PLEASANT GARDEN, N.C. (BP)–The North American Mission Board (NAMB) challenged Hispanic Southern Baptists to take advantage of the openness to the Gospel of Hispanics in the U.S. during a June 11 celebration prior to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Meeting at Pleasant Garden (N.C.) Baptist Church, the ninth annual Hispanic Church Planting Celebration featured recognition of outstanding Hispanic church planters, announcement of a new website for Hispanic Southern Baptists and a report on the growth of Hispanics in the U.S.
Richard Harris, NAMB’s vice president of church planting, presented Hispanic leadership awards to Javier Benitez and Raul Vazquez for faithful and exceptional service in church planting.
Benitez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Roca Fuerte in North Carolina is confined to a wheelchair as the result of an accident several years ago. He said a wheelchair can be a great obstacle to a pastor and to starting new churches.
“But I have discovered that if I love God with all of my heart and love people as I love myself then there is no chair, no circumstance that can stop me,” he said.
Harris described Vasquez, who recently retired after 13 years of service as the director of the division of language missions for the Florida Baptist Convention, as “articulate, kind, always Kingdom minded, and a theologian.”
“You should consider yourself proud that you have a brother who can lead, teach, preach and be such a great model for Kingdom building,” Harris told those in attendance.
Enio Aguero, national missionary with NAMB’s church planting group, introduced NAMB’s new Hispanic website, “NAMB en Espanol”. This site, providing multiple resources and information, can be accessed through www.NAMB.net, the agency’s primary website.
Creation of the Hispanic website grew out of recommendations from a national Hispanic Task Force created by NAMB two years ago. The webite provides a place for Spanish-speaking Southern Baptists to find training, resources and information as well as links to other Spanish resources in the SBC including a link to a Spanish apologetics site developed by NAMB’s apologetics evangelism unit.
Cuban-born Carlos Ferrer, interim chief operating officer of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), brought greetings and reminded the congregation that “43 million Hispanics in the United States are waiting to hear the Gospel.”
Ferrer then introduced Bill Curtis, chairman of NAMB’s board of trustees, who had recently returned from a mission trip to Brazil.
“NAMB is in a season of transition right now, but the NAMB Hispanic Task Force is fully operational,” Curtis said. “You have seen some of the labors of their work.”
“Concerns that have been raised have been heard, but large organizational strategy takes time to move from assessment to implementation.”
Daniel Sanchez, professor and director of the Scarborough Institute at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, presented a special report addressing Hispanic realities which modern American culture confronts.
“The astounding growth of the Hispanic population is transforming the social and religious panorama of North America and has very significant implications for the work that SBC agencies do among Hispanics,” Sanchez reported.
He concluded his report by challenging those present to evangelism. “No one should have a greater commitment for reaching our people than ourselves,” he said.
Larry Phillips, Hispanic consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, presented several couples and individuals for dedication to church planting in North Carolina. The workers recently had finished theological training in Spanish through the Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in Henderson, N.C.
Bobby Sena, NAMB’s senior church planting manager and leader of the Hispanic Service Team, said the Hispanic community is more receptive than ever to the Gospel then posed the question, “What must we do together as a family in order to expand the Kingdom of God in North America?”
Answering his own question, Sena said, “We have to unite in prayer and fasting, and refute the concept of working as ‘Lone Rangers’; to work as a team to do great things for the glory of God.”