We invited American Baptists from across the country to share their Ministry Stories with the American Baptist Family and with the world! This is a part of the Transformed by the Spirit initiative. Want to share your story? Written and Video submissions are invited at: firstname.lastname@example.org. View the full list of Ministry Story Opportunity Submissions.
The Joy of Doing Mission as One
Transformed by the Spirit – Ministry Story Opportunity
West Virginia Baptist Convention and Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico Mission Partnership
In John 17:21 Jesus prayed, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
In 2012, the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico (IBPR) and the West Virginia Baptist Convention (WVBC) began to explore the possibility to develop a partnership to do mission together. Both regions felt that God was calling and leading them to walk a long side each other for mutual learning and the enrichment of their ministries.
Through mission partnerships we can accomplish God’s dream together – every person from every nation, tribe and tongue kneeling and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord for the Glory of God. The executive ministers from both regions, Dr. Roberto Dieppa-Báez and Dr. David Carrico, understood that when we partner, we bring joy to God’s heart and we can have a larger impact for His kingdom. Rev. Lydia Rivas from Puerto Rico observed, “We know God is calling us to do missions in the USA, we came willing and opened to what He wants to show us.”
Through the partnership between the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico and the West Virginia Baptist Convention we have seen Jesus’ prayer becoming a reality. West Virginians and Puerto Ricans together on mission are changing lives.
In June 2013, Rev. Laura Ayala led an incredibly creative, talented, passionate, and committed group of 24 young adults from several churches across Puerto Rico. During their two-week mission in the mountain state, the mission team learned about Appalachian culture and collaborated with the church camp of the Eastern Baptist Association. They led more than 40 American kids in powerful times of praise and worship. Cultural and language barriers were torn down by the power of God´s love. Puerto Ricans and West Virginians joined hands, played, and laughed together.
The team also collaborated with the new church plant Iglesia Bautista Comunidad Luz y Vida in Moorefield, WV by leading a VBS for kids of Hispanic immigrants. Puerto Ricans, Mexican, Hondurans and people from other Hispanic countries come to Moorefield to work in a chicken processing plant; Comunidad Luz y Vida is sharing Christ’s love with them. Several kids, teenager, and adults confessed Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives in the camp and the VBS.
Rev. Felipe Candelaria from Puerto Rico notes about this partnership: “this partnership between our regions is a dream for many in Puerto Rico. God has laid in our hearts a heavy burden for the Hispanic community which faces tremendous challenges in the USA. To partner in this mission and fellowship endeavor make us realize that the times and the ways to engage missions are undergoing radical transformation. It is no longer about going to a country to teach them rather it is about learning from each other as brothers and sisters in Christ because together we have been called to establish the kingdom of God in this world.”
Another joint effort was Project Hope. Both regions received from the Palmer Grant Program of the American Baptist Foundation a grant which served to implement a cross-cultural discipleship process for 10 young adults, ages 18-29. Project HOPE provided an opportunity for 10 young adults, 5 from each region, to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ and put their faith in action. Young adults from West Virginia and Puerto Rico visited each other´s regions to learn from their culture and passion for Christ. And through this venue explored callings and discovered gifts. Project HOPE employed face-to-face interactions as well as communication technologies for online interactions. The young adults participating in this process developed a modular curriculum for young adults to explore and listen to Jesus’ call to be missionaries anywhere they find themselves.
In June and July 2014, two more teams of young adults came from Puerto Rico to West Virginia to continue strengthening the bonds of friendship and collaboration. Rev. Laura Ayala led the team that assisted the Eastern Baptist Association with their church camp. Once more God torn down cultural and language barriers to join many hearts for the glory of Jesus. The second team was under the leadership of Wilfredo Mercado Reyes. Every evening the mission team and volunteers from Iglesia Bautista Comunidad Luz y Vida welcomed the many children and adults attending the VBS. There were people from Honduras, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the USA.
The team also shared Christ’s love with the workers at a peach orchard by providing a lunch, New Testaments, and a time of prayer. Valerie Motta from Puerto Rico says, “Many of these farmworkers go through a lot of hardships. It was a blessing to be able to pray for them and they also blessed us because they shared with us the food they had brought. They did not have to do it, but they did it. I felt in family.” Luis Diaz, another team member, shared the message of the gospel with two farm workers, a Mexican and Honduran, they were deeply touched and with tears in their eyes gave their lives to Christ. After sharing a reflection and presenting a New Testament to every worker, they held hands in a circle to pray for their needs and families in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Puerto Rico.
In the Bible we find stories where the people of God worked together in partnership to accomplish God’s purposes. There are also stories in which God calls and sends his people beyond their horizons and comfort zones to be a blessing to other nations. As we follow Jesus and seek to make a difference in the world, the Spirit of God will prompt us to move into the unknown. Surely, it is there where we know God more profoundly.
We are the answer to Jesus’ prayer when we join hearts and hands together in mission to share his love with our families, neighborhoods, and across the world. An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” When we go together in mission, we not only go far, but we also thrive and our light shines brighter (Matthew 5:14).
The West Virginia Baptist Convention and the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico will continue to explore and discern ministry opportunities to further God’s kingdom and make disciples of Jesus Christ