Construction has started on the first church on the campus of the 54-year-old Antillean Adventist University after a ground-breaking ceremony attended by more than 3,000 Seventh-day Adventists from across Puerto Rico.
The university’s chapel, which seats about 300 people, has been used as a church since the institution was established in Mayaguez in 1961.
The university has 1,337 students from more than 30 countries. Although many students are not Adventists, the chapel has been forced to hold multiple services to accommodate the overflow of worshipers every Sabbath.
The new $3.5 million church will seat 750 people.
“Some 50 years ago, Antillean Adventist University … was a ranch-like wooden structure covered with wires for students to study under, a few rooms, and there were very few students that could come on campus because of the inaccessible roads, among other challenges,” university pastor Abiezer Rodríguez said at the ground-breaking ceremony, which took place during an Adventist fellowship celebration held every five years on the island.
Today, the university occupies more than 200 acres (80 hectares) in a mountainous region facing the Atlantic Ocean.
“Today, after 50 years, this university has grown, but the dream of having a church, a house of worship for God, has not been fulfilled yet,” Rodríguez said.
Antillean Adventist University president Obed Jimenez said he was pleased that thousands of church members joined together to help the university have its own church on campus. Jimenez thanked church members for contributing more than $175,000 toward the project.
“We plead for your prayers so that our institution can enjoy a church dedicated as a place of worship for God for generations to come,” Jimenez said.
University officials said construction began with university funds, donations from alumni students, and funds from the West Puerto Rico Conference. Construction is scheduled for completion in April 2016.
The new church will have three levels: the first floor will house the university’s theology department and Sabbath School rooms for children and youth. The second floor will feature the 500-seat auditorium and 250-seat mezzanine as well as the university’s religious affairs department. The third level will include a multi-media production studio.
Israel Leito, president of the Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division, which includes Puerto Rico, encouraged church members at the celebration in late April to continue in pursuit of a unified church.
“The focus of the church should always be Christ,” Leito said. “And amid the diversity we see in the church, there must be unity and faithfulness in God’s truth.”