At the onset of his
missionary career, pastor Luis Rodríguez and his wife, Lourdes Santiago, were
dismayed at the lack of commitment from church members at the church they’d
planted in Coamo, Puerto Rico. However, this apathy did not hamper the efforts
of these Southern Baptists. Besides, from God’s divine perspective, this was
only the beginning.
Luis remembers the
challenges faced during those uncertain days after being sent by the Raham
First Baptist Church of Santa Isabel to plant a new church in Coamo.
“When we arrived at
Raham-Coamo, we noticed the believers there didn’t really have a commitment to
come to the services,” said Rodriguez.
“When we were on our way to a prayer
service, they started calling to excuse themselves from coming to the
service. In that moment I turned and looked at my wife and wondered if our
efforts were really worth it. We began doubting if God was really involved.”
When Luis and Lourdes
arrived at the small church for the prayer service, only one other couple had
come to intercede for God’s work there — but a couple with a very special need.
“With great sorrow in our
hearts, we found brother Carlos Santiago and his wife, Andrea, who was kneeling
in prayer,” recalls Rodriguez. Andrea’s hair had fallen out due to the
chemotherapy she was undergoing to fight her cancer.
“I looked at my wife, she
looked at me, and the Lord spoke to my heart, saying, ‘For the love of that
solitary life I’m sending you to Coamo. It’s one life, one soul. Don’t worry
about the ones who made excuses and didn’t come.’”
Because of Andrea’s
commitment, Luis and Lourdes were motivated to press on with God’s challenge of
planting a church in Coamo. The result was the creation of the Raham Baptist Church
The name of the church, “Raham,”
is the Hebrew word for “God has shown compassion.” This is precisely the
spiritual gift that continues to be one of the driving forces behind Rodriguez’s
work in Coamo.
Luis and Lourdes Rodriguez
are missionaries for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), responsible for
planting churches in Puerto Rico. They are two of the some 5,300 missionaries
in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie
Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions, and are among the NAMB
missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 7-14, 2010.
This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency: Share God’s Transforming Power.” The
2010 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering’s goal is $70 million, 100 percent of
which benefits missionaries like Rodriguez.
Luis, 46, was ordained as a
Southern Baptist pastor in 2001 by his local church at the time, Raham Baptist
Church of Santa Isabel. He came from a background in business, with a
concentration in accounting — working up to a vice president’s job at the
company where he worked for more than 20 years.
Since becoming a missionary
three years ago, he has completed coursework at Luther Rice Seminary in Puerto
Rico, and is planning to continue his studies at the Baptist Seminary of Puerto
Rico, through Liberty University.
“My decision to become a
missionary wasn’t an easy decision. I faced all sorts of difficulties,” Luis
says. “I quit a job with great benefits. Temptations came, uncertainty, good advice
and bad advice. But God, who is rich in mercy, sustained me. My wife’s support
was unconditional and awesome. I simply couldn’t resist what God wanted to do
“One day in a prayer meeting
I began asking God, ‘Lord, what do you want to do with me?’ After several
months went by without the slightest involvement in the ministry, without a
desire to continue pastoring, God sent us to Raham in Coamo, where, with a
group of 15 people, we planted a church.”
Although the most
predominant religious group in Puerto Rico is Roman Catholicism — about 85
percent of the population — the remaining 15 percent is made up various groups
like Southern Baptists, who impact the culture through schools and
universities, among other means.
Coamo is a city of approximately
39,500, located in the southern region of Puerto Rico. Three years ago, Luis
Rodríguez and his church planting team also started a bilingual, Christian
school — Coamo Christian Academy — to minister to local children and their
Coamo Christian Academy has
met with great approval in the community. Beginning with only four students in
2006, the school now has more than 40 enrolled.
Luis admits he couldn’t do
the work without the support of Southern Baptists.
“Contributions given to the
Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® support me as a missionary in the work we are
doing, and help us support the church to reach children and the parents who
participate in this ministry. To God be the glory!”
Adalberto Muñoz, a member of
Luis’ ministry team, spoke of Luis’ commitment and passion for the lost.
“When you talk to Luis and
see him carry out his duties, when you see the fruit this ministry is bearing,
there is no doubt that God really called Luis to serve in this capacity.
“Pastor Luis and members of
Raham Baptist Church in Coamo have a genuine calling from God to the ministry,
a sincere love for the Word, integrity, and commitment towards the community,”
said Munoz. “It’s a church that inspires a lot of love. You feel you are in a
wholesome environment full of love for God and for people.”
Commitment to prayer and
keeping God’s Word have also inspired door-to-door evangelism, prayer walks,
interactive team sports with non-Christians, radio talk shows, Bible studies in
neighboring towns and the capital, and other activities such as “One Night with
Christ,” during which sister churches interact to impact the Coamo community.
Rodriguez said his ministry’s
most pressing need is adequate facilities and more space.
“The current facilities aren’t
sufficient,” he says. “We have limited space, and if we don’t do something
about it soon, the growth of our ministry will be adversely affected.”
Luis and wife Lourdes are
the parents of three children, Victor, Luis and Lyanne Rodriguez Santiago.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Correa
is a writer living in Dacula, Ga.)