Honoring the Work of Pastor Jesus Rios

Honoring the Work of Pastor Jesus Rios

The first California Southern Baptist Spanish-speaking church was planted 76 years ago in San Jose. A year later, the second Spanish church was planted in Los Angeles. CSBC’s Migrant Ministry wants to continue this legacy of faithfulness and believes that the next step for Feeding Those Who Feed Us (FTWFU) is to plant Spanish-speaking churches. However, before we can move forward, we should celebrate our past and honor those spiritual giants whose shoulders we stand on.

Inspiration from the Past

In 1947, Reverend Jesus Rios arrived in San Jose with his wife and four children in a 1937 Plymouth. The Rios family left Edinburg, Texas, where he had pastored Primera Iglesia Bautista. Like Abraham, who left not knowing what to expect, Pastor Rios left Texas without any financial support, only his strong faith the God would provide all his needs, convinced that he was obeying God’s direction.

While my dad studied at Seminario Teolojico Bautista in El Paso Texas, he met another student by the name of Pedro Carranza. Reverand Carranza had previously moved to San Jose after his studies at the seminary.

When the Rios family arrived in San Jose that extremely cold December, my dad contacted Pastor Carranza who opened his home to our family.  Soon after, Pastor Rios started doing door-to-door evangelism. God opened the door of a couple of Christian families and that was the beginning of the First Spanish-speaking Southern Baptist work in San Jose. Our family started working in the agricultural fields and fruit canneries so that he could dedicate himself to the work that God had assigned to him to do, door-to-door evangelism.

In April of 1948, the first Southern Baptist Spanish-speaking Church was organized in a small church on the corner of 9th and St. James Street, right across from the Catholic school in San Jose. Twenty-four adults in attendance were the original founding members of Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur.

In early 1949, the Southern Baptist Convention, along with the Home Mission Board (now called the North American Mission Board or NAMB), took notice of the work Rev. Rios had accomplished in San Jose, and they asked him to do the same in East Los Angeles. The Home Mission Board offered to financially support him if he would relocate to Los Angeles.  So, the Rios family relocated to East Los Angeles to start a new church with the help of the Home Mission Board in the spring of 1949.

There was a Seventh Day Adventist Church building on the corner of 6th and Sydney Drive that was available.  Around this time, about three families from the church in Edinburg, Texas, moved to East Los Angeles. Together with those families, Reverend Rios organized Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur.  Thus began the second Southern Baptist Hispanic church in California. 

Then, in 1950, a beautiful three-story church building became available in East Los Angeles. Again, with the help of the Home Mission Board, Pastor Jesus Rios and the small congregation were able to purchase the church building on the corner of 6th and Ferris, which is now known as Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur, Los Angeles.  Primera Iglesia del Sur planted seven or more churches during Pastor Rios’s pastorship from 1949 – 1956.

Throughout all these years, God was faithful and true to my parents, Jesus and Escolastica Rios, until the Lord took them home to heaven.  My mom, Escolastica Rios, passed away at the age of 86 in July of 1988. Reverend Jesus Rios passed away in August of 1991 at the age of 81.  My dad had a missionary’s mind. His faithfulness and example inspire us today to reach and plant churches and continue the work he started back in 1947.  

About the Author

Gilbert Rios
2nd Generation Hispanic Minister

Gilbert Ochoa Rios was born on February 6, 1934, the same year his father, Reverend Jesus Rios answered the call to full time ministry he grew up in Edinburgh, Texas where his dad served as pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista. In December of 1948, the Rios family moved to San Jose California. Gilbert's father began the first Spanish speaking Southern Baptist congregation in California. This year, Gilbert and his wife Esperanza will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary! Gilbert served in the military or two years before earning a bachelors degree in sociology from San Jose State, and then a masters degree in education a few years later. Gilbert and Esperanza have 2 sons and 2 daughters and are now happily enjoying retirement.

More About Gilbert Rios
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