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Network to nurture Hispanic Baptists’ communication

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — A mission and vision committee of the new Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Network set forth an outline of organizational and strategic plans during the AVANCE conference June 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

The five-member team was named during a meeting last December sponsored by the SBC Executive Committee and LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, attended by 65 Hispanic leaders from 23 Baptist state conventions.

Guillermo Soriano, consultant for Hispanic evangelism and discipleship for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is serving as the team’s facilitator. Other members are Fernando Amaro, Hispanic ministries facilitator of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention; Rolando Castro, missionary for church planting/evangelism, language churches and Hispanic church development for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware; Ana Melendez, a member of Cristo Es Rey Baptist Church in Bolingbrook, Ill.; and Victor Rios, president of the Association of Hispanic Baptist Churches of New York/New Jersey. Three more members will be added to the group representing Florida, Texas and California.

The vision, Soriano explained, is to see Hispanic pastors, leaders, churches and Southern Baptist entities as partners “collaborating intentionally in a communication network for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

The mission, he continued, is to form a multi-dimensional communication system to allow the groups to engage and collaborate as they work to fulfill the Great Commission. “The main objective is communication,” he said.

Soriano acknowledged that it’s a tough challenge, given that Hispanics come from many different cultural backgrounds, generations and educational levels.

The committee proposed carrying out the vision and mission by following five steps:

1. The vision and mission committee will serve as a consultative council to Bob Sena, the Executive Committee’s Hispanic consultant.

2. The core group will meet once a year in a face-to-face meeting and will maintain an ongoing connection via phone conferences.

3. The Tuesday evening meal sponsored by the Executive Committee and LifeWay en Español during LifeWay’s annual Partnership Meeting on Dec. 8, 2015, at the Ridgecrest Conference Center will serve as the platform for the meeting of the Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Network.

4. A central database of the Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Network will be developed in the SBC Executive Committee offices.

5. Emphasis will be placed on the role of state Hispanic fellowships, associations and other Hispanic networks as the most effective connection strategy.

Hispanic pastors and leaders who attended the AVANCE meeting in Columbus said they felt encouraged and were looking forward to the network’s potential.

Alvaro Avarca, pastor of Iglesia el Refugio in Richmond, Va., made the six-hour drive to the meeting and said he is excited to hear about the work that God is doing through Hispanics in other parts of the country.

Daniel Rodas, North American Mission Board church planter from Indianapolis, said he also would like to be more informed about how God is moving in “the waters of the Hispanic Baptist work.”

For Gonzalo Rodriguez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor in Metairie, La., it’s refreshing to see Hispanics filling their role within the SBC. “I’m pleased that the voice of Hispanics is being heard and taken seriously,” he said, “This is big for us.”

Peter Citelli, president of the Hispanic Fellowship of Churches of the Gulf Stream Baptist Association in Florida, said the network’s vision and the support of national leaders like Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, bring renewed hope to Hispanic leadership.

While there is much work to be done by the Hispanic Pastors and Leaders’ Network, Luis R. Lopez, director of LifeWay en Español, said nothing will happen unless Hispanics are intentional about praying. “We will not see it unless we are plugged into prayer…. It’s time to pray and to battle.”

Sena put it in a phrase that most Hispanics have heard: “Orando y con el mazo dando” (“Praying while hammering the nail”).

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  • Keila Diaz

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

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