Julio Arriola, executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization for the SBC Executive Committee, leads worship at the Hispanic Fellowship Celebration June 13.
By Keila Diaz
NASHVILLE (BP) – Hispanic Baptists showed up by the hundreds to the Hispanic Celebration ahead of the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting Sunday (June 13).
The more than 800 Hispanic leaders, pastors and families who attended the worship celebration represented churches from all around the United States including Puerto Rico.
The night included worship sets led by The Florida Worship Band with a live orchestra directed by renowned composer Camp Kirkland, an interview with pastor and medical doctor Miguel Nuñez, greetings from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Ronnie Floyd and a message from Pastor Ramon Medina.
Hispanic churches, like others, were left rushing to find new ways of doing church when the pandemic upended life as everyone knew it in March of 2020. A little more than a year later, churches are starting to cautiously step into a form of normalcy again but with some uncertainty.
As a pastor, Nuñez understands what many in that room wondered and feared, and as a doctor, he was able to offer some answers and comfort. In an interview led by Julio Arriola, executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization at the SBC EC, Nuñez talked about vaccination, immunity, new variants of the virus and staying prudent as the world opens again.
When it comes to vaccination, Nunez said to trust the science that created the vaccine and not let social media posts influence the decision to get vaccinated. But “let’s not be divided over a vaccine,” he said, “but rather united for the Gospel.”
As new variants emerge in the United Kingdom, Africa and China, Nuñez assured that the vaccines available in America are effective against them.
“These aren’t new strains; they are new variants. As the virus copies itself over, it makes mistakes and that leads to the new variants we are seeing, and our vaccines are still effective in protecting us from them,” he said, adding that the essence of the virus remains the same.
Reading out of Acts 16, Medina reminded pastors that human plans, no matter how good and thought-out they are, will never be better than God’s, and to understand God’s plan, believer’s hearts must be humble and ready to obey.
Like Paul planned to go to Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, many pastors and churches had plans for 2020 and their ministries. Paul and his team were unable to evangelize in Asia Minor just like many churches and pastors were unable to carry out plans for 2020.
Still, God’s plan was for Paul and his team to preach in Macedonia, and once Paul understood, he got ready and he went out. So too, said Medina, must believers listen to God’s voice and obey the task He sets before His people.
Floyd made a surprise appearance at the gathering, in which he passionately encouraged Hispanics to reach other Hispanics by sending more workers into the field.
“There are more than 60 million Hispanics in America,” he said. “By 2030 there will be 75 million, by 2040 88 million and by 2060 there will likely be 111 million. … This is why you are the greatest opportunity for growth within the SBC.”
Floyd laid out a snippet of Vision 2025 before the group and challenged them to plant 800-1000 Hispanic churches by 2025 and to send more Hispanic missionaries to unreached people groups. Vision 2025 is the SBC Executive Committee’s evangelistic goal to increase the global reach of the Gospel.
Over the last 10 years, 130 Hispanic churches have been planted annually in North America, according to the North American Mission Board.
To close the night, Julio Arriola, executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization for the SBC Executive Committee, sang “The Blessing,” and the orchestra closed the night with a moving rendition of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” As Hispanic messengers left the ballroom at the Music City Center, many felt encouraged, refreshed, and excited for what God has in store for their ministries.