The year 2020 has been a strange year. What happens during times of disruption? When you have a worldwide pandemic, wrapped in an economic shutdown, and racial unrest, it’s the perfect definition of a disrupted world. In times like these, what is the church to do? Is the mission in quarantine, or do we adapt, adjust, and look for innovative, creative ways to share the gospel with even more people?
STORY 1: Connected
If there was a time when we have to be connected, this is it — connected to God through a living relationship with His son Jesus Christ, connected to each other in the love of the Lord, connected to others who do not know Jesus to connect them to Him.
This is why the Hispanic Ministries Department of the Southern Union Conference in the United States and the coordinators of each of the eight conferences in this territory drew up the “Conectados” plan.
“Conectados” is a virtual caravan that would pass through the eight conferences in eight days, livestreaming from an Adventist church in each conference field with a different preacher and singer. All of it would happen virtually. That’s how we planned the strategy, organized the logistics, and finally carried it out. How does a virtual caravan, in the midst of a pandemic, result in more than 500 baptisms?
Let us take you behind the scenes of the preparation and execution of this initiative.
Phase One: Planning
We organized several meetings with the coordinators to achieve our goal. Preachers and singers who represented each conference in the union were chosen. A young adult, Alex Espinosa, a Christian singer and church member from Forest City, Florida, composed the song that matched the title and theme of the caravan: “Conectados” — Connected.
Phase Two: Production
We traveled to the eight states to record preachers and singers. We recorded them in the same church from which we would host the livestream on the assigned day. It was an intense week of production, but very rewarding. The recordings were made by our production team of three people. Preachers and singers were recorded at different times to avoid contact. We took incredible precautions, and thanks to God, no one contracted the novel coronavirus during the production.
As part of the production, everything recorded was edited and prepared. It consisted of preaching and music and videos with short one- to two-minute messages from the Southern Union officers and the president of each host conference. The theme song was recorded by four members of our territory in open spaces in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.
We also wanted to make sure that all the equipment was configured and working correctly, and that church members knew how to connect and watch the stream. As a trial run, we did a test a week before the event where our president, Ron Smith, in a 12-minute message, urged leaders and members to connect. We had almost 10,000 views that night! Now, with more confidence, we moved to the third phase.
Several weeks after recording the sermons and music, we traveled the same route, but this time to broadcast from the places where we had recorded. Each night the local Hispanic ministries director shared their vision and told us what they were doing in their territory in the midst of the pandemic, all streamed to Facebook and YouTube. Every conference learned about what the others were doing. Most churches connected and supported the caravan.
These were intense days of happiness and victory, though full of obstacles and fatigue. However, the long hours of road travel could not dampen the many moments of laughter and reflection during the journey to the eight territories of our Southern Union. The Lord helped us!
Thanks to the Lord, we closed the Virtual Caravan “Conectados” on August 8, 2020. And thanks to the cross-posting with most churches throughout the territory of the Southern Union and many others of the North American Division, we reached more than 100,000 views. We also managed to connect through the Esperanza TV signal, which was added to the broadcast via its Facebook page and YouTube channel. Other ministries, such as “Light for Today” radio, pledged to share messages every night to reach more people.
“Conectados” led us to achieve our goal: for each member to connect two people with the good news of salvation. Thanks to this, hundreds and thousands watched every night. The comments and messages of encouragement for the whole team, the prayers that accompanied us during those long nights and days of travel, were a sign that, if we join in preaching the gospel, God will give us His great victory.
When we planned this event amid the pandemic and confinement, we understood that baptizing 50 people was a huge challenge. Dreaming of 100 baptisms was a madness of faith. We never imagined that God would surprise us with 534 people, even during a pandemic. Praise His name forever! If we join our hands with His strength and the power of His Holy Spirit, nothing will be impossible. Better yet, everything will be possible!
Therefore, my dear brother and beloved sister, stay connected to Jesus!
STORY 2: MiGPS3 — Groups, Purpose, Service
In 2019, Tony Anobile, the North American Division vice president for multilingual ministries, challenged us to create an initiative to reach youth and young adults, and MiGPS3 was born. MiGPS3 is based on three clear principles: Groups, Purpose, and Service.
For a whole year, a small-group bilingual curriculum was used. More than 1,300 small groups were formed. The original intent was to visit 10 cities in 10 days by bus. Because of the pandemic, we made the Peregrinos Adventist church in Southeastern Conference our studio.
For nine nights, we combined practical biblical sermons by Arnaldo Cruz and Roger Hernandez, which were related to our purpose. Specially invited guests shared that you don't have to compromise your faith to fulfill your purpose. One-quarter of a million views later, something amazing happened.
A mother was watching the program and invited her daughter. She was reluctant at first, but every night, she came closer and closer to the TV until she was fully engaged. That’s the power of the gospel.
A couple in central Florida were convicted and decided to get married and baptized. Two young adults who had disconnected from the church decided to return before the week was over.
A young woman who had experienced some hurt at church recognized that she needed God and asked for help.
Whether it’s in Spanish or English or Spanglish, these last few months have shown that evangelism can “thrive even when we can’t drive.”