By Ann Maniscalco
According to U.S. Census Bureau findings, an estimated 2.7% of Mississippians are of Hispanic descent (http://quickfacts.census.gov). So with a Mississippi population of nearly three million, Hispanics number around 80,000.
That’s a lot of souls for whom Christ died. That’s a wide-open mission field that must not be ignored. And thanks to a network of Hispanic Southern Baptist congregations across the state, “el pan de la vida” (“the bread of life”; John 6:35) is being shared.
To help disciple Hispanic believers, state training events are held regularly. In February, the Segunda Feria Misionera (Second Missionary Fair), sponsored by the Unión Femenil Misionera Bautista Hispana (Hispanic Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union) of Mississippi, brought together attendees from Pascagoula to Corinth.
240 church pastors, leaders, members and children converged on Forest Baptist Church for the multi-faceted and well-orchestrated event. “We expected 180,” smiled a pleased Kleber Jimenez, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor (First Baptist Church of the Good Shepherd) in Forest. He and his wife, Gioconda (President of the state Hispanic WMU), were part of the planning team coordinating the day’s activities.
Thirteen Hispanic congregations were represented at the missions fair. Among attendees was Tino Trevino, President of the State Hispanic Fellowship of Baptist Churches, and pastor of congregations in Lyon and Batesville.
Trevino desires “to get the Hispanics more involved actively and financially, as well as with prayer support.” He envisions seeing all the congregations “join together, support each other and love each other as we should, and to reach out to lost people.”
Although local and national outreach is vital, the main focus of this event was to help conferees expand their vision beyond the United States, and several program segments helped accomplish this.
A Parade of Flags was enjoyed by all. For each country represented, a Power Point slide gave information about the population, leaders, religions, etc.
Technology was further employed as a pair of You Tube videos showed how Chronological Bible Storying brought God’s word – and salvation – to the Mouk tribe of Papua, New Guinea, and as an IMB (International Mission Board) missionary couple addressed the group via Skype. Several pastors and wives had already served with this couple in the Middle East, and others were challenged to consider going.
Mike Racey, who with his wife, Annette, served with the IMB in Chile, brought the keynote address. Noting that some countries are now closed to Anglos, but that Hispanics can still gain entrance, he also challenged listeners to accept the task of helping reach these parts of the world.
For those considering expanding their education to further prepare for service, Milton Aguilar explained the Ethnic Leadership Development program from Golden Gate Seminary (www.ggbts.edu). IMB Hispanic Mobilization Associate Marvin Mercado was also on hand to distribute materials and talk to interested persons.
Paula Smith, Mission Consultant with Language and Literacy for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, was thrilled with the “building blocks” presented. She is confident attendees departed with seeds of renewed vision rooted in their hearts and minds, which will blossom in days to come.
South Mississippi writer Ann Maniscalco loves hearing and re-telling stories of mission adventures, as well as taking part in such opportunities.