JACKSONVILLE–Following in the footsteps of New Testament encourager Barnabas, Victor Reyes is a source of encouragement and community to Jacksonville’s 20 Hispanic churches, many of which are led by bivocational pastors and embrace multiple nationalities within their congregations.
As pastor of Iglesia Bautista Neptune in Neptune Beach, Reyes volunteers his time and gifts with the Jacksonville Baptist Association (JBA), to provide support, fellowship and needed resources for area Hispanic pastors.
“Victor Reyes is an example of endurance, a Good Samaritan, a man with a giving heart and an example of selflessness,” said Jaime Lopez, JBA facilitator of Hispanic Ministries.
A native of Mexico City, Reyes became a Christian at a local Baptist church in his hometown and felt God’s call to ministry while attending a youth conference in Havana, Cuba in 1991. Upon returning home, he enrolled in seminary, graduating in 1995. He and his wife, Loida, have lived in Florida since 2001.
“I try to keep the pastors together; they need training and resources for new believers to make disciples,” said the pastor.
Reyes coordinates fellowship for the Hispanic leaders, which is offered every other month on the second Tuesday afternoon at the JBA building. And on the second month the fellowship is held on Thursday evening at the JBA to include the bivocational pastors and their wives.
For the evening fellowship “couples bring food from their countries–Mexico, Columbia, Cuba, Paraguay, Venezuela, Puerto Rico–to share,” said Reyes.
Typically, a speaker is invited to bring a word and testimony of encouragement; one of the Hispanic pastors brings a biblical devotional. For these evening meetings, the Florida Baptist Convention provides gifts for the couples. There were 45 attending the February fellowship.
Serving alongside Victor is his wife Loida, who works as a ministry assistant for the Convention’s missions group.
“Our Hispanic congregations speak the same language, Spanish, but they are from different countries and cultures. You may find 12 or more nationalities in one Hispanic church,” said Loida Reyes, a native Cuban.
“Every pastor and wife need prayer and encouragement, time to focus on each other, quality time for family,” she said. She encourages church members to “pray for your pastor and wife, and if you have a chance to bless and encourage them, just do it.”
Pastor Reyes has taken on a new mission to help Cuban Baptists in the Western Cuba Baptist Convention lead Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) in their communities. In May 2019, he and four others traveled to Havana to train church leaders to use Lifeway Christian Resources’ VBS curriculum “In the Wild.” Lifeway and the Florida convention helped provide some of the VBS decorations and materials.
Attendance at the two-day training included 230 children’s leaders representing 162 churches. As a result, 14,500 children attended VBS events on the island last year, with 2,200 of the children reporting salvation decisions for Jesus.
“I plan to do this training for four years and in 2021 help both the Western and Eastern Cuba Conventions,” said Reyes. They will return to Havana again this May for a one-day Saturday training.