BERNICE — Miguel “Papi” Barrios of Bernice passed away March 29 in West Monroe at the age of 80.
Burial services were at First Baptist Church of Farmerville on Saturday, April 1. Reginaldo DeLeon officiated. Interment followed at Shiloh Cemetery in the Shiloh Community.
Born July 5, 1936 in Guatemala, he was the founder of the Iglesia Bautista Nazaret and a former church planter for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
At the age of 18, he had the opportunity to pastor his first congregation in the village of Malacatan, Guatemala.
In order to pursue a master’s degree, he traveled to U.S., to the city of San Marcos, Texas where while working on a master’s degree in psychology and working nights as a security guard, he also planted the 2nd Baptist Church of San Marcos.
He finished his degree and was offered a well-paid position with the federal government which he refused. Bro. Barrios, steadfast in his calling, continued to pastor a growing 2nd Baptist church for 12 years until he felt the Lord calling him in 1978 to a new planting field, the state of Illinois where he planted 5th St. Baptist mission and claim St. Hispanic Baptist Church (now called Iglesia Bautista Emanuel) in Aurora, IL.
In 1983, Barrios accepted a call from Jerry Edmonson, then-Director of Missions of Northeast Louisiana Baptist Association, to come to Monroe to serve as associational church planter and pastor of the small mission started by Alvin Rosenow, his wife Ruth and in-laws, IMB missionaries, James and Susan Ware.
Given the small Hispanic population of the town, Barrios began searching for Hispanics in all the surrounding villages and rural areas of the parish and beyond. He not only combed through the villages alongside the I-20 corridor but deep through the backroads of several parishes finding scores of Hispanics manning chicken houses, tending cattle, planting and harvesting crops, logging, and doing manual labor on ranches.
He would soon ask them if he could hold a service or Bible study in their quarters. If not possible, he would try to find the closest Baptist church available that would be willing to let him meet with a group there, usually a First Baptist Church would consent.
At times, he would hold worship services or Bible studies almost every day of the week and three on Sundays in many towns: Tallulah, Columbia, Transylvania, Bastrop, Bonita, Rayville, Ruston, etc. If the group dwindled or he didn’t see consistency, he’d move on to another area.
All of this was taking place at the same time he was leading services on Sundays at the mission in Monroe. In 1983, the mission was meeting in homes but about a year later, it started meeting at College Place Baptist Church until 1986 when an old and dilapidated church building in Monroe was donated to the Association which in turn donated it to the mission.
A couple of weeks later, after the pastor and mission members worked very hard to get the church building ready for services, the growing group of about 30 voted to name the mission: Iglesia Bautista Emanuel.
With the help of Edmonson, Barrios was able to secure the support of Cedar Crest Baptist Church of West Monroe as a sponsor of his missions including Iglesia Bautista Emanuel of Monroe.
Barrios pastored I. B. Emanuel for 12 years preaching Wednesday and Sunday services; often times driving the church van and attending scheduled NAMB meetings and training conferences around the nation. The mission attendance would fluctuate between 30 and 60 throughout those years. He continued to visit and explore other areas during the week. Members of I. B .Emanuel assisted him regularly in conducting services in these areas with various groups but none of those materialized into a consistent, growing mission.
At some point during those 12 years, he was given the position of Catalytic Missionary for NAMB. Also during this time, Barrios expressed that because most Hispanics worked and were busy during the day, he was going to take advantage of the free time and enroll at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe. He was able to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish which allowed him to teach Spanish at Farmerville high school for a short period of time.
A truly hard-worker, a caring pastor, and a great church planter, he planted Iglesia Bautista Betel betwen Farmerville and Bernice; Misión Bautista de Forest in Forest; Misión Bautista Belén in Ruston; a mission in Athens; Misión Bautista Filadelfia in Simsboro; a mission in Minden, and Iglesia Bautista Nazaret in Bernice.
He faithfully served the Hispanic population in Northeast Louisiana — Tallulah, Columbia, Transylvania, Bastrop, Bonita, Rayville and Ruston.
He is preceded in death by: His first wife, Oralia Barrios; a granddaughter, Alexandra; and a great-grand-daughter, Willow. He is survived by: his wife Maria Y. Barrios; a son, Miguel Barrios and wife Melba Pietri de Barrios, from Dorado, Puerto Rico; daughters Brenda Barrios Lambert of Winston Salem, N.C. and Mary Barrios from Farmerville; five grandchildren – Miguel E., Selena, Jonathan, Dennis Jr., and Courtnee; seven great-grandchildren; and special nephews Berner Requena, Axel Requena and Donald Rodriquez.