ORLANDO, Fla.— More than 200 Florida Baptist Hispanics gathered at Faith Hall at First Baptist Church in Orlando for a fellowship luncheon in which a new initiative to help immigrant pastors and ministry leaders was introduced.
After worship, fellowship over lunch, embraces and posing for photos with friends, the group settled in to learn about Grupo de Integración Ministerial (GIM) or Ministry Integration Group in English.
The GIM initiative is led by pastors Alberto Ocaña of Iglesia Bautista Northside in Hialeah; Eloy Rodriguez of Spanish Idlewild in Lutz; David Perez of Iglesia Casa de Bendición in Saint Cloud; Martin Vargas of Iglesia Real in Hollywood; International Mission Board Hispanic mobilizer Oscar Tortolero; and Israel Martin pastor of the Hispanic congregation of First Baptist Church in Orlando.
“The purpose of this group is to prepare and guide pastors and ministry workers who come to settle in Florida from Latin American countries,” said Ocaña.
The group plans to help newly arrived pastors and other ministry workers by identifying their skills, educating them on the culture, teaching them to be financially healthy, connecting them to churches and ministry opportunities, while encouraging and supporting them.
The initiative will focus on five platforms that pastors will fall into depending on their skills and training. These platforms are Hispanic church ministry, ministry alongside an American church, church planting, bi-vocational ministry and international missions.
“We hope to help pastors know that they are not alone or to put aside their ministries as they settle into a new context,” said Perez.
The group also voted to approve continued terms for the officers of the Florida’s Hispanic Baptist Fellowship. Perez will continue as president; Carol Vidal, Spanish pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale, as vice-president; Daniel Milovan pastor of Iglesia Bautista Casa De Bendición in Lake Worth, as secretary in south region; Rogney Paz, Spanish pastor at Crossroad Baptist Church in Ocala, as secretary in central region and Gabriel Vargas, pastor of Misión Casa in Gulf Breeze as secretary in north region.
The luncheon ended by conferring a Doctor of Divinity upon Cuban pastor and author Alberto Gonzalez. The doctorate from the Louisiana Baptist University and Seminary was in honor of his faithfulness to ministry in a hostile environment like Cuba and the over 20 books on ministry he has written.