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Interactions ‘golden’ in conferences

SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador (BP)–Milton Segura scans the horizon. From where he sits in the back of the passenger van, the view is familiar. Up until six months ago, Segura traveled the same stretch of the Panamerican Highway every week for business.

Today, his purpose is different. As Segura travels to the San Miguel Encouragement Conference with Southern Baptist friends from North America, he’s pursuing a new vocation.

A successful civil engineer, Segura had worked his way up the corporate ladder to the position of chief engineer of the La Union Port Development Project on El Salvador’s eastern coast. Only 10 days before he left his career behind to pursue fulltime ministry, a Japanese engineering firm had offered him a job with perks like international travel, an expense account and an attractive salary. In the same month, Segura also received word from the Canadian government that his application to emigrate to Canada had finally been processed. After three and a half years of waiting, all he needed to do was send a physical.

But the opportunities only solidified his decision. “I decided to accept the challenge and trust in God,” he said.

Five years earlier, Segura had begun praying for the Lord to give him an opportunity to serve fulltime. Then in 2007 he met Julio Contreras, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in San Salvador, who told him he had been praying for someone to serve fulltime at the church’s seminary.

In August 2008, Segura decided to forego the perks and take a 75 percent pay cut to become a full-time seminary professor.

“It is really small, compared to what the Lord Jesus did for me,” Segura said. “I think this stage of my life is the best stage of my life. There is something beautiful in all of this, because I was praying for five years for an opportunity to serve fulltime.”

Segura was one of more than 460 Salvadoran pastors and laypeople who attended the San Salvador and San Miguel Encouragement Conferences held last week. The conferences were the first element of a new Southern Baptist initiative designed to forge relationships with other evangelicals around the world.

As both a breakout session leader and conference participant, Segura said the conferences challenged national pastors to “continue digging in the Word.”

“It’s like a seed was planted,” Segura said, “because they will reproduce the training they’ve received.”

In addition to biblical training, conference participants and the president of New Life Baptist Seminary, Gerald Cowen, said the event also fostered more unity among Salvadoran pastors.

“One of the problems here in our country specifically is that pastors are scattered around,” Contreras said. “So our goal was to bring them together, encourage them, connect them.”

Beyond connecting with one another, conference participants also were able to build relationships with stateside Southern Baptists like former SBC President Bobby Welch.

“I am certain there is gold to be found in these interactions,” Welch said. “Americans need, spiritually, so much of what the rest of the world has to offer — and we need to take advantage of offering what we have.”
Kristen Hiller is a freelance writer/photographer living in Syracuse, N.Y.

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