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NAMB president addresses Hispanic celebration
Monday, Jun 16, 2008
By David Raul Lema Jr.

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Speaking in Spanish with a Portuguese accent, Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, delighted a crowd of Hispanic Southern Baptists at a NAMB-sponsored National Hispanic Celebration June 8.

“I love to be anywhere a Latin language is spoken,” Hammond told the 300-plus attendees.

The multilingual missions leader, who became NAMB’s president a year ago, was born in Nigeria to missionary parents, studied in England and has served as a missionary in Brazil.

Hammond, one of two keynote speakers, focused on Hispanic efforts in evangelism and church planting. Gonzalo Rodriguez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor in Metairie, La., shared from his experiences in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and addressed the need for servant leaders to receive criticism in a healthy manner.

The gathering, under the theme of “Vive con Urgencia!” (“Live with Urgency!”), preceded the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis.

Hammond noted the launch of the SBC’s new National Evangelism Initiative. “With our Acts 1:8 [state convention and Baptist association] partners and all of the SBC churches, we want to work united to share the Gospel with all of North America by the year 2020,” Hammond said. “We are committed.”

Pointing to brochures in Spanish detailing the initiative, Hammond said it also is being launched in Korean and Chinese.

Hammond, in his address, underscored praying for the lost; engaging the culture and networking; sowing the Gospel; and reaping the harvest God will give.

“After every national evangelism initiative we see an increase in baptisms,” Hammond said. “This trend demonstrates that we are better together than separate” in carrying the Gospel throughout North America.

Gonzalo Rodriguez, in his sermon “Called to Refresh,” said some Christians “throw cold water” on others. “Their gift is the ability to discourage others,” he said. Other Christians “throw you water to refresh you.”

Citing numerous examples of people who refreshed him and his church after Katrina, Rodriguez noted that “even small helps are rewarded by God in a large way.”

Bob S. Sena and his wife Priscilla were honored for 47 years of service to Southern Baptists. Sena is a coordinator for the resource development and delivery team of NAMB’s church planting group. Jorge Sedaca, a fellow team member, introduced Sena as “a workhorse for the Hispanic cause and always in action promoting missions.” Sena received a plaque from Hammond and David Meacham, senior strategist for NAMB’s church planting group.

Joel Jiménez, pastor of Immanuel Bilingual Church in Salinas, Calif., and founder of Terremoto/Earthquake Ministries to reach young adults in the inner city, shared a testimony about what God is doing in transforming the lives of youth in the gang culture.

Prior to his testimony, his wife Marina Jimenez, who is waiting to receive a second heart transplant, was asked to come to the platform for prayer. After receiving a new heart about 10 years ago, she recently was told that she needs another transplant in order to live.

Al Fernandez, director of South Florida urban impact ministries of the Florida Baptist Convention, spoke of how church planting is being done in South Florida with an emphasis on leadership development, mentoring and developing partnerships.

A 12-member group from Glenview Baptist Church in Ponce, Puerto Rico, provided inspirational music for the meeting with a Latin beat.
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David Raul Lema Jr. is director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Center for the Americas in Miami and a correspondent for Baptist Press.

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