By David R. Lema Jr.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Several hundred Hispanic pastors, missionaries and leaders gathered at the annual National Hispanic Celebration June 21 to celebrate church planting and evangelization — and chart new directions.
The evening’s focus — “Live with Urgency: Sowing Together for the Harvest!” — also served as the official launching for Hispanics of the North American Missions Board’s (NAMB) new evangelism initiative for North America, “God’s Plan for Sharing,” or GPS.
At Parkland Church, NAMB President Geoff Hammond welcomed the crowd in Spanish, “with a strong dose of Portuguese,” he laughed, reflecting his former missions work in Brazil.
“Together we can do a lot, sowing with urgency for the glory of God,” Hammond said, emphasizing that more than ever before, North America is a mission field. Hammond explained the basic framework of GPS, underscoring the need for Southern Baptists to sow the seeds of the Gospel into peoples’ lives in order to see a harvest of salvations.
Bob Sena, resource development and delivery coordinator in NAMB’s church planting group, presented new resources available to Hispanic leaders and church planters for their work across North America.
Noting that “never in our history have so many resources been made available in Spanish to facilitate the task of the Great Commission for Hispanic Christians,” Sena said Hispanic church leaders can access the resources online at www.gps2020.org.
“God bless our nation with a great revival — this has to be our prayer,” Sena said.
Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in addressing the celebration, “You are part of the largest minority in our nation, and we are thankful for your involvement and support of Baptist work and in international missions as well.”
Manuel Jesus Tec, a church planter from San Diego, captivated the crowd with his harrowing story of survival after being kidnapped from Tijuana, Mexico, in October 2008.
Tec said he was deprived of food for 11 days as bandits demanded a $1 million ransom from his family.
“I knew thousands were praying for me, I could feel their prayers,” Tec said. “When I heard other prisoners being executed, I asked Jesus to come be with me. Immediately I sensed a presence next to me … [a] weight against my shoulder. I looked and saw no one and knew that Jesus was right there with me and He was not going to let me alone.”
Tec was released by the captors in poor health and weak. He was found in a ditch on the side of the road by police and returned to his family and given professional care. Soon, Tec, who also had been diagnosed with cancer, was back in church sharing his testimony and thanking the many people who prayed for him.
Rudy Gonzalez, dean of Southwestern Batpist Theological Seninary’s San Antonio center, delivered a sermon on “Sharing the Urgency of Ministry” based on Mark 1:9-34. “God wants that the message be told with urgency and thus communicate the passion of God for the lost person,” Gonzalez said.
Citing Acts 13:1-3, Gonzalez concluded by noting that “Paul and Barnabas were literally ‘released’ or more like ‘thrown out’ by the church. The attitude of the apostles was that they had been freed to do the work — they went out with urgency, like a horse ready to run. Urgency, above all, is a characteristic that does not lie about the task of true servants of Christ.”
Praise and worship for the celebration was provided by the family group Caballero, from Cornerstone Church, Windsor, Colo.
David Raul Lema Jr. is director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Center for the Americas in Miami and a correspondent for Baptist Press.