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First conference for Hispanic women emphasizes missionscomment (0)

September 23, 2010

By Kristen Padilla

Missions is a big part of Ines Velez’s life, which means when she moved from Puerto Rico to the United States in 1989, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) became a big part of her life, too, “because [it teaches] missions really well.”

So it was only natural for Velez to feel burdened to teach the women of Albertville’s Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana (Hispanic First Baptist Church) about missions when her husband, Edwin, became pastor in 2004.

Velez, who is bilingual, was able to go to missions conferences and get resources in English, but it wasn’t long before she realized that Spanish-speaking women did not have the same opportunity.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to be so selfish. I want them to learn and to all be together,’” Velez said.

After attending a 2008 Hispanic women’s conference in Chicago at which Ana Meléndez, Hispanic coordinator for Illinois WMU, was the speaker, Velez was encouraged to hold something similar in Alabama.

So in 2009, she and women from her church began planning a Hispanic women’s conference. One of the first things they did was contact Alabama WMU because if they were going to do this, then they “wanted to do it right.”

After a year of planning, the first statewide Hispanic women’s conference took place at Velez’s church Sept. 3–4. Approximately 125 Hispanic women attended, representing churches from Alabaster, Birmingham, Decatur, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Hamilton, Heflin and Russellville. The conference’s theme was “Daughters of the King,” and Meléndez was the guest speaker. She spoke about making good decisions that can change lives, living lives of holiness and believing in God’s promises.

“It was amazing the response of the ladies,” Meléndez said, adding, “A lot of them came to the altar, saying, ‘I want to be more holy.’”

Candace McIntosh, executive director of Alabama WMU, brought greetings to the women and gave a gift to every church represented, which included a notebook of resources for Hispanic missions.

“We’ve had a desire for something like this to happen,” McIntosh said. “Ines and her women planned for it, paid for it. We wanted to undergird them and to come alongside them and hope to make it more statewide.

“I pray this is the beginning of something wonderful among our Hispanic women,” she added.

Ruth Walker, WMU director for Marshall Baptist Association, was also part of the program and organized local churches in providing food for the weekend.

“I think this was something that God really wanted to do,” Velez said. “Everything came together. I think it was wonderful.”

She hopes that the conference serves as a launching pad for more cooperation between Hispanic churches and their women and more Hispanic involvement in missions.

“My hope is that each church gets together and each one has a good Woman’s Missionary Union — to learn as women what we can do in our ministry,” Velez said. “Missions is important.”

McIntosh agreed.

“I hope that because of the vision and challenge that Ines gave to the women that they will go back and begin to develop their women’s missions group and continue to be involved in missions education,” she said. “It has great potential for that. We look forward to partnering together even more.”

Velez and McIntosh will begin planning soon for next year’s conference.

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