June 16, 1999
IMB seeks Hispanic involvement
___RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--Trustees of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board spent a major portion of their spring meeting grappling with how to involve more Hispanic Southern Baptists as missionaries and staff and how to improve relations with the Hispanic community in general.
___The trustees--meeting May 24-26 in Richmond, Va.--also began initial discussions about the serious impact of the growing number of new missionaries on the board's Rockville, Va., Missionary Learning Center.
___The board's committee on public relations and development met with key Hispanic leaders from Texas, Florida, California and New Mexico and proposed an ongoing dialogue to significantly upgrade relations with Southern Baptist Hispanics.
___"Apparently we've had a gap in communications" with Hispanics, committee member Patrick Stewart of Illinois reported to the full board meeting. "We are excited about this contact and about the possibilities that lie ahead in our relationship with this group of Southern Baptists."
___During the committee meeting, it was noted that only 43 Hispanic Southern Baptists serve overseas, while nearly 10 percent of Southern Baptist churches could be classified as predominantly Hispanic. If 10 percent of the IMB's 4,500 missionaries were Hispanic, the number of Hispanic missionaries would be about 450.
___"We see a huge opportunity that could have a huge impact," Stewart said.
___One of the Hispanic Baptist leaders who attended the trustee meeting agreed.
___"I see a potential that could be phenomenal in mobilizing Hispanics who are called to be involved in missions," said Gus Suarez, director of the missions ministries division of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. "Because of our background, most Hispanics have the potential of fitting into different cultures faster. I see a tremendous potential in reaching the world for Christ.
___"I left the board meeting feeling that if the trustees were able to do something right away about recruiting Hispanics, they would do it," he added. "It was a very good step in the right direction."
___The board recently appointed Jason Carlisle, who was reared in Uruguay by missionary parents and who served in Uruguay as a missionary, as the board's liaison to the Hispanic Baptist community in the United States.
___Trustees began addressing the issue of increased demand on the IMB's Missionary Learning Center in Rockville by appropriating $300,000 for schematic drawings of additions planned for the facility.
___A dramatic upsurge in new missionary appointments in recent years, particularly in 1998, has severely stressed the facility, staff leaders said. At one point in 1998, the large number of candidates, combined with a drought in Virginia, forced water rationing, including showers only every other day and severe restrictions on laundry.
___IMB leaders say the large appointment service May 25 for 76 new career and associate missionaries emphasizes the growth trend. The 76 new missionaries more than replaced the 70 who reitred May 23.
___"If we continue to appoint in one of six career appointment services each year the approximate number of missionaries retiring for the entire year, we will see continuing radical growth in our missionary force," IMB President Jerry Rankin said in his report to the board.
___In other business, a report on changing the use of the term "furlough" to "stateside assignment" noted that having international missionaries in the United States "is an opportunity not only to report to Southern Baptists but also to mobilize them by enlisting prayer and ministry supporters, personnel and volunteers and by encouraging giving."
___"The missionary is the most effective mobilizer," the report said.It defines "stateside assignment" as "a designated length of absence from a specific overseas assignment."
___During the meeting, trustees re-elected Bill Sutton, pastor of First Baptist Church in McAllen, as chairman. They also re-elected Alan Day of Edmond, Okla., as first vice chairman, elected Steve McKown of Surprise, Ariz., as second vice chairman and re-elected Nancy Callahan of Warrensburg, Mo., as recording secretary.
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