Guillermo Soriano and his wife, Maritza, were born in Honduras. After more than 30 years of ministry in the United States, the couple plans to take the gospel back to their homeland.
Soriano, Hispanic Ministries Senior Consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), is retiring May 3 after 12 years of ministry in the state and more than 30 years in the United States. His roles led him to broad ministry involvement including multicultural evangelism, cross-cultural disciple-making, spiritual renewal and church planting.
Guillermo, right, and Maritza Soriano, who are retiring to their home country – Honduras – receive recognition for their service March 16 from a joint celebration of two regional Hispanic fellowships. The service was held in Zebulon with more than 335 members of 15 congregations.
Before joining the BSC, he served on the staff of the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC), as a pastor in Orlando and as an adjunct professor of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Baptist College of Florida.
The Sorianos grew up in north Honduras in what they called “non-evangelical homes.” The Catholic religion that dominates the region is the only religion they knew.
“One day my parents asked if I would like to go to the United States to study,” he told the Biblical Recorder. “I said yes. I did not know the Lord, but He brought me to Louisiana to go to high school at Acadia Baptist Academy when I was 14 years old.”
The boarding school was sponsored by the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“Sports was a very special item in my life,” said Soriano. His interest in sports since childhood opened the door for his salvation experience. “I came to know the Lord as a freshman at Louisiana Tech University. My high school basketball coach was a strong believer and quite an example for me. He continues to be one of my prayer partners today.”
Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, La., became his spiritual home. Pastor Robert McGee and other church members nurtured him and financially supported part of his theological education at seminary years later.
The Baptist Student Union (BSU) and church ministries became a spiritual boot camp for Soriano.
He graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in industrial engineering in 1977 and returned to Honduras, working in the industry for 10 years.
“The Lord led me to go back to my home country,” Soriano said. “I had zero evangelical friends there. I served bi-vocational in industry and in ministry for 10 years – five as a single man and five as a married man.”
He was a church planter, pastor and evangelist, and he also organized an association of Baptist churches in Puerto Cortés, Honduras.
While a student at Louisiana Tech, Soriano was part of a BSU team that went to an international missions conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Through that conference, the Lord really impressed on my heart the commitment to be on mission with Him for the rest of my life,” said Soriano. “That’s been what motivated me. The Lord also showed me I need to eventually go to seminary to be trained to serve Him more effectively.”
After 10 years in Honduras, the couple decided to pursue seminary in Texas. Several families from their home church in Ruston supported the move. He completed his master and doctor of ministry degrees at SWBTS, focusing on evangelism and missions. Soriano also pastored a bilingual church in Fort Worth that reflected the growing multi-ethnic diversity of the community.
The FBC invited Soriano to serve with multi-ethnic language ministries across the state.
“The great blessing is that we were able to travel together as a family,” he said. “God blessed us with two sons. One was born in Honduras and the other in Fort Worth. They’ve always joined us doing ministry, traveling about the state in Florida, serving Hispanics, Haitians, Koreans, Russians, Vietnamese and others. It helped them appreciate other cultures as they later completed their education and entered professional careers.”
In 2007 Don McCutcheon, who led BSC’s evangelism ministry, asked Soriano to join the BSC to organize the multi-cultural evangelism department.
“That meant working with all language groups in the state,” he said. “Milton [Hollifield] affirmed that we would be able to travel North Carolina as a family. Our desire has been to serve the Lord together.”
The convention later reorganized departments and Soriano became the convention’s senior consultant for Hispanic ministries.
“Looking at the context and population of North Carolina, our encouragement to pastors has been to be patient with Hispanic ministries,” he said. “With the decline and even death of Anglo churches, these traditional churches should partner with ethnic groups to share church facilities for Kingdom outreach to new audiences.
“This is the beauty of partnerships between Anglo and Hispanic churches. Our communities are not declining, but transitioning toward other ethnicities. Churches need to find ways to reach their changing communities,” he said.
“We have over a million Hispanics in our state. We’re not talking about people who are crossing the border. We’re talking about people who are here. They are business owners and educated professionals.”
Soriano said he has no reason to leave the convention.
The couple believes they are at the highest point of effectiveness in ministry. With dual citizenships in U.S. and Honduras, each year when they return to Honduras at Christmas, they considered staying in their homeland.
“We’ve been praying for about seven years, asking the Lord what to do at the point of retirement,” he said. “The Lord has been preparing us and has confirmed to us that He wants us to transition to missionaries in our own country. It’s not going to be easy. Most Latin American countries are highly Catholic, so we are going to experience some rejection – even from our own families.”
Maritza added, “I’ve been praying for many years. I’ve always wanted to go back to Honduras. Every Christmas vacation I say, ‘Guillermo, is this our last year in the U.S.?’ Every year, we pray and seek the Lord’s will. Each year we agree, ‘one more year.’ Last year I said, ‘Honey, no more one more year.’”
They plan to spend 10 to 11 months each year in Honduras.
Additional time will be given to their sons’ families – including grandchildren – in Florida.
The immediate plan is to be self-supporting, part of that through their GuideStone retirement plan. They purchased land in Cortés where they have built a house that will be the center of their ministry operations. It is available for mission teams that come on site.
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the BSC commended the Sorianos. “I will always remember with great appreciation the different conferences Guillermo and Maritza have led at Fort Caswell each year for Hispanic church groups. Gloria and I feel that we are losing two friends because we have always enjoyed working with them in numerous state convention, Baptist association and North American Mission Board events during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings.
“I was so impressed to learn that they have built a house in Honduras that includes adequate space to host mission teams that will come from the U.S. to Honduras and help advance God’s Kingdom in their home land.
“They both realize there may be risks involved in living there, but following Christ wherever He leads is of supreme importance to this couple.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – After May 3, the Sorianos can be reached at [email protected], 919-612-4693 or on Facebook at Guillermo Maritza Soriano.)