This week I had the privilege of meeting Abel Lopez who serves as youth pastor at Mundo de Fe and president of Liderazgo Juvenil Internacional (Youth Leadership International). LJI will host three conferences this year in Dallas, Mexico City, and Managua, Nicaragua for over 5,000 youth pastors and leaders.
I felt like I have known Pastor Abel all my life. I guess that is because we have so much in common. We both grew up speaking English and later learned to speak Spanish and learned about our Hispanic/Latino heritage and culture. Abel is an amazing visionary with a simple and straightforward plan to make a difference in the lives of youth. While denominations and institutions talk about curbing the Hispanic high school drop out rate, Abel is doing something about it. He speaks in high school assemblies through LJI and has been contracted by several ISD’s to speak.
On September 11th-13th he will host a Training Conference in Carrollton at his Church, Mundo De Fe drawing about 1,500 youth leaders and pastors from across the nation for several days of intensive training. He will do the same thing in Mexico City later in September and in Managua, Nicaragua in December. Abel also offers skills training for parents in apartment complexes throughout the DFW area and has co-authored a book on parenting skills.
Approximately 50% of Hispanic youth drop out of high school each year. While I was at Baptist University of the Americas I championed this concern and thought that Texas Baptists with 9 univeristies and 5,500 churches could and should do something about this. We have about 10,000 youth among our 1,200 Hispanic churches affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. About 3,000 of those youth gather annually at the Hispanic Youth and Singles Congreso. According to the trends for Hispanic High School completion in Texas, 5,000 of those 10,000 youth will graduate from high school; 3,200 will enroll in college, and 800 will graduate with a BA degree. Less than 300 of those 10,000 will earn a graduate degree.
This is not good news for the Texas economy. By 2010, every other Texan will be Hispanic and there will be more Hispanics in Dallas than there will be in San Antonio, a majority Hispanic city. The workforce of the future in Texas will be under-educated and under-skilled. What if Texas Baptists figured out a way to change that future for Hispanic youth in our congregations? What if we only tried to solve that issue for the 10,000 youth affiliated with the BGCT and its institutions? What would be a reasonable goal to set for High School completion among this part of our family? What if we too had a zero tolerance among our Hispanic youth regarding dropping out of high school? The news media would be all over this rather than reporting what we are against. Abel is not a Baptist but he is a brother in the Lord and he is doing something about Hispanic youth. More on this on Thursday.