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Hispanic Baptists telecast the Good News

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MODESTO, Calif. (BP)–When Victor Pulido scheduled a carpet cleaning, he had no idea that he was confirming a God-ordained appointment.

Pulido produces “Llego la Hora” (The Time Has Arrived), a new Christian television program from California’s Hispanic Southern Baptists through Telemundo.

When Pulido’s wife suggested that he get the carpets of the Llego la Hora television studio cleaned, he called a man who had left a flier on the studio door. The carpet cleaner arrived Sept. 10 and noticed Pulido’s Bible. “Excuse me; that is your Bible?” the man asked. “I’m interested in speaking about the Bible.”

The man told about a television program that had fueled his interest. That program, Pulido realized, was Llego la Hora. Soon Pulido was leading the carpet cleaner to Christ.

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The carpet cleaner is just one of many whose lives have been changed through Llego la Hora. Additionally, people have been connected to churches and even a new church has been planted.

Llego la Hora is aired on California’s Telemundo Channel 33 every Saturday and Sunday from 6-7 a.m., with different programming each day. Each one-hour program consists of 13- to 20-minute segments of Bible teaching, preaching or counseling, with professional music performances in between.

Segment content, on such themes as marriage, family, women or finances, comes from various speakers, ranging from seminary professors to a former World Cup soccer broadcaster who’s now a preacher.

The goal is to provide biblical content that reaches people for Jesus, Pulido said. They also try to include the five purposes of the church, as popularized by Rick Warren and Saddleback Church -– worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and missions.

Each airing includes telephone numbers for Pulido and Oscar Cano, senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel in Modesto and vice president of the Confraternidad Hispana Bautista de California (Hispanic Fellowship of the California Southern Baptist Convention) corporation that oversees the television program. It’s typical for Cano and Pulido to receive around 10 calls after a show is aired.

“People call us about their problems,” Cano said. “Some people don’t go to any church and when they see the program on TV, they go back to the church again.”

Sometimes Cano or Pulido will take a Bible to the home of a caller and offer to start a Bible study. They also point people to nearby Hispanic, Southern Baptist churches.

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“If the people have a church in the area, we send them to that church,” Pulido said.

As God opens doors and they see ministry needs going unmet, though, they will plant new Southern Baptist churches. In fact, the first church plant, Iglesia Bautista Templo Calvario, started meeting for Bible study in August and held its first official service on Sunday, Sept. 9, in Turlock, Calif., in a building provided by the Central Valley Baptist Association. A viewer who called Cano after seeing Llego la Hora became the first member of the church.

“It has been quite fast for the time we’ve been on television,” said Daniel Sotelo, president of the California Bapitst Hispanic fellowship and CEO of the corporation that oversees Llego la Hora.

The ministry has been supported by the Hispanic fellowship and a grant from the California Southern Baptist Convention through a program for new church starts. Some churches also have chosen to support the ministry.

A few months ago a pastor e-mailed Sotelo and told him that his congregation was planning to send all their missions money to support the Llego la Hora telecasts.

Sotelo told him: “If you’re going to send me all the Cooperative Program money, I don’t want it. I don’t want you to do missions in California and stop doing missions in the world.”

Soon the pastor wrote back with a new plan: to support Llego la Hora monthly, without decreasing Cooperative Program giving.

“Ah, that’s fantastic,” Sotelo said.

The idea for Llego la Hora began in January 2007, when Telemudo Channel 33 based in Modesto offered Sotelo free weekly airtime and a television studio suite. Pulido soon agreed to move his family from San Diego to the Modesto area to produce the program.

“When God called, we don’t have any permission to say no,” Pulido said. “We see the importance for evangelism for California and around the world. We say, ‘OK, we leave everything behind us and we need to take the way for the future.’ It’s only Jesus, and reach people for Jesus, and work for that.”

In February they began production. Their viewing audience of 150,000 homes stretches 200 miles south to north -– from Madera to Yuba City -– and 150 miles west to east -– from the Vacaville to Sonora.

Llego la Hora has begun to attract a greater variety of speakers, and the team is praying that they’ll be allowed more air time -– preferably an hour daily. If that happens, they’ll also need the financial and human resources to update their equipment and produce more programming.

“If God is in it, He is going to provide,” Sotelo said.

Pulido said their mission will remain the same: to reach people for Jesus by working together with existing churches and planting new churches where they’re needed.

“A lot of good things happen when the Hispanic fellowship works together,” he said.

Cano said Llego la Hora would have been worthwhile if one person had become a Christian through it. But the team believes God is taking the ministry far beyond that.

“We don’t finish yet; I think we barely started this,” Cano said. “I know God’s gonna do big things about this program. I know He has big plans.”

Though they’ve worked hard to make the program interesting and biblical, Llego la Hora leaders all agree that the success results from God’s work.

“I don’t have an explanation except that God is in it,” Sotelo said.
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Manda Gibson is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Va.