SBC Lifetime Award goes to MBC’s Vargas
By Allen Palmeri
June 28, 2005
FRANKLIN, Tenn.—In a fiesta filled with lively Latino music and preaching, Mauricio Vargas, multicultural church planting strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), received the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Hispanic Church Planting Lifetime Award June 19 at The People’s Church in suburban Nashville.
Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president, North American Mission Board (NAMB), presented the award to Vargas at the Eighth Annual Hispanic Church Planting Celebration as about two dozen members of the Vargas family, including his wife of 36 years, Carolyn, his mother, Margarita, all four of his children and both of his grandchildren, watched.
“Mauricio, we are so glad to have you on the team, and to be a part of the team with you,” Reccord said. Reccord’s remarks were translated into Spanish for the benefit of the hundreds of Hispanic attendees.
Vargas, 62, became emotional as he reflected on the influence that his mother, who is 97, had on him while he was growing up in Sonsonate, El Salvador. Vargas wound up moving to the United States where he met and married his wife of 36 years, Carolyn. His church planting work has always flowed from a familial source.
“Wherever we have gone, they have prayed for me,” he said.
His younger brother, Luis Vargas, traveled from Houma, La., to be a part of the festivities. He was joined by three sisters. Another brother could not attend because he was preaching a revival in South Carolina.
“It’s a historic moment for our family because he has been doing this for many, many years,” Luis Vargas said. “A lot has been his family’s support. I think his family has been very strong through the years. My brother always was the strongest one in our family, so it’s good to follow him.”
Kansas City church planter Luis Mendoza, president of the Hispanic Fellowship of Missouri, added to the celebratory mood of the evening by presenting Vargas with a plaque honoring him for “the extension of God’s kingdom” that has been his legacy.
“For many years, you have served me and inspired me,” Mendoza said. “May God receive the glory because of all of your work.”
Vargas earned his bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Ark., and his master’s in religious education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He planted Primera Iglesia Bautista in New Orleans as well as another church in Baton Rouge, La., before moving to North Carolina to help plant churches and lead mission groups.
His ministry in Missouri, which started in 1987, has taken on several forms, among them being team leader for the West Central Region and coordinator of Multicultural Initiatives among all of the MBC’s regional teams. In 2004, Vargas was appointed by then-Gov. Bob Holden to the Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
“It (the SBC honor) was just well-deserved recognition for someone who really has very selflessly given himself completely to trying to expand the Gospel among many language groups, but especially his own culture,” said MBC Church Planting Director Jerry Field. “I thought it was so amazing that his mother was there. He first started doing this as a child, helping start Bible studies and that sort of thing.”
Bobby Sena, manager/field partner service representative in the church planting group for NAMB, summarized the effect of Vargas practicing what he preaches.
“Here is a man who has lived out what he values,” Sena said.