CONWAY, Ark. (BP)—Jacki King grew up in a Baptist church in Dallas and now serves on staff at a Baptist church in Conway, Ark. But her connection to Southern Baptist ministry began much earlier, deep within her family’s heritage.
King’s grandparents were Cuban immigrants who came to Miami as Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba during the early 1960s.
They had sent their son, King’s uncle, to the United States earlier as part of Operation Pedro Pan, the U.S. government program that brought more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United States from 1960 to 1962.
Her grandparents and Jacki’s mother joined him in Florida about a year later. The family later relocated to the Dallas area with assistance from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Home Mission Board. The mission board arranged for the Ravelos to be sponsored by a family from Westglen Baptist Church in Dallas.
That family, along with support from others in the congregation and many other Texas Baptists, helped the Ravelos find a home and jobs as part of their sponsorship. The Ravelos were the first Cuban refugees to be relocated to the Dallas area by the Home Mission Board.
King now leads the women’s ministry at Second Baptist Church in Conway, Ark., where her husband Josh is the lead pastor.
Learning about her family’s history
Even though her family grew up in that same Baptist church that sponsored them, she only recently learned about the impact Southern Baptist missions had on her heritage and faith.
“The last few years, I’ve been getting to see not only what my family went through, but that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the efforts, investment, mission and sacrifice of Southern Baptists both then and now,” King said.
“I don’t know that you fully understand the depths of the Christian faith until maybe you’re a little bit older and you start to see the work of grace and the thread of God’s faithfulness despite hard circumstances. I think the lineage of faith is huge, because it’s how you get to look back and see God’s faithfulness and provision.”
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After the Ravelos died a few years ago, King’s mother visited Cuba and began researching more about her family’s history. She found archived articles from Baptist publications telling more of the story.
King expressed some of her thoughts regarding her family’s Southern Baptist connections in a Twitter thread posted last month.
“I am a product of our mission & heartbeat to reach the nations,” King said in a tweet. “The lineage of faith in my family and God’s grace, & the work of Southern Baptists is why I am where I am today. I choose to stay in the SBC because I believe in our mission and that we are stronger together.”
In her current ministry, King wants the women in her church to understand all the great work Southern Baptists have done and are doing, and that they can be a part of that ministry.
“I love getting to see the women in our denomination serve and lead and use their gifts,” King said.
“Let’s start celebrating the things God is doing with our women. There are women doing theological education in all of our seminaries and stepping out of those seminaries with degrees to be better moms, wives and co-workers. There is such a lacking in this conversation, but there is no SBC without the women serving, loving and leading.”
King is planning a trip to Cuba to visit where her grandparents are from and said reflecting on her family’s past has helped her realize the SBC is not only a part of her past, but her present and future as well.
“This isn’t just like a club I am a part of,” King said. “I am Southern Baptist because of where God has brought my journey. That’s something that is deeply rooted in my family and deeply a part of me.”