God is at work through Southern Baptists on the Island of Enchantment, also known as Puerto Rico. But there is much gospel work to be done.
Puerto Rico is a United States territory in the Caribbean Sea with a population of 3.4 million people. There are currently 51 SBC churches listed as affiliated with the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, with 20 of the churches and pastors currently planting or replanting, and revitalizing churches.
The Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia churches have been actively involved in gospel work through Send Relief and have been partnering with local churches since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017. Maria changed the landscape of Puerto Rico physically and spiritually. And the door for new gospel work was opened as well.
In the aftermath of Maria, God called out Felix Cabrera to lead the Send Puerto Rico evangelistic focus and Jonathan Santiago to lead the Send Relief effort in Puerto Rico.
Cabrera, who also serves as pastor of a church in San Juan and executive director of the convention, said that while God is doing great things in Puerto Rico, “There is a great need for more partners to continue growing the work of Christ.”
Churches ‘caught the vision’
In May 2021, 11 pastors and leaders from SBCV churches attended a North American Mission Board-sponsored Catch the Vision Tour in Puerto Rico. This was the latest group in a growing line of SBCV churches finding ways to serve in Puerto Rico.
From the first callout for disaster response after Hurricane Maria to the continuing DR efforts through Send Relief, SBCV churches have been on the front lines in Puerto Rico. This partnership of SBCV churches and local Puerto Rican churches readily respond to earthquakes and even political unrest, and they stand ready to care for and share the gospel with those in need.
Some churches like Sky View Missionary Baptist Church in Fancy Gap, Virginia, have sent several teams to serve Puerto Rico. Several churches are partnering directly with church planters for long-term partnerships that include prayer, financial support and sending teams. London Bridge Baptist Church in Virginia Beach; New Bridge Baptist Church in Sandston; Cave Spring Baptist Church in Roanoke; and Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown, are just a few of the SBCV churches committing to partner with local churches in Puerto Rico.
On a recent trip, Pastor Nathan Cecil of Fox Hill Baptist Church in Hampton was impacted by hearing from each of the church planters who presented. “This is a beautiful place with faithful brothers and sisters serving faithfully all over the island.”
Pastor James Hobson of Hill City Community Church in Lynchburg plans to explore internship opportunities in Puerto Rico in the future. David Patsel of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights is excited to explore partnerships and meet even more church planters to see where the Lord will lead his church to partner.
SBCV church planter Josh Weatherspoon of The Way Church in Glen Allen shared how partnering in Puerto Rico will not only serve Puerto Rican churches but can strengthen his own. “Sending teams to Puerto Rico can give our church members experience in missions that will also prepare us to go to reach unreached people groups around the world.”
More partners needed
Brad Russell, SBCV’s mobilization strategist, explained, “The goal is to see every one of the 20 current church planters in Puerto Rico have one or more SBCV churches partnering to pray, give and send mission teams.”
Cabrera is grateful: “We are thankful for Virginia Baptists who are so faithful to encourage pastors, support financially, bring teams and continually pray for us.”
To explore opportunities in Puerto Rico, visit sbcv.org/go.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was featured in summer 2021 issue of Proclaimer, which is published by the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia, and is used with permission. To read about SBCV’s new five-year partnership with the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, click here.