FAJARDO, Puerto Rico – Albert Rivera planted Iglesia del Señor Jesucristo Gracia y Verdad just over two years ago through Send Puerto Rico, and since then he has seen the Lord’s hand at work in the church’s ministry in the community of Fajardo through key partnerships facilitated through Send Network and Send Relief Puerto Rico.
“The Lord has shown us much grace and we have seen His mighty hand at work because even though we are just a two-year-old church plant, we already have our paid-for building. We have received the help to make that building habitable, and we have somewhere to gather in the meantime,” said Rivera.
The assistance Rivera is talking about came in the form of mission teams from First Baptist Church Concord in Knoxville, Tenn. What started as a general response following Hurricane Maria in 2017, turned into multiple mission teams serving the island and eventually, into a long-term partnership with the Fajardo church plant.
“When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, our church asked how we could help, and we were among the first teams on the ground,” said Allen Kruger, director of missionary care at Concord. Working through Send Relief, the Concord team helped put together boxes with recovery tools like chainsaws, hoses and buckets, which would then be sent out to churches that needed them.
During one of the mission trips, Kruger was tasked with finding a church planter to partner with for the long term. While responding to needs across the island, Kruger and Rivera met at the Send Relief ministry center.
“I don’t speak too much English, but I still speak more English than Allen speaks Spanish,” commented Rivera with a laugh. “There is definitely a lot of Google Translator involved,” adds Kruger. But both men agreed that despite the language barriers they have been able to work well together.
In March 2022 a group from Concord helped paint the kitchen and dining room in the Fajardo’s church building and participated in a soccer tournament with locals where they had the opportunity to evangelize and invite the community to church.
Rivera is grateful for FBC Concord, he said, as well as the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Send Relief who made the partnership possible.
“To have a mainland church go to Puerto Rico and see the reality of the church and connect in person is one of the best ways to make an effective partnership with a Spanish language church,” he said.
And for the Spanish-language church, he described the importance of being sincere about what the needs are. “Don’t create an image of what you would like for them to see. Be honest about where you are at.”
Both men agree that the easiest and best way to connect churches with church plants is through Send Network and Send Relief.
“Always work through the Send Network,” said Kruger. “Félix Cabrera and the team know the planters. Tell them what you’re looking for because they know and understand the individual and general needs of the planters.”
“Send Relief can house volunteers and arrange the trips which local churches can sometimes struggle to do on their own,” said Rivera. “Coming through Send Relief is the best way to send mission groups.”
For more information about church planting in Puerto Rico, visit NAMB’s Send Puerto Rico page. Visit the Send Relief Puerto Rico Ministry Center page to learn more about ministry there and upcoming mission trips.
Published March 29, 2022