Vargas chosen for SBC Lifetime Award
By Allen Palmeri
February 22, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – Mauricio Vargas, multicultural church planting strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), will receive the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Hispanic Church Planting Lifetime Award June 19 at Haywood Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., as part of the annual SBC Hispanic Church Planting Celebration. The event is held just prior to the SBC’s annual meeting, June 20-21.
Vargas, 62, has served as a full-time MBC staff person since 1987. A native of El Salvador, he first came to the United States in 1965 and became an American citizen in 1979. His work among internationals the last two years has been instrumental in the MBC setting records in church planting, according to MBC Church Planting Director Jerry Field.
“His whole heart is really about expanding the kingdom of God through planting congregations of various non-English-speaking people,” Field said. “He’s simply the best that there is today in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Bobby Sena, manager/field partner service representative in the church planting group for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), agreed with Field in the sense that Vargas was the best fit for the award within the profile and criteria. Committee members weighed such things as experience in church planting, length of exceptional service, good standing with the convention, advocacy of Hispanic work and kingdom building when making their choice.
“Here is a man who has lived out what he values,” Sena said. “He lives out his mission-kind of mindset. He’s on mission for God. He recognizes that he has to reach out to the lost and congregate those folks into church planting communities. He has to mentor other leaders to carry out his mission, or their mission, and he has done that very effectively.
“There’s a lot of wonderful things that these (Lifetime Award) guys do, a lot of enrichment that they bring to the tapestry of Southern Baptists at the association, state and national levels, but a key factor is that they are multipliers, mentors and visionaries.”
Vargas said he is blessed to work with “a beautiful network of Hispanic pastors where evangelism, missions and new work is in their hearts.” Prior to his call to Missouri, he planted churches within migrant areas of Kentucky and North Carolina and those efforts have born much fruit in Missouri, which attracts many Hispanics from Central America and Mexico.
“We have a lot of people who are transient,” Vargas said. “They are moving from Texas to Chicago or from the South to the area of Ohio and Indiana. Many times when they stop over here for agriculture or to work in the poultry business, they are really receptive to the Gospel.
“The language pastors that we have in the state of Missouri are always looking for an opportunity to multiply their ministry by starting a new Bible study, cell group, mission point, or preaching point. So my task is to help them, and we do.”
Field said that honors such as the one Vargas received last year, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Bob Holden to the Commission on Hispanic Affairs, are indicative of the respect he has earned in Missouri and its neighboring states.
“This has been his life’s work,” Field said. “He’s been long recognized in the Midwest by state government to the University of Missouri and other government agencies who recognize his expertise in Hispanic affairs.”
Sena said that the award will be presented during an annual meeting of Hispanics that has proven to be both strategic and historical. About 500 people typically attend, he said.
Vargas and his wife, Carolyn, have four children and two grandchildren. He remembered how the Home Mission Board trained him to do his life’s work, sending him to Washington, D.C., in 1981.
“After 10 days of visiting, we left 10 new missions,” he said.
In Missouri, his first assignment was to do the same thing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on a short-term mission trip. The result was several new congregations, he said.
Receiving the SBC Hispanic Church Planting Lifetime Award will be a humbling experience, Vargas said.
“You work for the Lord,” he added.