First Class of Hispanic Florida Baptist Chaplains Graduates, Ready for the Mission Field

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ORLANDO—On Saturday, June 29, Primera Iglesia Bautista de Orlando made history by hosting the graduation of 73 Hispanic men and women as chaplains through the Florida Baptist Convention’s chaplaincy course.

The graduation marked the fulfillment of a vision shared by Misael Castillo, migrant ministries catalyst for the FBC, and Marc Johnston, community ministries catalyst.

The graduates take the oath of chaplains after receiving their certificate.

“Today we witness the result of something that began a long time ago,” said Castillo during the commencement ceremony.

Fifteen years ago, Johnston and Castillo envisioned a force of Hispanic chaplains capable of reaching migrant workers in areas where churches have limited access, while also serving as mediators between police and migrant communities.

This dream began to take shape when Johnston’s chaplaincy program was translated into Spanish by Angelica and Moises Bermudez, members of Iglesia Bautista Dios es Bueno in Daytona Beach. Their father, church pastor Angel Bermudez, created a syllabus which was then taught at various Hispanic churches across Florida in two-day or five-day formats, depending on the church’s needs.

Yoenis Leindens, from Dios es Bueno, is one of the newly graduated chaplains. “This is an achievement for me, and I am looking forward to serving and sharing the gospel in this capacity,” he said. Originally from Venezuela, Leindens and his wife host a life group in their home and serve on their church’s worship team. As a chaplain, he looks forward to bringing the gospel to places like jails, prisons, detention centers, his workplace, and communities affected by disaster.

Some of the graduates also trained as Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and proudly wore badges identifying them as such. Rich Rigdon, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief operations manager, told graduates, “Being a chaplain changed my life. It is wonderful to be able to share the gospel.”

“The greatest characteristic a chaplain can have is compassion,” Johnston told the new chaplains. “As a chaplain, you will have the opportunity to help restore a person to the Kingdom.”

The Florida Baptist Convention’s chaplaincy certification program is available online at no cost. To apply for the Spanish or English courses, visit https://flbaptist.org/chaplaincy/.

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