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Hispanics pray, celebrate unity, announce new Fellowship of Seminary Spanish Program directors

Luis Lopez, associate vice president for Hispanic relations and mobilization with the SBC Executive Committee, enjoys the Hispanic Celebration gathering June 11 in New Orleans. Photo by Elijah Hickman

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – On Sunday night, June 11, more than 500 Hispanic pastors, their wives, missionaries and leaders gathered for a night of fellowship, worship and encouragement in the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center preceding the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.

The Hispanic messengers and guests traveled from all over the United States and abroad to celebrate alongside their brothers and sisters how the Lord is using Hispanics to reach other Hispanics around the world. Others who couldn’t attend in person watched live broadcasts of the event.

“Let our unity take us to serve others and that the glory may be to God,” said Bruno Molina, executive director of the National Baptist Hispanic Fellowship. Photo by Elijah Hickman

Preceding the dinner, a group of pastors and wives led by David Perez prayed for the SBC meeting in New Orleans, for SBC leaders and national leaders. The prayer circle was yet another expression of the prayer movement that began in Florida among Hispanic pastors during the 2020 COVID pandemic. Perez, pastor of pastor of Iglesia Casa de Bendición in Saint Cloud, leads the prayer movement in Florida and nationally.

For the first time ever, the entire Hispanic celebration was simultaneously translated to English through individual headsets.

The group celebrated Hispanic representation and resources across multiple SBC entities and partners. International Mission Board Hispanic church mobilization strategist Annel Robayna announced that there are currently 62 Hispanic missionaries serving all over the world. He encouraged churches to continue to send people to take the Gospel to the nations.

Eloy Rodriguez, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church Español near Tampa, Fla., and president of the National Baptist Hispanic Network, greeted Pete Ramirez, one of two Hispanic state convention executive directors. Ramirez, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, was elected in 2022. Luis Soto is the second Hispanic state convention executive director serving in that role for the Puerto Rico Baptist Convention. He also addressed the group on behalf of that convention.

Felix Cabrera, the North American Mission Board’s Send Network Español vice president, announced that in addition to the 22 in-person residencies across the country and Puerto Rico, this August will be the official launch of the online Spanish-language program. “We are here to serve you; we are here to help you evangelize, disciple and send others. There is no excuse not to do it,” he said.

Send Relief’s Jonathan Santiago reminded the messengers and guests that there are 20 Send Relief sites they can send church mission teams to. To motivate churches to catch the vision for missions, Send Relief is gifting two mission trips to two churches. The winning churches can take groups of 10.

Felix Cabrera, the North American Mission Board’s Send Network Español vice president, addressed attendees of the Hispanic Celebration. Photo by Elijah Hickman

Representatives from the six Southern Baptist seminaries formed a panel moderated by Luis Lopez, executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization with the SBC Executive Committee (EC). They answered questions about the benefits of having a theological education, who such an education is for and why believers should consider earning one.

The panelists encouraged those gathered to seek a theological education because it will prepare them to teach the Bible effectively, there is a track for everyone interested in getting such an education and they would be taught by experienced and passionate professors.

The group of seminary representatives also forms the first Fellowship of Seminary Spanish Program Directors.

Leading up to the Sunday night event, a group of 35 Hispanic missionaries participated in Crossover. From Wednesday afternoon to Friday, the group representing 21 Hispanic Southern Baptist churches served 2,500 meals, worked in six different communities, shared the Gospel with more than 1,000 people and saw 100 professions of faith as of Sunday night June 11. Edda Ramos, one of the 30 missionaries from Florida, says that it was a great time canvassing the community and talking to people who are in need not just in the material sense but also spiritually. As soon as people heard them speaking Spanish, they opened their doors and listened to what the missionaries had to say, Ramos said.

During this first half of the night, messengers and guests also heard from representatives from GuideStone Financial Resources, Lifeway Christian Resources, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Start Church, Biblia QR Principios Para Vivir. Interim president and CEO of the SBC EC Willie McLaurin and SBC President Bart Barber greeted the group and encouraged their continued work within SBC to reach other Hispanics for Christ.

The night ended with worship led by Julio Arriola, director of Send Network Texas in partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and a Biblical message by Bruno Molina, executive director of the NBHN.

Molina’s message titled The Prosperity of our Unity, was an invitation and reminder to the Hispanic Baptists to focus on what brings them together rather than was sets them apart. “Our terrestrial citizenship is temporary; don’t let it supersede your eternal celestial citizenship.

“Hispanic Baptists, it is time that we put aside our past disagreements and that we move forward together,” Molina urged the group. “Let our unity take us to serve others and that the glory may be to God.”

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  • Keila Diaz

    Keila Diaz is a digital communications assistant with the Florida Baptist Convention.

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