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Hispanic Baptist fellowship celebrates diversity, unity

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–A small boy beating out a Latin rhythm on conga drums contrasted sharply with the formal, majestic organ pipes rising to the ceiling in the chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Reflecting the diversity of the bayou, the crowd assembled for the National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches June 9-10 represented more than a dozen states and nearly two dozen Latin American countries.

Nearly 1,000 voices young and old, many bilingual, blended enthusiastically to repeat contemporary Christian praise choruses translated into Spanish. A handful of vibrant flags proclaimed messages like “Hay Vida en Jesus,” reflecting this year’s conference theme, translated, “There’s Life in Jesus,” which also is the name of a national strategy adopted by the fellowship at their annual meeting last year in Orlando, Fla.

The two-day event showcased a 20-member black-tie choir, Coral de la Confraternidad from First Hispanic Baptist Church, Plantation, Fla., and a 15-member youth band and choir, Primera Praise, from the First Mexican Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.

Featured speaker evangelist Alberto Mottesi, who addressed both evening sessions, recognized the cultural contributions made to the body of Christ by the multiplicity of peoples represented and urged participants to reach out to the estimated 40 million Hispanics in the United States.

“I have the conviction God is going to use the Hispanic people to cause a revival and ask this nation to come home to God,” said Mottesi, citing recent reports of revival in Latin American countries.

Bobby Sena, North American Mission Board liaison with the fellowship, delivered a challenge for Hispanics to stay abreast of the changes in population demographics and the increasing influence of Hispanics. Naming several leaders in Southern Baptist Convention life as examples, he said it is important for Hispanics to appreciate their efforts and to thank God for the Hispanic leaders.

“The Lord has worked through them to give them those positions,” Sena said. “We have to celebrate. It’s time to catch the vision and to be a testimony. This is a blessing to the Hispanic people.”

In the June 10 business session, a single motion was recommended by fellowship president Herberto Becerra to create a committee for the purpose of developing a vision and mission statement by their Dec. 15 meeting.

Becerra, pastor of First Hispanic Baptist Church, Plantation, Fla., fielded a few questions about why there was no budget or treasurer’s report presented at the meeting. He said the fellowship receives its funding from NAMB and does not of yet have its own fellowship resources.

“I want to give support and public appreciation to NAMB, but I would hope in the future to be able to be self-supporting,” Becerra said. “We don’t need to use pampers anymore. It’s time for us to be responsible.”

Becerra went on to explain, however, that NAMB and other agencies are able to help as a result of the SBC’s Cooperative Program, and in a sense their support is possible because they receive money from their churches as well as others.

Officers reelected by acclimation for 2001-2002 are: president, Becerra; vice president, Moises Rodriguez, pastor, First Mexican Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas; second vice president, Cristobal Donas, pastor, White Grove Baptist Church, San Jose, Calif.; secretary, Eloy Rodriguez, pastor, Parkway Spanish Mission, Orlando, Fla.; and treasurer, Segundo Mir, pastor, Hispanic Baptist Church, Laurel, Md.

Executive Director Julio Fuentes of Hialeah, Fla., was later re-elected by the officers to serve a one-year term.

Southern Baptist entity and auxiliary representatives from LifeWay Christian Resources, International Mission Board, NAMB, Woman’s Missionary Union and the Annuity Board also brought greetings to the Hispanic Fellowship participants.

During the June 10 session, conference officials also reported record attendance at five workshops held on the grounds of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Written with the help of translators Bob Sena, Eliseo Aldape and Eva Arana. (BP) photo Posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LOVE IN ANY LANGUAGE.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan