But diversity and lack of experience pose problems.

“We have many missionaries in Africa from the United States, Canada, and Europe,” says Nigerian missions leader Panya Baba. “But we’ve been waiting a long time to see Latin missionaries.”

Speaking last month at the first Missions Congress for North American Hispanics (COMHINA) in Orlando, Florida, Baba and other mission leaders urged Hispanic Christians to get involved in world missions. Worldteam missionary Al Ortiz says, “The thing that impresses me here is the excitement.”

Whether that zeal is translated into cross-cultural missionaries remains a question in the minds of missions leaders. At first glance, Hispanic churches seem well positioned to become a missionary-sending base. U.S. Hispanic Protestant churches are growing—some researchers say at a rate of 10 percent per year—and pack plenty of evangelistic fervor. An estimated 20 percent of the 25 million U.S. Hispanics are Protestants.

Two issues, however, have worked against coordinated Hispanic mission efforts. They are anything but a uniform bloc. Hailing from more than 20 countries of origin, U.S. Hispanics display many differences. Second, recent Latin immigrants often struggle financially and have fewer financial resources for overseas support.

And, while Hispanic groups have occasionally done mostly short-term missions, Ortiz says, “most churches do not yet have the concept of supporting someone to go someplace as a cross-cultural missionary and stay there.”

In his travels promoting the congress, COMHINA executive director Rudy Giron says he found only 10 Hispanic churches actively involved in cross-cultural missions.

Giron also is president of COMIBAM International (Iberoamerican Missionary Cooperation), an organization ...

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