“Pentecost and More” Still Strong
in Its Fifth Year
Annual evangelistic outreach sees thousands baptized
BY LIBNA STEVENS, assistant communication director, Inter-American Division, reporting from Maracaibo, Zulia, Venezuela
or the fifth consecutive year the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America engaged in unified evangelistic efforts to baptize thousands of people through its Pentecost and More initiative, which began in the first quarter of each year. The efforts were celebrated through baptismal ceremonies held throughout the region and through a special satellite program broadcast from Maracaibo, Venezuela, on March 19, 2011.
So far this year more than 62,546 new believers have joined the church as a result of the committed work of church leaders, pastors, and lay members who have been sharing the good news of ?salvation in their communities.
“This is a glorious day in the Inter-American Division,” said Balvin Braham, ministerial associate director for the church in Inter-America and organizer of the event.
“We are rejoicing that God continues to lead men and women to the foot of the cross, that the gospel is being preached, and those who accept the gospel are being engrafted into the body of Jesus Christ,” he added as he reported that more than 15,300 baptisms took place in 16 of the 21 church regions in the territory during the live program. Final figures are still pending.
The program was seen live on the Hope Channel, Esperanza TV, and 3ABN Latino.
A unified workforce throughout thousands of small groups, congregations, and churches has made the initiative successful, said Braham.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church is advancing with the message we have to tell the world, so we are excited to see that our pastors and members are working together today in this union,” Braham said.
More than 1,200 people were baptized on-site as church leaders from throughout the territory pronounced baptismal prayers during the live program held at the packed 5,000-seat Palacio de Eventos, in Maracaibo.
Thousands more baptisms took place throughout the region as live feeds showed new members being submerged in water in other parts of Inter-America during the broadcast, which featured musical presentations and spiritual messages welcoming new believers into the church.
Steve Riley, a minister of the Stanmore Adventist Church in Trinidad, delivered the keynote message. Riley challenged church leaders, baptismal candidates, and members to continue surrendering to God every day and to continue fulfilling the mission of the church by reaching out to people.
“Give Jesus what you have, and He will give you everything He has,” emphasized Riley. “Our job is to make the world thirsty, thirsty for Jesus,” he continued. “When people are thirsty for Jesus, just as you and I are, they will taste and see that Jesus is good and that He satisfies.”
It was that thirst that prompted Kate Asmond in Jamaica to make her decision to accept Jesus into her heart. As Glen Samuels, personal ministries director for the church in Jamaica, pronounced the baptismal prayer from Venezuela, Asmond stood in the water waiting to be submerged at the Northern Caribbean University gymnatorium.
“I am happy because this is something I wanted to do for a while, and so I am overjoyed that it is now a reality,” said Asmond, a registered nurse and midwife. Asmond was the first person to be baptized in Jamaica during the Pentecost and More satellite event. “I look forward to serving God through His church,” she added.
Asmond represented more than 700 new members who joined the church in Jamaica on March 19. She is among thousands who displayed her commitment to God throughout the church in Inter-America.
In Venezuela alone 3,465 baptisms took place during the Pentecost and More satellite program, an event that had a special meaning, local church leaders said.
“It was in this country on March 25 that the first baptism took place 100 years ago and the first with 17 members was organized a week later,” said Orlando Ramirez, executive secretary of the Venezuela-Antilles Union Mission. To date, the church in the west region has accounted for more than 5,000 baptisms this year.
Elsewhere in Inter-America, new members were added to the church on the day of the broadcast. In the Dominican Republic 1,727 baptisms took place, while 1,000 were added in Honduras, and thousands more in Mexico.
The growth has focused on proclaiming the message through the active small groups in Inter-America, and the main vehicle for evangelism this year, said Melchior Ferreyra, personal ministries director for the church in Inter-America.
With more than 90,000 small groups that meet in homes every week to study the Bible, to pray, to fellowship, and to bring about revival, the task of sharing the gospel to thousands more is still challenging but not as difficult, said Ferreyra.
For Jesus Guzman, 25, Adventist Youth director at the Central Adventist Church in Maracaibo, meeting in a small group every week has been a real blessing. His youth group of about seven members split from another growing group six months ago. His small group bears the name of Elijah and has concentrated on studying the Bible and Adventist doctrines every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. The Elijah group also contacts the many friends and neighbors of group members with invitations to group meetings, Guzman said.
“We make our group a haven as we meet, share our challenges, and enrich our spiritual life by searching for God,” said Guzman, an electrical engineer, who hopes the group will become large enough to multiply into more groups soon.
That multiplication factor can be challenging, but it propels small group ministries, said Ferreyra.
“We have the challenge, but we can look toward the future with hope, a hope of bringing the message of salvation to thousands more people,” added Ferreyra, who explained that the goal to end the five-year period is to have 200,000 active small groups throughout the entire IAD territory by 2015.
The satellite program was also a launching pad for next year’s Pentecost and More initiative, which will bear the name Pentecost One Million. The new initiative will challenge 1 million trained church members to bring one friend or acquaintance to a special program March 24, 2012.
“We want to train 1 million members and let them loose to go out in small groups as small group leaders, as members of small groups to inspire spiritually and aid dysfunctional relationships and address community needs,” Braham added.
As the satellite event drew to a close, Samuels joined Israel Leito, president of the church in the Inter-American Division, for a special appeal to the thousands gathered at the Palacio de Eventos. More than 200 reached the stage to give their life to Jesus and be prayed for.
“What a glorious moment we have right now to respond to the call of Jesus,” said Samuels. “He is thirsting after you, and He is asking today, Come to the living waters. We want to pray with you before you leave.” Samuels also made a special appeal for former members of the church to be prayed for.
Pentecost and More was inspired by the biblical Pentecost of Acts 2 and seeks to mobilize pastors and lay members alike to strengthen their unified efforts for effectiveness in evangelistic mission outreach initiatives. Since the Pentecost initiative began in 2007, more than 304,000 baptisms have been attributed to the first quarter evangelistic efforts in the Inter-American ?Division territory.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church ?in Inter-America covers Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern tip of South America, and has more than 3.4 million members worshipping in 10,708 churches and congregations.
—Nigel Coke contributed to this report