LEESBURG— Once the focus of missionary outreach, Hispanics have now become a mission force, sharing the gospel at home and internationally.
The recent Florida Baptist Hispanic pastors and wives retreat–with the theme Firm, Constant and Growing based on 1 Corinthians 15:58–provided encouragement, training and celebration for all that God is doing through Hispanic churches on mission.
During the three-day retreat, the group of close to 500 heard from speakers Gilberto Corredera, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church Español in Texas; Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention; and Manuel Barahona, pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Boynton Beach, among others.
In his message, Corredera shared that he became a Christian as a young person in Cuba. He invited his friends to church, but the friends’ rowdiness frustrated church leaders, who asked Corredera not to bring them anymore.
“So, I began preaching to my friends and discipling them with my Bible open between us over an old sewing machine top,” he said.
Hispanics are an incredible mission force, speakers noted, because they understand how to navigate between cultures, have ability to speak two or more languages, and are open to moving to a new country.
Attendees also participated in breakouts covering topics like church planting in North America, sending missionaries internationally, discipleship, staying strong in the faith, and connecting with the next generation.
“No church is too small to send missionaries,” said Annel Robayna, IMB Hispanic mobilizer, during his breakout session. “Small churches sending missionaries to South Asia over the years is what led to the IMB installing two full-time missionaries. All churches can send missionaries.”
“Hispanics have made the assumption that missions has to be done in concentric circles,” said Felix Cabrera, Send Network Español vice-president, during his breakout session. “It’s not first Jerusalem, then Judea, and then Samaria…It’s Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.”
He encourages pastors to think more about the growth of the gospel than the growth of their churches. “Don’t be afraid to send out the best people you have … It’s not about the number of people who are sitting in your pews; it’s about the people you are sending out to reach others with the gospel … If you don’t send them out willingly, God will pull them out forcibly.”
Oscar and Ruth*, who have been married for two years, have committed to going as missionaries to South Asia and working among the Hindus there for three years, maybe more.
“For me, it’s very easy to shift between cultures because I was raised by Hispanic parents here in the U.S.,” said Oscar. “I also find that many unreached people groups and Hispanics share a lot of the same values such as community, hospitality and strong family bonds.”
Ruth added, “And because Hispanics are such a mixed group, they can often blend easily into the culture they are reaching because they physically look like the locals.”
‘I’m going to go’
‘God is calling me now, and I’m not going to wait until I feel ready. I’m going to go and let Him shape me along the way.’
Nineteen-year-old Moises Bermudez of Iglesia Bautista Dios es Bueno in Port Orange is going to spend two months this summer working with Send Relief in Puerto Rico. During his short-term mission trip, his team will work alongside church plants and a local orphanage and will lead Bible studies. Last year, the Venezuela native spent a week on mission in Puerto Rico.
“I feel the calling to be on mission, and I want to go and take the gospel to the places it hasn’t penetrated yet,” he said. “God is calling me now, and I’m not going to wait until I feel ready. I’m going to go and let Him shape me along the way.”
Connecting missionaries with local church
Victor Reyes, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Neptune, and his wife Loida are taking six couples of pastors and wives to Spain this summer to work with the local church and Hispanic IMB missionaries in Barcelona. Two years ago, the couple traveled on an IMB vision trip there and made the commitment to return every year with mission groups.
“We want to help connect the local Baptist church in Barcelona with the missionaries in the city who are working with the Muslim population there, and we also want to bring them training to equip them to be on mission,” said pastor Reyes, who added that the church in Barcelona tends to keep to itself but they are hoping to help them change that.
Joe Cordova, music director at First Baptist Church Naples, led a group of youth on a mission trip to Puerto Rico this March.
“One of the major benefits of being Hispanic on this trip is the ability to speak Spanish,” he said.
“My parents are both Puerto Rican and taught me Spanish at a very early age. Being able to speak Spanish is a blessing because I was able to speak with the locals and translate for our team. Most of the group were born and raised in the states along with myself, but in learning Spanish and having grown up with the Puerto Rican culture in my roots, I can understand and communicate with the people we will be working directly with on a different level.”
“My prayer is that God may continue to use us as vessels in sharing the message of Jesus all around the world and to help those who are suffering and in need.”