Discipleship for boys strengthens witness
    December 18 2014 by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press

    SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – When Carlos Llambes was about 7 or 8 years old, he heard a sound he had never heard coming from a church before – laughter. Churches had always seemed so formal and structured to the Cuban boy. Plus, times in the Caribbean island 90 miles south of Miami were somber and uncertain in the late 1960s in the years after the Cuban missile crisis.
    So when Carlos walked by Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church) in his hometown of San Cristobal, Cuba, on a Wednesday night and heard laughter, the curious youngster peeked inside the doors. Members of the congregation were singing a joyful song and smiling.
    “They seemed happy, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Carlos recalled. So he sat down in one of the pews to watch.

    IMB photo by Wilson Hunter
    Carlos Llambes looks out over the city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he served for more than 10 years as a Southern Baptist missionary. He set into motion a church-planter training institute as part of the Dominican Baptist Convention that has resulted in 100 new churches in seven years. He attributes his missionary outlook to the missions education and inspiration he received as a Royal Ambassador (RA). His home church in Cuba, First Baptist Church in San Cristobal, taught all ages about missions, including Carlos through RAs, the Southern Baptist missions discipleship organization for boys.

    A couple noticed the boy and invited him to a group of Royal Ambassadors (RAs) – a Southern Baptist missions discipleship organization for boys – the man led near the church during the week. The group had to begin meeting in secret because at that time, Christian leaders were subject to imprisonment or being put in reeducation camps. Rumors spread that walls had ears and conversations were monitored.
    “Our little group of RAs, of eight or nine boys, we met secretly in a little room, and we spoke quietly,” Carlos recalled. “I brought a little Bible with me that was falling to pieces, but it became precious to me as did those times with that little RA group.”
    “The best memories I have of Cuba are at my little church as an RA,” Carlos Llambes, now a Southern Baptist missionary, said. “We used to fellowship with other churches and play baseball and ping pong.”
    Those seemingly carefree times were even more precious to the youngster because he was constantly saying goodbye to those he knew. First, his father lost his lucrative business, separated from his mother and left the country. Then, amid the political turmoil of the times, neighbors and friends decided to leave the country. His mother struggled to provide for him on her own, so she, too, decided to make plans to leave the country.
    She had sewn him a new outfit to wear during their travels, but it took nearly five years for the paperwork to come through to relocate, so the pants had become several inches too short on him.
    But needing something suitable to wear to the RA meetings, Carlos began to wear the outfit – made of wool because his mother thought that any place farther north from the Caribbean would have cold temperatures.
    “So there I was, a little boy wearing short wool pants in the tropics,” Carlos laughed.
    When he arrived in Miami at age 12, he lost touch with those he had known in Cuba.
    But years later when Carlos was an adult with a child of his own, history seemed to repeat itself. When the Llambes began attending Iglesia Bautista Estrella de Belen in Hialeah, Fla., Carlos saw a familiar face – his RA leader.
    Despite the passage of time, Pablo Lavina and Carlos recognized each other.
    Pablo went home and told his wife, Juana, “You’ll never guess who I saw today. It was Carlito (little Carlos),” recalled Juana.
    “It’s so wonderful to know that we’ve helped a child to find his way to what God had in store for him,” Juana said. She had served as a Sunday School teacher at the Cuba church as a young adult. Now in their 60s, she and her husband are active in the Hialeah congregation, with Juana serving as its custodian.
    The couple has given Carlos some photos they had brought with them from Cuba of the RA group. Carlos keeps the photos as a reminder of the impact missions and a couple dedicated to missions can make.
    “They really took care of us in a very difficult time when Christians weren’t looked at very kindly,” Carlos recalled. “RAs was such a missions seed that was planted in me. It didn’t come to fruition until years later, but it was there, growing inside of me.”
    Though he didn’t become a Christian until he was an adult, Carlos points to the missions teachings of RAs as having the biggest influence on his eventually becoming a missionary and focusing on planting churches.
    “I learned at a young age, when I was a boy in Cuba, through First Baptist Church, San Cristobal, the love and the difference that a little local church can make. It’s transformational. It makes a difference in communities,” he said.
    Today, Carlos is an International Mission Board missionary who served 10 years in the Dominican Republic, starting a church planting institute there with the Dominican Baptist Convention. He and his wife Lilly recently transferred to Mexico City to participate in church planting efforts in the megacity.
    “People might think, why bother with a little church?” Carlos said of how he encourages new Christians to form home Bible studies among their family and friends. “You watch what God can do with a little church. I am a product of that. Just give it time.”
    Of his RA group of eight or nine boys, he became a missionary and two others grew up to be pastors, says Carlos, adding that’s an impressive ratio that underlines the life-long impact of churches teaching missions to all ages.
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Gregory writes for IMB.)
    12/18/2014 9:13:55 AM by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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