Hispanic pastors build community despite pandemic
By Irene A. Harkleroad | Jul 9, 2021
Life changes when people can’t interact. Relationships suffer. People feel disconnected and alone. Friends, family and co-workers drift apart, and communication breaks down.
Pastors of Hispanic churches in the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention decided they wouldn’t let that happen. They wanted to encourage and support each other through the time of COVID-19 even though they couldn’t meet face-to-face.
Their solution? Build a thriving virtual community that would include every pastor and allow them to stay closely connected in their purpose and passion, a community that would allow them to learn and grow and to mentor each other along the way.
“We decided to meet on Zoom in order to stay united in the midst of that crisis,” says Josue Castro, AZSBC Hispanic ministries facilitator and pastor of Tierra Fertil in Yuma. “We held weekly meetings where we dealt with topics related to the situations we were all experiencing. We prayed for the different needs among the pastors and for the members of the churches. Now we meet in person every month to pray, plan activities and share a meal.”
The pastors also built closer friendships and established bonds using WhatsApp, a virtual messaging application that allows users to meet one-on-one or in a group.
Daniel Montero, pastor of Tierra Fertil in San Luis, served his first year as a church planter during COVID-19. He is grateful for the opportunity to develop relationships with other church leaders.
“It was tough,” he says. “I’m pretty far from everyone else, being in San Luis, but to have these other men encouraging me and letting me know they were there with me was great. I was connected to more pastors, opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have had. Now that I know these men, I can reach out to them when I need to. That is very encouraging.”
The Zoom platform was also used to provide training and educational opportunities, including interactive presentations by pastors and guest speakers from Guidestone Financial Resources and Southern Baptist Convention Hispanic Relations, among others.
“It was surprising for me to see the faith and enthusiasm of each one of these men and the desire to continue preaching to their congregations, looking for any number of methods to do so,” Castro says.
The pastors met virtually from April 2020 to February 2021.
“I thank God that today our meetings, although they are no longer weekly, have now become face to face in the different cities of our state,” Castro says.
Monthly meetings are still taking place at First Southern Baptist Church of Tucson and Tempe Christian Church in Tempe.
Jorge Garcia, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Kairos in Tucson, continues to encourage and pray with other pastors using WhatsApp and Zoom.
“We are very happy that we are over the pandemic,” he says, “so we can meet again like we used to and open the church to the rest of the people.”
These pastors remained committed to their calling throughout the pandemic. They have built stronger ministry partnerships, forged new friendships, shared personal struggles, prayed for each other’s families and celebrated their victories together. They are on track to continue equipping and encouraging each other into the future.
Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.
—Pray for the pastors of Hispanic churches in the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention:
- thanking God for how they were able to stay connected and build community during the pandemic,
- asking God that this community of pastors will continue to grow and encourage one another in the days ahead, and
- asking God to bless their work with their churches as they seek to share the gospel and make disciples.
—Are you missing Christian community in your life? Plug into a Sunday School class or small group in your church. If you are unable to attend in person, find out if there are options to meet virtually.