Christ for Puerto Rico
By Rick Bowling
God has blessed North American Ministries! Church planters are breaking records, and new churches are being built across the United States. Ministry to Hispanic people is also experiencing these blessings, especially the growing work in Puerto Rico. Free Will Baptists have worked for decades to establish churches on this beautiful island. Much prayer and a great deal of financial resources have gone into this work, and we rejoice to see what God is doing.
In 2009, the Puerto Rican church desperately needed to be revitalized. It had been several years since the previous church planter had returned to the States, and the church gradually had dwindled down. But God had a plan! That same year, Puerto Rican native José Correa and his wife, Suhey enrolled in the Hendrix Hispanic Bible Institute. During their studies, God gave them a heavy burden for the people of Puerto Rico.
In March 2010, the Correas went back to Puerto Rico to preach the gospel. They started under a palm tree and named the little congregation the First Free Will Baptist Church of Puerto Rico. After a year of hard work, with 25 people attending service regularly, they decided they needed a church with a roof and rented an abandoned house. The church continued to grow and soon began outreach ministries for young people and married couples and continued to evangelize the nearby area. By the following year, the congregation had outgrown their rented building.
That year, Pastor José and his family attended the National Convention. Pastor José had been asked to preach in the Hispanic service, and he preached on Caleb claiming the mountain. They returned to Puerto Rico after the meeting, and while waiting in the airport, José and Suhey realized the message was for them. God wanted them to claim Puerto Rico for Him. In faith, they decided they needed a much larger building for the ministry.
In the following months, the church grew to 80 people. God sent people to the church who were able to support the ministry with tithes and offerings. In 2014, God gave the First Church an opportunity to buy seven acres of land, and they constructed a permanent church building. The church sent a family back to the States to study at the Bible Institute. They returned to Puerto Rico and started a second church.
Pastor José and Suhey have a deep burden for the young people of Puerto Rico. They decided that an effective way to minister to young Puerto Ricans would be to offer a better opportunity for Christian education and began to make plans for a school called the Genesis Academy. After a couple visited the island and saw their work, they decided to make a donation to help construct the school building. The couple donated $25,000 rather than add a carport to their house. With construction well underway, and after much prayer and planning, the Genesis Academy will open in August 2017.
In seven years the First Church has grown in attendance and new converts have been discipled and grounded in biblical principles. The congregation has not only planted a second church; they now have three congregations and are planning to start another in the near future. With a strong church, a new school, and new churches opening, José and Suhey have decided the ministry in Puerto Rico is ready to go self-supporting.
Now, the members of the First Church have developed a burden for Puerto Ricans living beyond their beautiful island. Today, more Puerto Ricans live in New York than in Puerto Rico. The same is true of Orlando and New Jersey. This church has answered the call to go to these areas to reach their people for Christ. Several families are preparing in the Bible Institute in Puerto Rico to be effective workers in these fields.
North American Ministries Director David Crowe rejoices with the First Church on their victory. He understands the church will need help to send church planters to these centralized Puerto Rican populations. And he wants to help them claim the mountain for which Pastor José and Suhey have prayed. With this in mind, David has opened an account at North American Ministries to benefit the Puerto Rico work. We are praying God will touch your heart and give you a burden for this vital ministry.
In seven short years, God made a way for the Puerto Rican ministry to “claim that mountain.” There is no limit to what God can do through this ministry. Would you like to be a partner in ministry? Find out more today about how you can help build churches in Puerto Rico: www.FWBNAM.com.
About the Writer: A former missionary to Uruguay, Rick Bowling is director of Hispanic Ministries for North American Ministries.