The Story of a Proud Southern Baptist Hispanic Woman

The Story of a Proud Southern Baptist Hispanic Woman

When I was born in East Los Angeles, my dad was pastoring at Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur in El Monte, California. My first home was the parsonage, which was on the same property as the church, the church I was brought to at two weeks of age. My love for God and His church began there in El Monte. We moved to different Spanish-speaking Baptist churches throughout my childhood years. All told, my father, Daniel Sotelo, pastored for 63 years.

When I was ten years old, we moved to San Francisco, where my dad pastored Primera Iglesia Bautista Del Sur on South Van Ness Street. Church was such an important part of our lives. Our family attended on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, as well as on Wednesday evenings.

Life as a Pastor’s Kid (PK) didn’t just revolve around our church but also around the East Bay Association and the many ethnic churches that were part of our Association. I remember visiting the American Indian Church and even sharing picnics with them. I remember going to the Italian Baptist Church service singing hymns I knew in Spanish, but they sang in Italian. I enjoyed going to our African American churches. I just loved the passionate and joyful singing. These experiences taught me to love all ethnic groups, and I thank my father for those wonderful experiences.

We were involved in many fellowships, associational meetings, and the State Convention meetings. During those years, I learned so much about missions through the WMU Girls in Action (GA’s) ministry in our church. Grace Peña was the best GA’s teacher, and her love for missions exploded into my life. She taught us so much about our Southern Baptist missions both internationally and here in the United States. I remember having a wonderful time traveling to Texas to attend my first GA Conference. As a GA we were the ones tasked with making the bulletin boards at the church to promote Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, and the California State Offerings.

I remember that we were taught to pray for a committed Christian husband who would be a loyal servant of God. Little did I know that one day, I would marry a husband who the Lord would call to be a pastor. We were also commissioned to serve in Argentina as career missionaries. When we returned to California on furlough for a year, we came to realize the tremendous mission field that we have here in our state. After much prayer and the realization that the world was coming to California, we made the decision that we would not continue as foreign missionaries in Argentina but that we would stay and serve in California. I believe the experience of working and worshipping alongside other ethnic groups and cultures prepared me for future ministry as both a foreign (and now a home) missionary alongside my husband.

Hispanic Christian women are family-oriented, ministry-focused, and service-driven whether at home, church, or other ministry areas. We are an integral part of the Southern Baptist Convention. I am proud and honored to be part of this spiritual family where every nation, tongue, and tribe takes part, especially in California.

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