Opinion

Serving the Lord by serving others

Since 2013, Dr. Raquel Contreras has been the general director of Casa Bautista de Publicaciones / Editorial Mundo Hispano—Baptist Spanish Publishing House—in El Paso. From deep in the heart of one Texan, she shares her background and thoughts on leading this institution. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.

Background

Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?

I was the president and general secretary of the Baptist Union of Churches in Chile for eight years. Also, I was president of the Latin American Baptist Union and vice president of the Baptist World Alliance. From 2010 to 2015, I was president of the Women’s Department of the Baptist World Alliance.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Chile. I was born in a Christian home. My father was Chilean, a very active Christian man, lawyer and member of our National Congress. My mother went to Chile as a single missionary with the International Mission Board in 1945. I moved to the United States in 2011 to work at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I learned the values of the Christian life as I was growing up. When I was 12 years old, I understood I needed a personal relationship with Christ, and at the same time, I dedicated my life to serve him in any way he showed me.

Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?

I am a lawyer by profession and pastor by vocation. I received my law degree in Chile. I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1980s but did not finish my degree. In 2019, I received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Dallas Baptist University.

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About ministry

Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?

My vocation is to serve the Lord by serving others. So, in different stages of my life I have done different things. At this time, I am working with the written word and its distribution among the Spanish speaking people. I feel called to do this, because I see the need among my people to have sound doctrinal material and for that material to be at a very affordable price.

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Please tell us about your Baptist institution—the breadth and nature of its work, including its mission, scope, etc.

The Baptist Spanish Publishing House was started in Mexico in 1906 by missionaries who saw the need to have materials in Spanish available for everybody. Several years later we moved to El Paso, with the vision to prepare resources not only for Mexico, but for all the Spanish speaking countries.

Our passion is to communicate the message of Jesus Christ and develop his disciples through printed and digital resources. We prepare original resources in Spanish and also translations.

Part of our resources are Sunday school curriculum, Vacation Bible School curriculum, discipleship material and, of course, academic books and inspirational books.


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One of the most important resources we have is that we own our own translation of the Bible. It is called Reina Valera Actualizada. This allows us to sell Bibles and to quote Bible verses in our books without paying royalties.

We sell everything we produce in the United States and everywhere else Spanish is spoken.

What do you like best about leading your institution? Why?

I grew up in Chile utilizing the materials published by Casa Bautista de Publicaciones, as all Spanish-speaking Baptists did.

The influence our ministry has had in the lives of so many—Baptist and non-Baptist—cannot be measured. My prayer every day is that this continues to be so. Therefore, I love that I can be a part of this blessing for so many. At the same time, this is a tremendous responsibility.

How do you expect your institution and/or its mission to change in the next 10 to 20 years?

The editorial industry is changing every day, and this brings many challenges. For me, the biggest challenge is people do not like to read. At the same time, they need to prepare themselves and have resources available for them.

With the advent of technology, the editorial industry also is changing. We do not know yet how the changes in communication, in church meetings and elsewhere will affect the editorial industry after the pandemic is over, but we must be prepared and ready to fulfill all the needs Christians will have.

Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your institution.

The biggest challenge for us is to choose carefully which resources to publish and to keep the price for these resources affordable so they can be a blessing to many.

I really thank the Lord the Baptist Spanish Publishing House has a foundation that helps us with grants to be able to lower our prices. That way, we can sell a Bible, a New Testament or even Sunday School materials for a price lower than cost.

What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?

It always is a blessing to see how our resources are used around the world. Many times, I have been blessed to hear somebody say, “That book, this magazine or that tract changed my view of things or helped me learn something new from the Lord.”

My greatest joy is seeing how our ministry blesses so many around the world and that our ministry has been doing it for more than 100 years.

Do you minister in other areas?

I have two other avenues of service I enjoy so much and continue helping.

I believe in the impowering of Latina women. Because of that, I belong to the board and faculty of the Christian Latina Leadership Institute. This is a nonprofit organization that, in many ways, works to help Latina and Latina-at-heart women who need to know their identity and recognize the value God has given them.

Also, I believe in the importance of helping pastors, their wives and families to live spiritually and physically healthy lives, both in their families and ministry. Because of that, I belong to a nonprofit called Strengthen Project (Proyecto Fortaleza), where, with three other friends, we offer retreats to pastors and their wives in South Texas and in North Mexico.

About Baptists

Why are you Baptist?

I was born in a Baptist home; so, when I started to grow in my Christian faith, it was natural for me to continue in the Baptist church. But even after I started having a relationship with other denominations through conversations and shared ministries, I always was happy to belong to the Baptist denomination.

The construction of peace has been my personal challenge, as well as to seek social justice and the need to be a missionary in every aspect of life always have represented my beliefs as a Baptist.

What are the key issues facing Baptists?

I believe there are two key issues Baptists are facing these days. One is we conserve our Baptist identity in a world where denominational affiliation is not as important anymore. For many in the 21st century—especially for young people—being a Baptist is seen as a barrier rather than as an identity.

Second is the role women have in the life of the church. Even though there have been many changes in this area, it still is uncommon to see women in positions of leadership and fulfilling greater responsibilities.

About Raquel

Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.

One of my favorite authors is not somebody we publish in Spanish. His name is Henri Nouwen, and the books The Wounded Healer and The Return of the Prodigal Son are my favorites.

Among the authors we have translated, I like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster—among many others—but I love to read about spirituality.

Regarding more recent authors in Spanish, Justo Gonzalez has become one of my favorites, because history is one of my favorite subjects.

In Spanish, as well, I also really like three women writers: Alicia Zorzoli, Yani de Gutierrez and Zoricelis Davila.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

Philippians 4:4-7. I believe this passage tells us how we should confront life every day and how we can enjoy the peace of God in our tumultuous lives that are so full of many activities and responsibilities. God is our peace.



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