A major evangelistic campaign across six eastern U.S. states in the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Columbia Union Conference has resulted in 626 baptisms.
International evangelist Alejandro Bullón headlined a 10-day, 16-stop evangelistic series called “Caravana de la Esperanza 2015: Jesus, La Gran Esperanza” (Caravan of Hope: Jesus the Great Hope), the culmination of months of small-group Bible studies and countless hours of prayer at more than 100 churches.
Bullón, accompanied by singer Sarah Capeles, invited attendees at each meeting to give their lives to Christ through baptism.
Rubén Ramos, the organizer of “Caravan of Hope,” said congregations were overjoyed with the 626 baptisms in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, a territory where the Adventist Church has about 144,200 members and has struggled to share the Adventist message of Jesus’ soon return in an increasingly secularized society.
“It has been overwhelming to experience the joy of congregations celebrating the fruits of their dedicated, loving efforts to reach their family, friends, and coworkers for Christ,” said Ramos, vice president for Multicultural Ministries at the Columbia Union. “To bring a dear friend to Christ is the greatest joy that disciples of Christ can experience in this life.”
Preparations for the evangelistic series took months, and church members will now engage in months of follow-up efforts with the new members.
In Silver Spring, Maryland, and the cities of Richmond and Manassas, Virginia, church leaders worked with home churches and held 13 evangelist meetings prior to Bullón’s arrival, said Jose Esposito, Hispanic Ministries director for the Potomac Conference and coordinator for the local effort.
“The churches worked extremely diligently,” Esposito said. “The collaboration between the conferences was wonderful.”
A total of 122 people were baptized in the Potomac Conference, which includes Virginia and the Washington metro area.
Esposito said the Potomac Conference now has more than 330 home churches, where church members meet with friends for Bible study, and has a goal of opening 500.
“When we open the door of our house to God, He opens the doors of heaven and blessings fall on the entire community,” Esposito said.
Eighty-eight people were baptized in the Pennsylvania Conference, where prior to Bulló’s meetings church leaders held several rallies and a “Faith for Family” event in which more than 1,000 members and friends distributed religious literature in the cities of Reading and Philadelphia in September, said Gabriel E. Montalvo, the conference’s Hispanic Ministries director. Church members then held Bible studies with those new contacts.
Montalvo is now planning an Easter program and hopes for 150 small groups and more than 300 baptisms next year.
Before the “Caravan of Hope” made its final stop at the Chesapeake Conference’s Atholton church in Columbia, Maryland a few days ago, 70 percent of the conference’s small groups and 60 percent of its congregations had hosted at least one week of an evangelistic campaign, said Orlando Rosales, Hispanic Ministries coordinator for the conference. On the night of Bullón’s meeting, 39 people were baptized and eight joined the church through a profession of faith.
Jeiny Rivera, who started attending the Baltimore Spanish church in June, was among those who went to the front and requested baptism. Rivera said she had felt impressed to get baptized for weeks, but her job, which required her to work on Sabbath, had held her back. When the church’s pastor, Rosales, asked what would happen to her job now, she said: “I’ll quit because I can’t continue with it. I trust God will help me find another job because I won’t wait any longer.”
The baptisms also served as inspiration for established members.
“I was fascinated by the many people who were baptized,” said Wilmer Ocotan, head elder at the Columbia Spanish Company in Columbia, Maryland. “I think this was the best motivation to continue working with more commitment in the Great Commission of reaching the lost.”
Ramos, the main organizer, hopes to keep the momentum going next year by encouraging every department in every local church to find a way to meet the needs of its community. He said he also wants to see every church member praying for five friends and have 1,000 lay evangelists “prepared, tooled, and energized to hold weeks of evangelism in small groups and churches.”
“Imagine what the Lord could do,” he said.