As many area churches are celebrating a century or more of service to the community, First Hispanic Baptist Church of Sedalia is celebrating its first decade in 2019.

In July 1996, Roger Brant and Timothy VanBebber, pastors of the Heartland Baptist Church in Knob Noster and First churches of Knob Noster respectively, invited Efraín Baeza, of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to participate in evangelistic work. In Mexico, he served as a deacon and taught Sunday school at his family’s church.

Baeza was asked to remain in America to serve as a pastor for the Hispanic ministry, but Baeza said he had no plans to become a pastor and was returning to Mexico to continue working as an architect. 

Two years later, Baeza was asked again to join the ministry and said he felt a calling from God to do so.

“They asked me to be a pastor and I say, I am an architect, I am going back to Mexico,” Baeza said. “... ‘But you are willing to come if God say?’ Of course, I am willing to come if God say. … Then two years later in 1998, they called me, am I willing to come? OK, I am willing to come. God opened doors.”

Despite experiencing their first harsh Missouri winter later that year, the Baeza family remained in Sedalia, helping with a Hispanic ministry in Sedalia and Knob Noster that met at existing churches. Baeza said they received support from area churches, the West Central Baptist Association and the Harmony Baptist Association.

The ministry soon started growing, as there was a need for Hispanic ministry in the area. Baeza was soon leading more than 100 people and First Baptist of Sedalia approved moving the group’s services from the church annex to the main sanctuary to accommodate more people. The ministry was at First Baptist of Sedalia for 11 years before the church made a motion to establish First Hispanic Baptist Church of Sedalia in 2009.

The church now has its own facility at 600 S. Summit Ave. and is outgrowing the space, converting every spare inch to classrooms to help with the growing needs of a congregation with nearly 200 members. 

“God uses people. Even if we’re not perfect, he uses us,” Baeza said. “He is faithful and has mercy for everyone. 

“I am very pleased to see life has been changed,” he said of seeing the ministry grow from a mission to a successful church. “No one can do that like God. It’s satisfying to see lives change.”

The church offers community outreach, helping citizens in need with food, gas or shelter.

“But we want to give more than just food, we want to share the gospel,” Baeza added.

Each week is packed with events, from Vacation Bible School, Youth Week and weekly prayer nights to yearly mission trips to Mexico helping a medical clinic where Baeza’s wife, an OB/GYN, helps with consultations and distributing medication. Weekly groups meet for women, men, young adults and kids with a focus on mission work. There’s also always plenty of food and fellowship.

First Hispanic Baptist has come full circle and now has its own missions and churches. Two organized churches are in Austin, Minnesota, and Nurío, Michoacán, Mexico, and two missions are in Marshall and Tlajomulco, Jalisco, Mexico.

“Wherever God opens doors, we will go,” Baeza said.

As families grow and new generations attend First Hispanic Baptist, the church is becoming more diverse. Baeza said they accommodate guests in Spanish and in English, with headphones offering translation for those who don’t speak the main language being used in that particular service. VanBebber, the Knob Noster pastor who asked Baeza to join the ministry, is now helping Baeza at First Hispanic Baptist. He helps preach and with youth groups while his wife plays the piano at Sunday services.

When it comes to the next 10 years, Baeza said he doesn’t have a strategy but rather is listening to God. He said his plans are to share the gospel and help people.

After declining the initial offer to be a pastor in 1996, Baeza has now been a pastor for 21 years, he said, and also serves as a part-time chaplain at Tyson Foods in Sedalia. He has even put his architect skills to use in ministry, helping to create a temple in Rio. He’s now only a few classes from finishing his master’s from an online Hispanic seminary school, a goal he started when he first came to America more than two decades ago.

“The call was from God. God let me be an architect and build,” Baeza said. “... God called me to build churches, lives, through his words.”


Nicole Cooke is the editor for the Sedalia Democrat, overseeing all newsroom operations and assisting with news coverage of Sedalia and Pettis County. She can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.

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