Debbie Ferrier
Baptist Reflections
March 11, 2008


San Antonio has just commemorated its annual “Remember the Alamo Weekend” by reenacting the siege of the Alamo by General Santa Anna and the Mexican Army. As I watched the local news station report on the Mexican Army’s storming of the walls of the Alamo on March 6, 1836, killing 188 “Texians,” I was reminded of a Sunday School lesson that I prepared, several years ago, for a series on Texas Baptist history and Baptist Distinctives.

In preparing that lesson, I drew a revealing comparison of the Texas population in 1835 to its 2006 counterpart. In September 1835, the population of Texas, which numbered 47,670, was 62.9% Anglo-American; 29.8% Native American; and 7.3% Mexican. In 2006, according to the U.S. Census, the population of Texas had grown to 23,507,783: 48.3% Anglo-American; 35.7% Hispanic; 11.9% African-American; and 4.1% Asian or other race or ethnicity.

Bringing these numbers into sharper focus is the discovery that there are approximately 100 different religious groups represented in Texas, and at least one-half of the Texas population is affiliated with no religious group at all. If these numbers are correct, then well over half of our state has yet to meet Jesus Christ.

As I sat in a meeting with Texas Hispanic leaders several weeks ago at the Baptist University of the Americas (BUA), I couldn’t help but think about how privileged Texas Baptists are to have the people sitting around that table leading the Hispanic Baptist community. According to demographers, Hispanics will make up 50% of the Texas population by the year 2015.


Our challenge is daunting. Only 2% of the current Hispanic population is Baptist. We can’t know how many of that other 98% know Christ, but we can be reasonably sure that many of them have never even been told that Jesus died for them and that He wants to live in their hearts today. How are we going to reach all of the men, women, and children coming into Texas, and share the hope and love of Jesus Christ with them?

When Dr. Albert Reyes was president of the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, he wrote a paper entitled “Unification to Integration: A Brief History of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas,” and asked me, as chair of the Board of Trustees, to read it. I’m sure he would be pleased for you to read the entire paper—just click here.

For the moment, though, I’d like to share a few items from Dr. Reyes’ paper. The first Mexican Baptist church in Texas was organized in 1886, in Laredo. Mexican Baptist work in Texas began to grow with the establishment of churches bearing the name Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana in San Antonio (1888), El Paso (1892), Beeville (1900), Corpus Christi (1911), and Dallas (1918).

The Mexican Revolution – which became known as Mexico’s civil war – brought many more Mexican citizens into Texas. This revolution was the result of a plan developed in 1910 by Francisco I. Madero, who had fled Mexico for San Antonio. During the revolution, as many as 1 million Mexican citizens either crossed the border into Texas or died in the attempt. The Mexican Baptist Convention of Texas was organized that same year. The development of Mexican Baptist work grew in the ensuing decades.


Then, during the 1940s, Mexican Baptists in Texas established four institutions to support the work of their churches:

  1. The Bible Institute of Bastrop (1940), established by Paul C. Bell, who also served as pastor of the Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana of Bastrop
  2. The Mexican Baptist Children’s Home (1944) – now known as Baptist Child and Family Services, established in San Antonio by Dr. Perry F. Webb
  3. The Valley Baptist Academy (1946) – now known as the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center, established by Paul J. Siebenmann for the purpose of instructing Mexican and Texan youth through secondary education
  4. The Mexican Baptist Bible Institute (1947) – now known as the Baptist University of the Americas, established in San Antonio by Paul J. Siebenmann for the purpose of training ministers

Bolstered by new church starts and these new institutions, the Mexican Baptist Convention was growing and maturing, led by visionaries committed to the mission of reaching Mexicans and Tejanos in Texas.

As I mentioned earlier, today’s Texas Baptists are privileged to have Hispanic Baptist leaders who recognize and believe in the mission of reaching everyone in Texas for the Kingdom of God. As these leaders met at the Baptist University of the Americas several weeks ago, I knew that Texas Baptists were crossing over into one of the most exciting times in our history.


This meeting saw significant contributions from leaders such as Rudy Camacho, Alcides Guajardo, Gus Reyes, Ruben Chaires, Teo Cisneros, Al Flores, Baldemar Borrego, Rolando Lopez, Rene Maciel, Javier Elizondo, Rolando Rodriguez, and Marconi Monteiro. Their contributions ranged from how the school is perceived by the Hispanic Baptist community, to how BUA can provide training to Hispanic Baptist congregations, to – most importantly – how BUA will work with Convención, the BGCT, and churches to recruit and train Hispanic pastors to fill Baptist pulpits in Texas.

What is the answer to reaching the growing Hispanic population in Texas for God’s Kingdom? Dr. Charles Wade, former executive director of the BGCT, said that the Baptist University of the Americas is the premier equipping institution for recruiting, educating, and training the large numbers of cross-cultural ministry leaders that will be needed by tomorrow’s Hispanic Baptist churches.

Today, BUA has more than 1,600 alumni serving as Christian leaders in local churches, denominational offices, mission fields, and the business world. Three of every four Hispanic Baptist pastors in Texas attended BUA. Currently, BUA has over 200 students enrolled at the San Antonio campus, plus more than 700 additional students in schools and institutes in the United States, Mexico, Spain, and India.

Let’s celebrate the future of Texas Baptists. We have a great history, and our people are wonderfully diverse. There has never been a better time to reach our state with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I challenge you to accept God’s love, embrace His mission, and pray for our Baptist leaders.