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Missions leader: ‘No boundaries, no obstacles’ for Hispanics

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Hispanic Baptists are answering God’s call to overseas missions in increasing numbers, bringing with them unique gifts for sharing the gospel in other cultures.

The 21 Hispanics appointed by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in the last 3 years represent a significant increase compared to previous years, said a former missionary to Latin America.

“There is a movement that has started, but many Hispanics are not aware of what they can offer,” said Jason Carlisle, director of Hispanic mobilization for the IMB.

Hispanics often adjust better to different societies because most were raised in two cultures and have dealt with the ambiguities of being both American and Hispanic, Carlisle said. Their ability to thrive in two different cultures helps them adjust to cross-cultural evangelism.

Violeta Ramirez, a recently appointed IMB missionary, agreed. A first-generation American who has traveled to India, Central Asia and Tokyo, she is preparing to serve in Venezuela.

Ramirez said her parents, who are from Mexico, trained her from the beginning to live in a cross-cultural setting. “(American Hispanics) already know how to deal with another culture because they’ve had to deal with that growing up,” she said.

Certain aspects of the Hispanic culture, including emphasis on family, friends and hospitality, parallel other societies, Carlisle also said.

Hispanic missionaries also often gain quicker access and acceptance into other societies simply because they tend to have more physical similarities with the people, Carlisle said.

“Every time I go (overseas) I fit in very easily,” Ramirez said. “People think that I’m from there. I don’t look like I’m from the United States. I don’t seem like an outsider.”

Ramirez said she feels a burden for encouraging Latin American youths to enter missions.

“They would be a great resource in that culturally there would be a lot more things in common for them,” she said, “and doors will open more for them because of what they look like. They really have an advantage in some ways.”

Although more Hispanics are joining the mission field, more than half of the missionaries are going to Latin American countries, Carlisle said. He would like Hispanic missionaries to “look at the rest of the world. The truth is, doors are open everywhere.”

In fact, many regions have specifically requested Hispanic missionaries. Carlisle said Hispanics can fulfill any missionary role, including interpreters, church planters and mediators.

“There are no boundaries, no obstacles,” he said.

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  • Brittany Jarvis