ABHMS’ Medina Betancourt is recognized for her home mission work in Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, the concept of “mission” historically has been understood as international mission, according to the Rev. Abigail Medina Betancourt, national coordinator for Intercultural Engagement at American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS). When she started working in the field of “home mission,” people often referred to her work as “social action.” She jokingly mentions that she owns a lot of polos bearing the ABHMS logo, and the words “home mission” have proven to be an effective conversation starter that allows her to explain the distinct differences between ABHMS and its sister American Baptist agency International Ministries.
The ABHMS-supported initiative “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” was a turning point for recognition of home mission on the island. People of faith who were involved in rebuilding Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria and other natural disasters that followed increasingly define themselves as “home missionaries.” Much of this work is still gendered in Puerto Rico, meaning that most of the home missionaries there are women. To recognize their efforts, Ministerio de Mujeres Bautistas de Puerto Rico (American Baptist Women in Puerto Rico), dedicated Encuentro de Mujeres Bautistas de Puerto Rico, their annual meeting this past September, to 11 Baptist women who served in home missions during the year.
Medina Betancourt was one of the honorees. She explains a deeper significance of the official recognition of home mission: “We can say that this event and these awards are reflective of a sort of shift in the relationship between Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico and ABHMS, as a lot of churches had been recognized as doing home mission.”
The Rev. Crucita Ortiz, associate minister of Evangelism and New Churches at Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico (IBPR) and the liaison between IBPR and Ministerio de Mujeres Bautistas de Puerto Rico, believes that recognition of women home missionaries for “the hard work they do in the different circumstances that occur around them” is long overdue. Praising their resilience and persistence, Ortiz said, “No matter how difficult or complex the moment is, they carry the word, serve, strengthen, pray and pour out their love on those who are far away or close to them.”
Ortiz also pointed out that women have a particular impact that is very holistic in character: “Women are an important axis in [our] society. They are missionaries at home, in the community, at work and everywhere they go.”
The honor that Medina Betancourt received is emblematic of a strengthening partnership between ABHMS and IBPR. “Rev. Medina Betancourt has been instrumental as a deployed staff member in Puerto Rico,” said the Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri, ABHMS director of Intercultural Ministries. “She leads with a passion for missions, an understanding of mutual partnership, and the expertise to engage missional people in ways that bring good news to those on the mission field and deepens discipleship for all those involved. We are delighted that Rev. Medina Bentancourt was recognized for exemplary service as a home missionary.”