East Central Baptist Network celebrates first Hispanic pastors/wives retreat

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TITUSVILLE— Hispanic church leaders and their wives from Daytona, DeLand, Deltona, Oviedo and Sanford gathered Jan. 18-20 at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville for the inaugural East Central Baptist Network Hispanic pastors and wives’ retreat.

The gathering focused on camaraderie, relaxation, and physical and spiritual nourishment. It also zeroed in on building a Hispanic fellowship in the East Central Baptist Network that will encourage healthy relationships and increase the visibility of language churches among Florida Baptists.

“We wanted pastors to relax in an atmosphere where they can be themselves,” said Misael Castillo, Florida Baptists’ migrant ministries catalyst. “We recognize their hard labor and want them to know they are not alone in the field.”

Castillo added, “The men were helping cook and could be seen serving each other in the spirit of camaraderie and eating together.” Pastors and wives had opportunities to network with fellow ministers and participate in an ice cream social and challenging games.

Pastors and wives had opportunities to network with fellow ministers and participate in an ice cream social and challenging games.

Carlos Mendez, lead pastor of Iglesia Nuevo Comienzo in Sanford, spearheaded the pastors/wives retreat, and he explained the vision for the East Central Baptist Hispanic Network began to take shape in September 2023 with Hispanic pastors coming together in a roundtable event to discuss launching the network.

“Everyone was on board with the idea of building the fellowship from the ground up and being able to participate in the process,” he said.

Retreat guest speaker Samuel Otero, from San Antonio, Texas, spoke on spiritual leadership based on 1 Timothy 6:3-5. He reminded the pastors and wives of the importance of God’s leaders remaining subject to the Lord, His Word and sound doctrine.

Catalyst Castillo read from 2 Timothy 4:1-8 and challenged pastors and their wives to “be faithful to what God has called us to be and do.” His wife, Silvia Tamez, ministered to pastors’ wives.

The feedback from the retreat was encouraging.  “Some told me it was too short. Others asked me when are we doing this again,” reported Castillo.

Mendez added, “Pastor William Garay of Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Creación in Deltona exclaimed that the retreat was fantastic! Pastor Carlos Mendez of Iglesia Bautista Anastasis in Deltona said he has never gone to a pastor’s retreat, but he loved this and was truly blessed. His wife, Elsie Mendez, called our director of missions and expressed her gratitude for the retreat; she is ready for next year’s.”

Patrick Coats, Florida Baptists’ East region catalyst, said he is “excited to partner with the East Central Baptist Hispanic Network and delighted and honored to have met the pastors and wives and fellowship with their families.”

Coats added, “It is great to see how we support one another in the Florida Baptist Convention and see our language churches working together.”

Castillo agreed, “There is no reason for Hispanic pastors and their wives to feel alone anymore.”

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