Hundreds Join Seventh-day
Adventist Church in One Day
Joint effort of division, supporting ministries fulfills reaping goal
BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor, reporting from Livingstone, Zambia
n a hot late August afternoon, the final Sabbath of the month, hundreds of people lined up patiently in the sun at David Livingstone School in this southern Zambian city.
They didn’t gather for a concert, although there was certainly singing. No “celebrity” had flown in from Hollywood to film a motion picture needing the locals as “extras” in the production. And not an elected official was in sight; this was not a political event.
Instead, the hundreds of Zambians, some who had traveled from outlying districts in buses and cars to be there, were participating in the latest in a chain of African baptisms, which stretched back to the fifth book of the New Testament, the book of Acts. There, an Ethiopian official took his stand for Jesus. In this latest baptism, 1,600 Zambians emerged from the water as members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
[NEW BELIEVERS: On August 29 more than 1,600 were baptized at the David Livingstone School in Livingstone, Zambia. From left, pastors Buford Griffith, Jr., and Duane McKey of the Southwestern Union prepare to immerse two new members. [Photo: James Bokovoy]
The baptisms were the result of cooperation between local Adventist conferences, union conferences, and the regional division, as well as several U.S.-based entities: the Southwestern Union Conference, the Iowa-Missouri Conference, The Quiet Hour, Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries, and ShareHim, a project of the Carolina Conference.
“We are thankful to ShareHim for sending people from afar,” declared Paul Ratsara, president of the church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division. “Thank you for spending so much time with us.”
Ratsara, himself a veteran evangelist and preacher, was referring to the dozens of volunteer speakers from the United States who flew, many at their own expense, to spend weeks in Livingstone, the surrounding area and even as far away as neighboring Zimbabwe. Volunteers spoke night after night in open air meetings via an interpreter, using a series of sermons prepared to convey core Adventist beliefs and teachings.
Area church leaders, who made sure candidates knew both what they were agreeing to and what the commitment meant, had vetted those being baptized. Before the baptism began, the waiting crowd of believers was asked to affirm that they would live by the teachings of God’s word. They responded affirmatively and in unison.
“Today you become sons and daughters of God,” Ratsara told the soon-to-be new Adventists. “You have the responsibility to behave accordingly. The way you talk, the way you think should be different, because we are the children of God.”
Ratsara added, “This is not the end, this is the beginning.” He explained that the following morning, Sunday, at 8 o’clock, the new believers would begin training in soul winning, with the goal of replicating the effects of the outreach made to each new Adventist. Each new member is charged with the task of winning “one new soul within three months,” he said.
At the same time, “we’ll take good care of the newly baptized,” Ratsara promised.
Max Trevino, Southwestern Union Conference president, said, “We’ll look back at this as a very special occasion.”
Of notable interest in the campaign was the uniting of several independent ministries to support the outreach. Working with the host division, The Quiet Hour and ShareHim participated in bringing volunteers to the area. Maranatha Volunteers International contributed material and labor support for the construction of new churches, and Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries also participated in coordination and support for the effort.
YES, WE WILL: Prospective believers raise hands to signify agreement with Adventist doctrines before baptism in Livingston, Zambia. [Photo: Dick Duerksen, Maranatha Volunteers International]
“This demonstrates the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a worldwide church,” Ratsara said. “The mission that the Lord has given us has united us,” he added.
Among the volunteers, enthusiasm for participating in the event ran high.
“Not until I returned home did I receive an e-mail message from my translator, Eslony Hatimbula, in which he told me how my coming to speak had far-reaching effects,” said Lydia Calhoun, a classically trained clarinetist who spoke in Monte, Zambia. “He told me that this was the first time that believers in this area had seen and heard a woman preach a crusade. He said that the women were so inspired because until now they thought that preaching was only for men.”
James Bokovoy, who pastors a multi-church district in Oklahoma, said, “Having the opportunity to be part of a team that is focused on eternal goals is an incredible opportunity to refocus your vision. I believe these mission trips are a catalyst for a dynamic paradigm shift on many people’s attitudes towards evangelism.”
ShareHim literature states its “goal is to mobilize and train laymen to be active in a lifestyle of evangelism.” The group does this through international campaigns and a “homeland initiative” targeting “churches in the developed countries who want to start a continuous cycle of evangelism.” More information can be found online at www.sharehim.org.