Editor’s note: The Week of Prayer for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is March 5-12. The offering provides half of the North American Mission Board’s annual budget, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the field. The offering is used for training, support and care for missionaries, like Kay Bennett, and for evangelism resources. This year’s goal is $70 million. An earlier reference to church decline in Alaska was removed for clarity purposes.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Angel Viveros had the life he always wanted. He had a good job as a restaurant manager that he enjoyed. In his spare time, he was a professional wrestler. His family made a comfortable living, and he served in ministry at his local Mexico City church.
Viveros and his wife, Vanesa, even had a fun opportunity on a television show, where they had recently won impressive prizes, like electronics, furniture and a new car.
But despite the couple’s comfort, they sensed God was calling them to something new—a call which ultimately would move them 1,700 miles from home.
“God, we have everything we want,” the couple prayed. “Whatever you want to do through us, we are very happy to do it.”
Six weeks later, the couple received an invitation from a Southern Baptist church in Lincoln to plant a Spanish-speaking church in the city.
Viveros, now a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planter, knew little about Nebraska when the invite came, except that it was the name of a street in Mexico City. He knew Americans from Texas, Florida, New Mexico, South Carolina, and elsewhere, but he didn’t know anyone in Nebraska.
The Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, however, was leading a renewed emphasis on reaching Hispanics throughout the two states.
As Viveros researched Lincoln, he discovered a city with a significant need for a Gospel witness among its growing Hispanic population. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, the city has more than 16,000 Hispanic residents with few Spanish-speaking, biblically faithful churches to engage them with the Gospel.
By 2050, demographers expect the number of Hispanics in the area to triple.
“This is not a huge city. There are not millions of people here,” Viveros said. “But still, there are Hispanics everywhere in Lincoln. And that’s why God led us to this community—because when we looked to see how many Hispanic churches were here, we discovered Lincoln was an empty place.”
Five years ago, the Viveros family—Angel, Vanesa, and Zuri (now 11)—arrived in Lincoln and prepared to launch Cosecha Iglesia Bíblica with the support of their sending church, South View Baptist Church, where they meet.
Viveros says the local Hispanic community has many physical and financial needs, and the church is trying to meet as many of those as they can. Still, he believes, the greatest need is for the community to unite under the knowledge of the true Gospel. The influence of the prosperity gospel is strong among Lincoln’s Hispanic population.
“We need to be there because we need to be the lights around the community. So, when they learn why the church is helping, we can say ‘because God loves you,’” Viveros said.
One way Cosecha Iglesia Biblica has engaged its neighbors is through a Hispanic community fair. Viveros partnered with 40-plus community nonprofits that were working in the community to offer an opportunity for Spanish-speakers to learn more about resources available to them.
Through the fair, Angel, Vanesa and their church members met many local Hispanics. The connections the church built during that fair are still paying dividends today.
“That is one of my favorite English words, ‘connections,’ because as a church, you tend to be a religious place that is meeting people twice a week for a couple hours and that’s it,” Viveros said. “That is not a church. The church is a group of believers who are reaching out to the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With that relationship, they tend to have more conversations, more time, and then can share the gospel.”
The Hispanic community Cosecha Iglesia Biblica is trying to reach in Lincoln isn’t monolithic. Whether they are from nations in Central America, South America, or from Mexico, their cultures are different. Their dialects are different. Often, they even have different words for the same items.
“They all have different needs, but regardless of where they are from, I need to preach the Gospel,” Viveros said.
Moving to the United States—where he and his family had to adjust to a new language, a new culture and snow—hasn’t been easy. With so many Hispanics who need to hear the Good News about Jesus, Viveros is grateful for the partnership of South View Baptist Church. Their sending church not only provides a place to meet but critical support that helps them overcome the struggles of transitioning to the Lincoln mission field.
“Lincoln is definitely not Mexico City, and adjusting to a different place has been difficult. But knowing we are not alone is what keeps us going,” Viveros said. “In Spanish, we have a phrase: ‘codo a codo.’ It means ‘elbow to elbow.’ Every person who gives to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is right here with us, sharing not just the burden—but the victories as well. We are all ‘codo a codo.’”