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Forging Partnerships in Puerto Rico

Forging Partnerships in Puerto Rico

Forging Partnerships in Puerto Rico

Recently, eight SCBaptist pastors and three Associational Mission Strategists embarked on a Vision Trip to Puerto Rico.

From December 27th to 30th, 2023, this group joined with leaders from other states to forge meaningful partnerships with North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planters and Send Relief leaders.

Puerto Rico, with its vibrant culture and resilient populace, has long been a focal point for NAMB initiatives. However, the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017 underscored the urgent need for enhanced support and collaboration.

Mission teams serve alongside Iglesia Gracia Redentora to rebuild and restore the community.

Rebuilding After Disaster

In response to these challenges, the Send Relief Ministry Center emerged to help with reconstruction efforts and to provide tangible aid to vulnerable communities. Established in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, this ministry center engages local churches and volunteers in outreach initiatives.

Send Relief Director in Puerto Rico, Jonathan Santiago, shared that Puerto Ricans ask why there has been a continued presence of Southern Baptists repairing roofs damaged by Hurricane Maria and the earthquakes. “We tell them: for us, it’s not about the roof. It’s about the people under the roof. It’s about God transforming lives and families with the Gospel,” Santiago said.

Pastor Richard Williams of Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church tours Send Relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Meeting Needs

Andres Laracuente, a Puerto Rican church planter, emphasized the transformative effect of disaster response efforts, stating, “Hurricane Maria opened up many new opportunities to get to know my community better.”

Each day of the trip, the SCBaptist pastors toured and observed the work of the three Send Relief Ministry Centers. “Send Relief Centers are providing amazing opportunities for churches to meet needs and to share Jesus,” Ken Owens, SCBaptist Send Team Leader, said.

Send Team Leader Ken Owens with NAMB church planter, Luis Rivera, of Igleisa Bíblica del Señor Jesucristo.

Planting Churches

In the capital city of San Juan, in addition to a few established Baptist churches and churches planted in recent years, the need exists for many more based on population. The current Southern Baptist presence in Puerto Rico comprises 56 churches, serving a population exceeding 3.4 million.

In the last five years, there have been 14 church plants started by church planters endorsed by the Send Network. As of now, there are three potential planting locations. “God is clearly at work in Puerto Rico. The number of churches is growing,” Owens said.

Owens emphasized the need for SCBaptists to join the efforts in Puerto Rico, saying, “This is an excellent opportunity for South Carolina Baptist churches to partner with church planters or conduct mission projects in a cross-cultural context with great need.”

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