International Ministries (IM) is excited to announce that IM missionaries Carlos Bonilla and Mayra Giovanetti will be the first IM missionaries to serve in Colombia, South America. They will begin their service this month and plan to reside in Cartagena, a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The family’s home church is Primera Iglesia Bautista de Caguas in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
The couple, known as “the BGs” by their support network, will serve with IM partner UNIBAUTISTA (Baptist University) in discipleship formation and training church leaders. They will work among the Wayuu ethnic group in the Guajira northern region of Colombia, one of the most neglected areas of the country. The Wayuu people is one of more than 80 recognized ethnic groups in the country.
“Thirty years ago, Mayra and I met each other in Colombia,” said Bonilla, “and for all these many years, we have longed and prayed for peace in Colombia, and for an opportunity to serve in my country of physical and spiritual birth. At long last, God answered with this ministry opportunity to share in discipleship and through peace and justice efforts.”
The Rev. Adalia Gutiérrez-Lee, MD, IM area director for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, commented, “Colombia’s northern ethnic regions have been a particular place of interest for the Colombian Baptist Convention. Having Carlos and Mayra there will allow IM to work not only in a new country, but potentially with new partners in ministry. May we become one so that the world might believe in Jesus Christ.” (John 17:21-23)
“I am delighted that IM is sending our first global servants to Colombia after 204 years of mission history,” said the Rev. Sharon Koh, IM executive director / CEO. “Carlos and Mayra have served the Lord faithfully in many different countries over the decades. This assignment to the country of Carlos’s birth is especially meaningful because of their desire that his own people would know and experience God’s love. I look forward to visiting and seeing with my own eyes the fruit of God’s mission through them.”
The BGs will be embarking on this new ministry in a country in the midst of civil unrest and violence. “Colombia’s unrest is no different from that which Carlos experienced before he left Colombia 29 years ago,” explained Giovanetti. “It is similar to my experience in Puerto Rico where I was raised, and in Israel where we lived in the 1990s. We care more about being where God wants us to be when he wants us there, regardless of the political situation. God will be with us as he is all the time.”
Bonilla and Giovanetti are looking forward to walking alongside the Wayuu people as they learn about Christ. “We just want to love the people and share in their needs where they are,” said Giovanetti. “We hope to host short-term mission teams in Colombia. As soon as we’re settled, we’ll be ready to receive those called to serve in this ministry of forming disciples and training church leaders.”
Living in Colombia with Bonilla and Giovanetti will be their youngest daughter, Daniela (age 14), and Giovanetti’s mother, Hilda García. Their adult children will be attending college in the U.S. Alberto (age 22) recently started graduate school at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and Carolina (age 19) just began her undergraduate work at Eastern University in Pennsylvania.
The BGs have served as IM global servants for 18 years, starting with two five-year terms in Chile (2000–2010), followed by a short term in Spain (2010–2013) and most recently a full term in Nicaragua (2013–2017).
“We are grateful to our friends and financial supporters in the U.S. and Puerto Rico for making it possible for us to serve in Colombia,” said the couple.
Bonilla explained, “We had a big financial hill to climb. The financial challenge was particularly great, mainly due to the devastation wrought by hurricane Maria to the island of Puerto Rico a year ago. The Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico are still recovering. Their giving is sacrificial and is increasing from last year’s giving. The churches continue to pray for us and lovingly give what can be considered their widow’s mite. We continue to need our U.S. siblings to stand in the gap in completing our, and all eight of IM’s global servants from Puerto Rico’s, personalized support goals.”
Giovanetti adds, “We are praying for a very generous 2018 World Mission Offering season. Those resources are instrumental in the ministries of our mission society and our becoming their first global servants to serve in Colombia.”
Carlos Bonilla and Mayra Giovanetti, “the BGs,” have been used by God in discipleship formation and training in churches in Chile, Spain and Nicaragua. UNIBAUTISTA has invited them to continue this work with ethnic groups in one of the most neglected areas of Colombia, the Guajira Northern Region. The BGs have been long-term global servants since 2000 through International Ministries, registered as the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.
Carlos and Mayra communicate with their network through their newsletter, Acts in Action—BGs Et Al. They love intentionally (Romans 12:15) while correctly explaining the word of truth, (2 Timothy 2:15) knowing that God provides the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)