On March 2, over 1,000 American Baptist Church pastors and laity of Puerto Rico gathered to celebrate the installation of their new Executive Minister, Rev. Edgardo M. Caraballo Marín, who now represents the 115 churches of Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico. The evening was filled with vibrant worship, which included a live orchestra, prayers of gratitude, accolades and a powerful word from Pastor Anatalys Gonzalez Ortiz. The service was hosted by Pastor Carmen Adames and her team at Primera Iglesia Bautista de Carolina.
The Installation Service for Rev. Caraballo was the climax of the 116th Annual Meeting of the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico. Pastors and leaders from all across the country gathered to discuss issues facing the church. Rebuilding Puerto Rico was one of their top priorities – six months after Hurricane Maria, several areas are still without power and churches are still trying to restore their edifices. Still, the faith of the Puerto Ricans remains strong. Their theme Networks of Hope, taken from John 21:6a, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some,” reflects both the spirit and intentionality of Rev. Caraballo and the congregations.
American Baptist Churches USA demonstrated their support for Rev. Caraballo and the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico during the Installation Service. Dr. Reginald Mills, President of the Board of Directors of International Ministries, shared words of welcome and extended congratulations from Executive Director, Rev. Sharon Koh. Rev. Salvador Orellana of American Baptist Home Mission Societies presented remarks on behalf of Executive Director, Dr. Jeffrey Haggray. Rev. Marsha Scipio, Associate General Secretary for Missional Initiatives and Partnerships, represented the Office of General Secretary on behalf of Dr. Lee B. Spitzer. Dr. Spitzer, a former region executive minister, assured Rev. Caraballo that he is confident in his call; cognizant of the breadth of the responsibility the new position requires.
Rebuilding Puerto is a challenging task and the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico recognizes the need to have meaningful networks with each other and their brothers and sisters on the mainland. Rev. Scipio reminded the Assembly of the Sister Churches Initiative through the Office of the General Secretary. Through this initiative, churches in Puerto Rico will be paired with churches on the mainland to provide support, encouragement and prayer as they journey together in this season. In her address to the assembly she also commended the churches for their faith and hope in Christ, reminding them that, “true hope is the ability to look at the brokenness and thank God for the grace to be made whole again; to see beyond the devastation to the restoration.” Rev. Scipio reassured the Assembly that the Office of the General Secretary is committed to being part of their Network of Hope.
Rev. Scipio brought the message on Sunday, “A Witness in Challenging Times,” to the congregation at the Primera Iglesia Bautista de Carolina. This church is a wonderful example of the strong network that exists between Baptists on the mainland and those on the island. It is also one of the largest donors to American Baptist Churches United Mission. Pastor Adames explained that some of her members are still without power and other necessities since Hurricane Maria. We want to make sure we are providing continuing support to our sister churches in Puerto Rico. Let us continue to pray for our churches in Puerto Rico and give generously to their rebuilding efforts!