Not too long ago, there were no Hispanic Baptist church plants in the Mobile area. Thomas Wright had been praying for years for a church planter who could change that.
“Our associational leaders understand the importance of praying for and sharing Jesus with every person in Mobile County,” said Wright, who serves as executive director of missions for Mobile Baptist Association. “We recognized the best way to reach a growing population of Hispanics is through Hispanic congregations.”
So Mobile Baptists started forming small groups for Spanish speakers through local churches and began to pray for God to send Hispanic pastors.
Along the way Brian Harper, lead church planting strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, started talking with Ramón Vielza about the possibility of moving to Alabama.
Vielza, who at that time served as Hispanic catalyst for Baptists in North Carolina, had been part of a major movement in Cuba — 170 churches planted in nine years. As he talked with Harper, he began to catch a vision for what God might do in south Alabama.
“He told me the great necessity and the need here in the state of Alabama,” Vielza said. “For that same reason I came with my wife and my daughters specifically to Mobile because in the association there had never been a Hispanic church plant.”
Now he’s pastor of I-10 Church, a new plant in Mobile, and he’s helped train church planters to plant four more churches from Montgomery south.
“We’re also training five brothers so they can also plant five churches around the northern part of Florida,” Vielza said.
The effort has been a partnership between the SBOM, local Baptist associations, the North American Mission Board and local churches, including First Baptist Tillman’s Corner, which houses I-10 Church.
With support from the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering, Harper has walked alongside Vielza, supporting him throughout the process and helping strategize next steps.
“The Lord has brought this about,” Harper said. “They’re seeing people come to the Lord, people being baptized. God has really opened the doors.”
‘Grow and multiply’
He said the SBOM’s desire is to facilitate I-10 Church’s development into a church planter training and sending hub “that is going to grow and multiply.”
Through something like this, “church planters can absorb the DNA of having a passion for saving souls,” Harper said.
Vielza said multiplication is his hope too, noting that God “is making beautiful things in this area, in this place.”
“It’s the beginning of bigger things that I know are coming,” he said. “The harvest is plentiful, and a lot of the pastors I knew in Cuba are moving here to the United States because they know there is such a big need.”
He asked for prayer for God to provide the resources these new church planters will need to get started and sustain a new work.
“We know the Lord can do great things preparing the way for great things for His Kingdom,” Vielza said. “The challenge is great because economically it could be a little difficult, but we are praying, and we have faith God will provide.”
Wright said God definitely provides, and He definitely answers prayers, like the one Wright and others prayed for years for God to send Spanish-speaking pastors.
“The Lord used our partnership with the state convention to answer that prayer,” he said.
For more information about the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering and the Week of Prayer for State Missions, click here.