Cullowhee Hispanic church celebrates 12th anniversary
    December 5 2013 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

    Most churches do not strongly celebrate 12th anniversaries. But Iglesia Bautista El Centro Del Señor held a special service Sunday, Nov. 3, to mark its 12th year as a Spanish-speaking congregation in Cullowhee, N.C.
    About 200 people gathered, including pastors and members from half a dozen other Hispanic Baptist churches across Western North Carolina.    
    The service celebrated not only El Centro’s birthday, but also was an unofficial indicator of the growing Baptist presence among Hispanics in Western North Carolina.
    The U.S. Census Bureau reports Hispanics number more than 800,000 in North Carolina.

    BSC photo by Mike Creswell
    Worshippers at Iglesia Bautista El Centro Del Señor participate in a special service Nov. 3 marking the church’s 12th anniversary.

    Many of those now live in the western part of the state.
    El Centro Pastor Robert Fernandez has been important in Baptist efforts to reach Hispanics for Christ in the West. He has started two other Hispanic churches in Robbinsville and Canton.
    He has also taught in the Spanish program of Fruitland Baptist Bible College (formerly Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute) for six years.
    Recently, he became director of that program, which has satellite centers across the state that offer instruction in Spanish.      
    Fernandez was born in Cuba but moved with his family when he was young to the area of Tampa, Fla. There he became a Christian and also met his future wife, Wanda.        
    Having grown up speaking English, Fernandez and his wife raised their two children using English.
    He used his Spanish mostly to talk to his extended family. They moved to North Carolina in 1989.
    At first Fernandez served as pastor of an English-speaking church, but as thousands of Hispanics began settling in Western North Carolina, he realized his Spanish was needed and he began working with Spanish speakers.    
    He found state and regional Baptist leaders who were earnestly seeking to reach the many Hispanics flooding into the area.
    Mitchell Shields recalled noticing the increasing presence of Hispanic families when he was shopping at Wal-Mart.
    Shields is the director of missions for the Truett Baptist Association.
    A partnership to increase outreach to Hispanics developed between Truett, Tuckaseigee, Tennessee River, Graham and Cheoah Baptist associations, Fruitland Baptist Bible College and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
    Since then more Hispanic churches have started across the area.
    Felix Villerreal was the only other Hispanic pastor in the area during that time. Villerreal started a Spanish language church in Hamburg and later moved to other locations.
    More recently he started a new church in Highlands and has continued mission trips to Mexico. In his most recent trip, he said the team saw some 80 people pray to receive Christ as Savior.
    El Centro was the first Spanish language church Fernandez started in 2001. The church remains relatively small with almost 50 members.
    He reminded those attending the anniversary service that the church has sent out followers of Christ back to many of the Spanish-speaking countries. William Ortega gave the keynote sermon Sunday afternoon. He is the new Hispanic church planting consultant with the BSC’s church planting team.  
    José and Mary Alonso from Iglesia Bautista Agua Viva in Hendersonville provided special music, along with singing by music groups from El Centro and from the Emmanuel Group from Mt. Olive.
    12/5/2013 3:01:13 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 1 comments
    Filed under: Hispanic Baptists, missions

Rhonda Wilkinson
I am a missionary under NAMB, and a Caucasian American, who has worked overseas in missions in Asia. However, I trained to be a Spanish teacher, so now am using my Spanish to connect to the Hispanic community through a local women's pregnancy center in Southern Indiana while I finish up my degree in Biblical Counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I am looking for two kinds of resources.
#1) People resources: Christian Spanish speakers with a heart for evangelism/discipleship/church-planting to move to this area to help minister to the many unreached Hispanics settled and moving into this area. I am happy to host in my home anyone wanting to come for a survey trip.
#2) On-line resources: recommendations for the best free downloadable Bible study and counseling materials in Spanish on the web.
Praying God would use this short email request to His glory.

Rhonda Lynn Wilkinson
NAMB Missionary Service Corp Missionary
New Albany, Indiana
12/6/2013 10:14:44 PM

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