Updated on January 19, 2015
Thousands of people packed a stadium in the Dominican Republic’s capital on Sabbath to celebrate 3,052 baptisms and the historic ordination of 110 pastors at the close of a worldwide Ten Days of Prayer initiative by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The worship service at Santo Domingo’s El Palacio de Los Deportes stadium, transmitted live online and via radio and television, was attended by the Adventist Church’s 29 top leaders, including General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson, who preached the sermon.
“We leave with hearts filled with gratitude for the moving of God’s Spirit and overflowing with joy that the Holy Spirit has worked powerfully in this capital city,” said evangelist Mark Finley, who led a nightly program titled, “New Year, New Life,” in the stadium on Jan. 7-11.
The 3,052 baptisms include more than 1,800 who were baptized in the stadium on Sabbath, Jan. 17, and hundreds baptized elsewhere in the island on Jan. 16 and 17, according to the Adventist Church’s Dominican Union. Dozens more were baptized during Finley's evangelistic series the previous week.
“Jesus is the rock and you are asked to build His church on the rock—on Jesus Christ,” Wilson told the baptismal candidates in the stadium. “Build God’s church as you point people for Him, to His Holy Word, to His church, to His prophetic movement.”
One baptism took center stage: Hiu Wang, who became the first Chinese believer to join the Adventist Church in the Dominican Republic.
“Wang represents a group of believers the church has been working with through an Adventist missions center in Santo Domingo for the last year and a half," said Luis Miguel Acevedo, the pastor who oversees the group.
The center offers Spanish classes, cooking classes, Bible study and other activities aimed at reaching out to the local Chinese population.
Wang, who has three children, was baptized by Inter-American Division president Israel Leito after the president of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, Jairyong Lee, gave the baptismal prayer.
Wang said she didn’t want to miss the opportunity to give her life to Jesus on a special national day of celebration in the country called Dia de la Hermandad, or Day of Fellowship.
The audience joined G.T. Ng, executive secretary of the General Conference, as he prayed for the Chinese ministry. The population of Chinese on the island is about 80,000 and growing, according to Acevedo.
The ordination service, held on Sabbath afternoon, marked a historic moment for the Adventist Church in terms of the number of ministers who were ordained and the number of countries and top church leaders involved.
One hundred and ten pastors were ordained on Sabbath, including 26 at the host site in Santo Domingo. Leaders from all 13 divisions of the world church attended the ordination service together with General Conference vice presidents and other officers, some of whom participated. Twenty-three church unions in 11 countries in the Inter-American Division took part in the service via satellite.
About 30 other pastors were ordained across the division in the weeks before the Sabbath ceremony.
Finley, who works as assistant to the General Conference president and an editor-at-large for Adventist Review and Adventist World, said the stadium was overflowing when he and other church leaders arrived at 9 a.m. after a two-hour bus drive from the hotel where they were staying in La Romana.
The 15,000-seat auditorium was packed to its maximum capacity, with more than 20,000 people inside and thousands more outside listening via loud speakers.
“The day was an inspirational feast, with inspiring music, a powerful sermon by Pastor Wilson, an amazing musical production of the story of Acts, and a moving baptismal ceremony,” Finley said by e-mail.
Church leaders have spent the past week in La Romana, reviewing strategic objectives for the Adventist Church at an annual meeting. They took a day off on Jan. 14 to help construct a local church building, and they attended the unveiling of a city street named after church co-founder Ellen G. White on Jan. 15.
The Sabbath also capped the Ten Days of Prayer, an annual initiative by the General Conference’s Ministerial Association that saw Adventists gather daily worldwide to ask for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. Adventists have spoken of renewed unity in their church families and of spiritual and physical healing as a result of the prayer sessions.
Finley said God was changing lives through the efforts of dedicated Adventists in the Dominican Republic, and he expressed hope that Adventists around the world would set aside personal interests to focus on the church’s mission of sharing Jesus.
Some 300,000 Seventh-day Adventists worship in 1,237 churches and congregations in the Dominican Republic.
“I leave Santo Domingo deeply impressed with the commitment of our Adventist church members to mission, the extraordinary participation of young adults in the life and witness of the church, and the laser focus of church administration on evangelistic outreach,” Finley said. “I leave sensing that God did something incredibly unusual because administrators, pastors, and lay members united in God’s mission to the world with a sense of urgency. And I leave wondering what might happen if this unified focus on mission and commitment to winning lost people to Christ overshadowed all self-interest and was the priority of every church, every conference, union and division.”
Libna Stevens, IAD, contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said more than 200 pastors were ordained on Jan. 17. The Inter-American Division has clarified that 110 pastors were ordained on Jan. 17 and about 30 others were ordained in recent weeks.
"Street Named After Ellen G. White in Dominican Republic," Jan. 16, 2015, Adventist Review
"Top Adventist Leaders Build a Church in the Dominican Republic," Jan. 14, 2015, Adventist Review
"3,000 to Be Baptized in the Dominican Republic," Jan. 13, 2015, Adventist Review
"Adventists Speak of Outpouring of Holy Spirit During 10 Days of Prayer," Jan. 14, 2015, Adventist Review
"Adventist Church to Begin 10 Days of Prayer," Jan. 6, 2015, Adventist Review
Daily blog with prayers from 52 leading Adventist figures during the Ten Days of Prayer, Jan. 7-17, 2015, Adventist Review