By Elizabeth Young

The Arizona Baptist Historical Society presented awards and heard reports on the history of Hispanic work in the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and the history of Central Association of Southern Baptists at their 29th annual meeting. The meeting was hosted by First Southern Baptist Church, Phoenix, April 1.

Fernando Amaro, North American Mission Board church planting catalyst in Arizona, presented the history of Southern Baptist Hispanic work in the state.

Arizona Southern Baptists’ first efforts to reach Hispanics began in Tucson in 1944 with Home Mission Board (now NAMB) missionaries Mr. and Mrs. I.B. Williams, he said. That was preceded in 1942 by a strong emphasis from Arizona Woman’s Missionary Union encouraging ministry to “Mexicans” and “Indians.” The first Hispanic church in Arizona was organized in 1945 in Chandler, with Williams as pastor.

When Amaro joined the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention staff in 1999, it marked a change in the state convention’s work with Hispanics. From the beginning, the AZSBC “had been doing everything for Hispanics,” he said. Under his leadership, “the first efforts of training of Hispanics by Hispanics” began.

Bruce Ford, director of missions for Central Association of Southern Baptists, reported on the association’s 75-year history.

He said he was surprised when he was contacted about the association’s anniversary by Marjorie Kuban, the Arizona Southern Baptist Historical Commission archivist, since the association’s records indicated it was founded 73 years old. Kuban was able to show that the association had indeed started in 1942, with the state convention providing leadership until a position jointly funded by the HMB, AZSBC and association was established in 1944.

The Historical Society presented Meritorious Service Awards to Fernando and Mirsa Amaro and to Gary and Leslie Dodrill. Gary is director of evangelism/missions for Estrella Association, and Leslie is retired associate professor of educational leadership at the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now Gateway Seminary). The Willis J. Ray Distinguished Service Award was presented to Elizabeth Young, AZSBC director of communications.

At the close of the meeting, Historical Society President Les Jennings said next year, the society’s 30th, will be the final year “unless new leadership steps forward.” The small group has had trouble finding individuals to serve as officers, and the same people have served for several years.

However, Jennings stressed the importance of churches continuing to compile their histories and share them with the Historical Commission.

For more information about the Arizona Baptist Historical Society, email Jennings at lesbevescobita@outdrs.net.