Church Planters, Pastors and Resources Bring New Energy to Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

Félix Cabrera (center) speaks with David Melber, president of Send Relief (left), and Carlos Rodriguez, North American Mission Board Send Puerto Rico missionary, during a disaster relief trip in the weeks after Hurricane Maria.
Photo by Sam Porter

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, Félix Cabrera and his wife Denisse arrived to visit the island where he was born and deliver aid in the storm’s aftermath. Cabrera thought he was just there to help in a time of need, but God was working on something more.

“God convinced us that He wanted us to return to the island to help in this new church planting movement,” Cabrera said.

“I confess that the feeling is bittersweet,” Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, wrote in a blog post. “On the one hand, we are happy to contemplate what God wants to do in Puerto Rico, but at the same time we are very sad because we are leaving our church family.”

Cabrera left Puerto Rico for Oklahoma City in 2010 to start Iglesia Bautista Central. As IBC’s pastor, Cabrera helped found the Red 1:8, which has planted 35 churches across North America, in Latin America and in Spain. IBC’s ministry has been designed to multiply, and their church has ordained and sent out more than 15 church planters and pastors.

Cabrera, who also currently serves as the Southern Baptist Convention’s second vice president, will return to his hometown of San Juan in late December, where he will plant a church and serve as the North American Mission Board’s church planting catalyst on the island.

Four church planter apprentices and their families plan to relocate with Cabrera as well, with a goal for each of them to plant their own churches over the next 18 months.

As NAMB continues to develop its Send Puerto Rico emphasis, it is infusing new energy and resources into church planting efforts and enhancing compassion ministry work through the mission board’s Send Relief arm. Several Puerto Ricans who had established lives on the mainland have been answering the call to return home to be a part of ministry on the island.

“We are incredibly excited to be a part of what God is doing in Puerto Rico,” said Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president. “Some amazing leaders are stepping up to serve the island, and NAMB is honored to get to provide the training and resources necessary to equip them for ministry.”

Carlos Rodriguez, NAMB’s Send Missionary in Puerto Rico, stated that a church planting pipeline is already under development and that eight to 10 leaders should be ready to plant churches in the next 18 months.

“God is bringing us key people to help us bring church planting and Send Relief to a new level,” Rodriguez said.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Brandon Elrod