think about God, the world and the future?” he asked. “Do you think there is hope?”
Using these questions as conversation starters, he found people were more receptive to listening to him present the Gospel. In general, though, the team found the people hungry to hear hope.
Mutually beneficial partnership
This team and its partnership to get the Gospel to the people of Guadalajara is a fitting example of the partnership between Hispanic churches and the IMB. This relationship and partnerships like it are vital for both the churches and the IMB.
While Hispanic churches are partnering with the IMB through giving, not many are going, Pileggi said.
“What [many] Hispanic churches don’t see is the benefit of having the logistics and everything handled by the IMB,” the pastor said. “I guess that’s why this trip is so unique in that sense.
“Hispanic churches are just doing it alone rather than together with the IMB. The Southern Baptist Convention pulls resources together for the purpose of bringing churches together to go on mission.”
In addition, the Florida Baptist Convention is focusing on not just sending, but also mobilizing the next generation.
“Their motto is ‘Right Beside You’ and they really do come alongside you,” he said. “Every church that gave to the Florida Baptist Cooperative Program was a part of this trip.”
The IMB is celebrating Hispanic Missions Sunday on Sept. 25. This is a day to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanic IMB missionaries and Hispanic churches as active partners with the IMB in bringing the Gospel to the nations, like this recent mission team to Guadalajara.
Video and downloadable print resources are available at imb.org/hispanic-church-missions/.
Lucinda Clark, editor of BP en Español, contributed to this report.