SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — In late 2019 and early 2020, a series of earthquakes hit Puerto Rico on the island’s south side near the city of Ponce. Iglesia Bautista Misionera, pastored by Rubén Rodríguez, had just affiliated with Southern Baptists and was being relaunched with the help of Send Network Puerto Rico.
“We had a kitchen, but not a lot of volunteers and resources,” Rodríguez said. “Send Relief brought food and volunteers. Through that process we were able to cook for 500 people for 11 days. That’s what it looks like when you work together with other churches.”
During their meetings in San Juan earlier this week, trustees with the North American Mission Board were able to see first-hand how new churches and compassion ministry can come together to meet needs, share the gospel and see communities transformed for Christ.
Puerto Rico is beset with the burdens of poverty, recent natural disasters and challenges with local government—a combination that weighs heavily on many residents. But increasingly, there is hope because more are encountering Southern Baptist ministries.
On Monday, Feb. 5, NAMB trustees visited the Send Relief Ministry Center in Guaynabo, on the southwest side of San Juan. The center can house up to 100 people and hosted more than 2,000 volunteers helping more than 1,000 people through services such as home repair, food distribution and painting schools in 2023.
At dinner trustees met and celebrated the work of more than a dozen church planters. Southern Baptists have started 31 new churches on the island since 2010. Staff and missionaries from Send Relief and Send Network were also introduced. In addition, NAMB president Kevin Ezell led panel discussions from many of those serving on the front lines of ministry in Puerto Rico, including staff at Adoptando, a Send Relief Ministry Center serving children in need of adoption and foster care.
In other trustee business:
After receiving reports from each trustee committee, Ezell shared remarks in his president’s report. Acknowledging several challenges currently facing Southern Baptists, he highlighted accomplishments including a 29 percent increase in giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, a strong four-year survival rate for church plants and the 31 new churches Send Network has helped start in Puerto Rico since 2010, 26 occurring just since 2017.
But he also reminded trustees that NAMB’s assignment is bigger than any one person or any single achievement.
“Send Network didn’t exist, now it does. Send Relief didn’t exist, now it does. NAMB did not have a sense of focus, now it does. But this is not about any personality here,” Ezell said to the trustees. “All of this will live beyond Kevin Ezell and each of you. God placed you here for a lot of reasons, and I am absolutely convinced this work at NAMB is one of those reasons.”
Ezell closed his address by leading trustees in a prayer for North American missionaries.