Puerto Rico Baptists celebrate growth, increased giving

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (BP) -- Under the slogan "Until all Puerto Rico hears from Him!" a renewed and restructured Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico (CIBSPR) met Friday and Saturday (Nov. 15-16).

Félix Cabrera (left), executive director of Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, addresses a record crowd at the convention's annual meeting Nov. 15. "What we have seen this year is a reaffirmation of the sufficiency of the Scriptures," Cabrera said.
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The event, whose name changed from "Assembly" to "Annual Meeting" began Friday evening, when more than 265 Puerto Rican Baptists gathered for a celebration service in honor of what God has done during the year. After a time of praise, Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, shared a message about the effect of "Jesus being in the house" and the implications of making Him known in Puerto Rico and to the ends of the earth. The service was followed by a time of fellowship.

On Saturday morning, 142 messengers and more than 60 guests -- the largest attendance ever recorded and double last year's number -- received a greeting from Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear and SBC Executive Committee president and CEO Ronnie Floyd. Both men reminded the Puerto Rican Baptists that they are part of a larger family and encouraged them to continue to participate in reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Cooperative Program.

Other SBC leaders at the meeting included Bob Sena, Hispanic relations consultant for the Executive Committee; Carlos Ferrer, executive vice president and CFO of the North American Mission Board (NAMB); and Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

Business

Félix Cabrera, the convention's executive director, reviewed the achievements of his first year in the role, including a 5-point increase in money being forwarded to national and international causes as well as significant increases in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Puerto Rican Baptists also set a giving record for their contributions to an offering called "Help Bahamas."

Anticipated receipts for 2020 are $62,626, up from $32,000 in 2019. The percentage allocated to SBC causes was raised from 10 percent to 15 percent, or $9,394.

Cabrera also presented the convention's new logo and a new website that includes an interactive map to help locate affiliated churches. New initiatives established or reestablished this year include women's ministry, discipleship and a renewed Student Baptist Union on three of the island's college campuses.

Jonathan Santiago, NAMB's Send Relief director in Puerto Rico, reported that since Hurricane Maria in 2017, close to 2,500 volunteers have served in recovery efforts and about $3 million in aid has been distributed to pastors, local churches and the general public. This translates into more than 700,000 hot meals served and approximately 350,000 bags of groceries. Volunteers have recorded more than 70,000 work hours, and Send Relief has worked on 900 homes, 420 of which have required new roofs.

Officers remained the same and include president David Colón, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Logos in Santa Isabel; vice president Junior Martínez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Comunidad de Gracia in Guayanilla; secretary Xavier Torrad, pastor of Iglesia Gracia Redentora in Vega Baja; assistant secretary Gil Ramos, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Renacer in Lares; treasurer Raúl Torres, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Oasis de Amor in Penuelas; and assistant treasurer Andrés Laracuente, pastor of Iglesia Bíblica Metro, Carolina.

Messengers approved a new constitution that imposes greater responsibility on affiliated churches to support the Cooperative Program. They also approved an additional 5-point increase in money forwarded to the SBC by 2020.

Messengers were invited to participate in at least three areas of ministry -- the "Who's Your One?" evangelism emphasis championed by NAMB, chaplaincy ministry and the establishment of a Southern Baptist seminary in Puerto Rico. The convention also announced ministry training for both men and women in 2020.

A new day for the Puerto Rican Baptists

Guest speakers noted the health of the CIBSPR and the meeting's joyful atmosphere:

Scott McConnell: "Too often as Southern Baptists we have lost our love for being together. That was not the case this weekend. At the annual convention of Southern Baptist churches of Puerto Rico, the messengers took great pleasure in being together.... Great things are happening among Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico."

Johnny Hunt: "One of my greater joys is being involved with the Puerto Rico Convention. The youthfulness of their pastors speaks of an incredibly bright future. The leadership that's in place is of the highest caliber. Great days are here!"

Bobby Sena: Immediately after arriving in San Juan, I sensed that this would not be just another meeting.... I was honored to represent the Executive Committee and to share a word of support and encouragement to the leadership, pastors and churches -- but the truth is that they encouraged and blessed me!"

Carlos Ferrer: "In my 27 years at NAMB I've never been so amazed and excited about all God is doing in Puerto Rico. We are seeing a great movement of God's Spirit through Send Puerto church planting and Send Relief meeting compassion needs throughout the island."

Cabrera shared the excitement, noting "What we have seen this year is a reaffirmation of the sufficiency of the Scriptures, remembering what biblical leadership looks like, and placing teamwork as a conviction. There is much work to be done, challenges to be met, areas to be perfected and above all, lives to be reach with the Gospel! We trust that our good God will continue to give us the wisdom, the ability and the same conviction and spirit to continue working together and focusing on making Christ known in every corner of Puerto Rico."

Reported by Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico staff.
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