Kathy Hillman: Dos hermanos en Cristo, living the difference

A gathering at the Rocha home. (Photo courtesy of the Rocha family)

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Dos hermanos en Cristo. Two ordinary men extraordinarily used by God. God called Robert to Christian ministry. He called Archímedes to ministry as a Christian.

kathy hillman130Kathy HillmanJosé Archímedes Rocha’s story reads like a novel. He was born in Managua, Nicaragua. As a child, he almost drowned, but God had other plans. Losing his father early in life, he spent his boyhood working hard to take care of his mother. Education was not an option, but he had a thirst for knowledge and educated himself as best he could.

Archímedes married his love, Paublina, and moved to Siuna to work for a Canadian gold-mining company. The young man became an expert in machinery, and his boss, Alan Drebert, offered him a job in the United States. In 1962, he arrived in Waco with plans for his wife and children to follow.

In Texas, Archímedes worked hard but knew no one and spoke little English. A family asked him to attend church with them. Everyone there spoke Spanish, and the service would be in his language. He went. At Primera Iglesia Bautista de Waco, Archímedes found friends and a family away from family. But most of all, he found a Savior. 

hillman rocha church300Archímedes Rocha arriving for church. (Photo courtesy of the Rocha family)In Nicaragua, Archímedes and his family attended church, but they didn’t know Jesus. When Paublina and the children arrived in Waco, she didn’t want to visit Primera, but Archímedes insisted. So she went and found a Savior, too, as later did their two daughters and two sons. 

Church wasn’t the only major adjustment. The family needed to learn English. The children recall their father taking them to the grocery store and requiring they look up foods in a Spanish-English dictionary and remember the names. He and Paublina insisted they study and be educated. Indeed, all four attended Baylor University and earned at least one college degree.

Throughout his life, Archímedes brought people to Primera and loved them into God’s kingdom through his ready smile, gentle kindness and quiet perseverance. He knew how hunger and poverty felt and enjoyed sharing meals around the family table. He lived thinking of others first and believing he could make things better.

Archímedes, Paublina and the grown-up Rocha children remained faithful to God and to their church. His memorial service paid tribute to a Christian brother who poured his life into the next generation and into those around him.

Non-Christians also felt Robert Cortes’ aura of peace and faith. His bright smile drew many to him. Roberto’s life began in Monterrey, Mexico. He grew up in a Christian home, attended school, became a successful accountant and married. But God’s call changed everything. hillman cortes helicopter425Robert Cortes during his time serving as chaplain at Hermann Hospital in Houston. (Photo courtesy of the Cortes family)In 1956, Robert and his wife, Cary, emigrated to the United States so he could prepare for ministry. They both studied at Tennessee Temple College. In Chattanooga, he also served as an associate pastor. 

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Upon graduation, the Cortes family moved to Texas, where Robert became the full-time minister of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Belton, which ordained him. Seeking additional study, he earned an master’s degree in religion at Baylor. He served as pastor of Hispanic congregations in Odem, Edroy and Refugio, and he worked with Elmin Howell to involve his churches in Texas Baptists’ River Ministry.

In 1969, God called Robert and the Cortes family back to Monterrey to be missionaries and to pastor Primera Iglesia Bautista and Iglesia Bautista Berea. hillman cortes laterlife150Robert Cortes in later life. (Photo courtesy of the Cortes family)He planted churches throughout Mexico and for almost a decade also taught elementary school. He further extended God’s reach through an international radio ministry that continued 35 years. For eight years, he wrote “Lo que la Biblia enseña” or “What the Bible teaches” for El Norte, a newspaper widely read in Mexico and Spain.

God uprooted Pastor Cortes again in 1978. The Southern Baptist Home Mission Board through Rice Temple Baptist Church asked him to begin a chaplaincy program for international patients at Texas Medical Center in Houston. He served as senior chaplain at M.D. Anderson, Hermann and Methodist hospitals. In retirement, Chaplain Cortes’ witness continued as he turned every conversation naturally to Christ. texas baptist voices right120When he died, his two sons and daughter streamed the memorial service to his churches in Mexico at their request.

Archímedes Rocha and Robert Cortes Sr. lived the difference, leaving legacies of faith and faithfulness. Dos hermanos en Cristo who personified Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

May we also live the difference, hermanos y hermanas en Cristo—brothers and sisters in Christ.

Kathy Hillman is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. She also is director of Baptist collections, library advancement and the Keston Center for Religion, Politics and Society at Baylor University.

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