The Adventist Church in El Salvador has baptized 1,500 people, including 870 people on a sweltering Sabbath day, as it presses ahead with plans to establish 100 new churches in the first half of this year.
The church service at the Adventist Training School of El Salvador started early, at about 7:45 a.m. on March 14, to ensure that the 520 baptisms planned for the school could be held before the sun rose too high.
Visiting Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson stood up to preach by 8:10 a.m.
“They wanted to protect people from the intense direct heat and sunlight of the middle of the day,” Wilson told the Adventist Review.
Wilson gave a sermon titled “Christ and His Righteousness” to an audience gathered under a makeshift outdoor “cathedral” of rippling parachutes at the school, located in the town of Opico, about 40 kilometers from the country’s capital, San Salvador.
The parachutes, which offered protection from the sun, were on loan from the military and secured through El Salvador’s assistant attorney general, an Adventist.
"It was one of the most unusual worship sites I've been to — beautiful with the undulating wind moving the parachutes," Wilson said. "It felt like we were going to take off for heaven any time!"
The 520 baptismal candidates exited the water before the temperature peaked at a wilting 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 C) under a cloudless sky.
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Another 350 people were baptized on Sabbath afternoon in the east of El Salvador, which is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America with nearly 7 million people living on 8,124 square miles (21,044 square kilometers).
The other 630 new members were baptized last Thursday at the close of evangelistic meetings.
Local church leaders have set a goal of adding 100 congregations to the country’s 708 churches and 236 companies by June 2015. The Adventist Church had a membership of 197,974 members as of the end of 2014, and it also operates 25 schools in the country.
El Salvador is Wilson’s second stop on a six-country tour of the Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division. Wilson started the trip of encouragement and support in Belize on Thursday and will fly next to Nicaragua, where more than 2,000 people will be baptized on Sunday.
Wilson praised God for His blessings on the church in El Salvador.
“The people in El Salvador are wonderful, wholesome, and mission-minded,” he said.