SAN ANTONIO (BP)–“Te amo! Te amo! Te amo” (I love you) was the message Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page declared to a crowd which erupted in loud applause and a standing ovation at the 2007 National Hispanic Celebration June 10. “Gloria a Dios” (Glory to God).
Trying out his broken Spanish on the 1,800-plus people at the annual meeting, Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., thanked the crowd for being part of the “wonderful event,” while asking listeners to excuse his attempt at pronouncing words in Spanish.
“Please forgive me for my accent, it is very bad,” Page said. “I would like to show a profound love for all of you. It is my desire that the work of all the Hispanics be blessed.”
The North American Mission Board’s new president, Geoff Hammond, other representatives from the SBC entity and a representative of the San Antonio mayor’s office joined Page in addressing the “Rise Up and Build!” gathering at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Hammond said he is “grateful for what Hispanic leaders have done in the past” and pledged that he and NAMB’s staff are “asking God for a great movement and hoping that it will begin with Hispanics.”
“You are one of the great mission fields in North America,” Hammond noted. “Hispanics will become 100 million people in the next 35 years.”
David Galvan, pastor of the Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, Texas, and Frank Moreno, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s language division, presided at the meeting.
Daniel Sanchez, missions professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of its Scarborough Institute for Church Planting and Growth in Fort Worth, Texas, gave a presentation on Hispanic challenges facing North American Christians today.
Sanchez listed six challenges concerning the Hispanic population with major implications for today’s Christians: Hispanics are looking for God in greater numbers; the Hispanic population is growing at a faster rate than previous projections allowed; Hispanics are moving to the suburbs in increasing numbers; Hispanics have great financial needs; Hispanics are the group with the highest increase in Internet use in the United States; and the number of Hispanics not interested in religion has increased 16 percent.
“The fields are white unto harvest, but the time of reaping does not last forever,” Sanchez said.
Bobby Sena, director of NAMB’s field partner service team, gave an update on the newly established board-wide Hispanic service team he leads. He invited members of his team and representatives of various Southern Baptist Convention entities present to share the platform with him as a symbol of unity in facing the ministry challenges at hand.
Three Hispanic leaders recognized at the meeting for faithful service were Joshua Grijalva, Oscar Romo and Carlos Ferrer.
Grijalva is a Texas native and retired pastor who served for many years in Texas and Colorado. He also was a missions professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., and dean of the Mexican Bible Institute in San Antonio for more than 20 years. Grijalva has served Southern Baptists on several SBC boards and has mentored hundreds of young pastors and leaders. He is the author of 15 books as well as numerous articles for journals and magazines.
Roland Lopez, consultant for Hispanic ministry with the San Antonio Baptist Association, shared a short video of testimonies by those influenced by Grijalva’s ministry and made a presentation on behalf of the association. After much applause and a standing ovation, Grijalva told the congregation: “It is not by chance that we are here but by the hand of God. I believe that this is a new day for the Hispanic brethren. We are going to see new things that we never dared to imagine.”
Oscar Romo, also a native of Texas and a retired pastor, served Southern Baptists in many capacities during his active ministry. Romo served as pastor of several churches but is best known for his leadership role in the area of language missions. Romo served the Baptist General Convention of Texas and later the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) as director of the language missions division for many years. In that capacity, he pioneered many of the strategies and programs still in use today. Under his leadership, the language missions division ministered not only to Hispanics but to all ethnic groups residing in the United States. Romo also served on the boards of several SBC entities and other ministries in the United States.
Augusto Valverde, pastor of the Iglesia Bautista Resurreccion in Miami, Fla., and president of the National Hispanic Fellowship of Southern Baptist Churches, gave the recognition of Romo and a plaque on behalf of the fellowship. A video of testimonials reflected the impact of the ministry of Romo on the lives of key Hispanic leaders and others.
“Romo was the man … that has demonstrated the greatest passion for Hispanics in the United States,” Valverde said, prompting a standing ovation for Romo. “After 40 years, it is a joy to see the seed which has been sowed. There exist 39 other groups such as this one. God has worked amongst this people and the people have responded. Let us continue to pray and to work so that God will continue to bless us.”
Carlos Ferrer, NAMB’s chief financial officer and vice president of missionary services, was recognized for his years of service both at NAMB and the Hispanic Baptist Theological Seminary of San Antonio. The native of Cuba has been employed by NAMB for the past 15 years, where he began in 1992 as comptroller. He recently served as NAMB’s interime chief operating officer. Prior to his employment at NAMB, Ferrer served as comptroller for the Hispanic Baptist Theological Seminary in San Antonio.
Bill Curtis, chairman of the NAMB trustee board, presented the recognition after the audience watched a video honoring Ferrer. Valverde, in the video, described Ferrer as “a man of integrity.”
In accepting the recognition, an emotional Ferrer said it was a pleasure “to be in the same room with Brother Romo who helped my family to come here. Brother Grijalva was like a father to me and my spiritual mentor. I am not worthy to be one of their shoes.”
The program concluded with a message by evangelist Sammy Fuentes from Corpus Christi, Texas, speaking on the meeting’s “Rise Up and Build!” theme, with Nehemiah 2:18, Ephesians 4:11-12 and Hebrews 12:12-13 as his biblical texts.
Following the invitation, more than 50 people moved to the front of the platform for prayer as they made various decisions to commit their lives to Christian service and ministry.
Frank Page’s prepared comments (Spanish and English) are below:
Soy muy feliz de estar con ustedes hoy. Gracias para permitirme formar parte de este acontecimiento maravilloso. Perdone por favor mi español – no hablo muy bien español.
Sin embargo, sepa por favor de mi amor profundo para cada uno de ustedes. Algunos de ustedes son amigos mìos personales. Me gustarìa para todos nosotros ser amigos personales. Oro para bendiciones màs grandes de Dios sobre ustedes. Deseo para la obra de nuestros hermanos y las hermanas hispanos ser bendecida por Dios.
Es mi esperanza que las Latinas llegaran ser mas y mas una parte de la obra de Dios en la Convenciòn Bautista Meridonal. Sepa por favor que respeto profundamente cada uno de ustedes y yo sè que Dios les puede utilizar en una manera ponderosa.
¡Que Dios les bendiga hoy!
I am happy to be with you today. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful event. Please pardon my Spanish. It is very poor.
However, please know of my deep love for each of you. Some of you are personal friends of mine. I would wish it were so with all of you. I pray for God’s greatest blessings upon you. I wish for the work of our Hispanic brothers and sisters to be blessed by God. It is my hope that Latinos will become more and more a part of God’s work in the Southern Baptist Convention. Please know that I deeply respect each of you and know that God can use you in a powerful way.
May God bless you this day!