The theme of the 2014 NavVida Network National Conference—FUEGO!, Spanish for “fire”—described the enthusiasm and optimism that characterized the 250-plus Navigators and friends gathered in San Antonio, Texas, over Labor Day weekend—they were on fire!
The mix of two cultures—Hispanic and mainstream U.S. culture—was a recurring theme, most often from a fun, lighthearted approach. But attendees also acknowledged the internal conflict that can come with being Hispanic in the United States.
“I really identified with the confusion caused by growing up in two cultures,” said one college student. “I never knew quite where I fit. It was nice to hear that other people have the same struggle.”
That sense of belonging was seen all over the conference. Hugs and kisses exchanged by the Hispanic staff demonstrated their joy at being together and their shared cultural expressions. Most of the attendees were Navigators, both staff and non-staff, but many were friends from local churches and other ministries.
One special guest was Alejandro Mandes, director of Hispanic ministries for the Evangelical Free Church of America. He addressed the group Saturday morning, saying we need to “make disciples ‘a la Mexicana,’” meaning we need to build on the relational nature of the Latino culture, but also go a step further and give those relationships intentionality and purpose—to make disciples.
General session speakers also included Nav Senior V.P Eddie Broussard, Navigator Dr. Rafael Serna from Southern California, longtime staffers Cesar and Edie Vega, and Miami staffer Armando Diaz. They challenged the audience with the scope of reaching the exploding U.S. Hispanic population, urging them to minister and disciple out of a life fully dedicated to and dependent upon God, and as a family on mission together.
Associate U.S. Director Lindy Black also addressed the crowd, as did Marvin Campbell, the Field director dedicated to NavVida. Marvin said, “FUEGO! Was both inspirational and motivational, while casting a vision for reaching the nations through Hispanic America.”
Leading each session as MCs were JJ and Jennifer Gonzalez, associate staffers from New Jersey. Corporate worship was led by a local worship band, Stories of Grace, singing in both Spanish and English.
In between the large group sessions were affinity groups and workshops. Affinity groups allowed for exchange between those who serve in similar ministries—military, collegiate, church, and community. Workshops addressed various aspects of disciplemaking, the unique challenges of the Hispanic community, understanding Catholicism, and more.
The location of the conference at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel gave participants easy access to the sights and sounds of downtown San Antonio. Participants enjoyed the famous San Antonio Riverwalk, gathering in local restaurants to share meals and engage in deeper conversations.
Sunday morning, in a side-by-side presentation, Cesar and Edie Vega painted a picture of lighting a torch and passing it on to the next generation, saying we need to love God, love the Word, love discipleship, and love the lost.
The culmination of the conference was the Sunday night fiesta. Past and present NavVida leaders were recognized with a prayer of blessing offered by Marvin Campbell and Eddie Broussard.
Following this time of thanksgiving, Armando Diaz, on staff in Miami, challenged the participants to step out in faith, knowing God would be with them as God was with Moses.
“Moses’ history could be your history,” Armando said. “The mission God called Moses to accomplish was to deliver Israel from slavery and form a nation. There are about 34 million Hispanics in this country who do not claim to know Christ, who are unknowing captives and slaves to our enemy. Our task, as Christ’s soldiers, is to go behind enemy lines and set them free.”
A costume contest, a talent show (with both ridiculous and serious entries), closed the final group gathering with energetic music and dancing.
Monday morning provided attendees with the opportunity to spend extended time with God, under the care of Cesar and Edie Vega. The intent was to help staff focus their attention on the Lord before returning to their busy lives and ministries.
As the conference came to a close, Jose Lamberty, NavVida director, said, “God gave me a key word this weekend: juntos (together).”