Marise Farias Mateus has dedicated a number of years to sharing her faith with other people. After studying the Bible and discovering the truth about the seventh-day Sabbath some years ago, she founded a church to share her discoveries with others.
One day, she received a visit from a person who was impressed by the fact that her church, which was based on another Christian denomination, was observing the Sabbath. Mateus was invited to meet an Adventist pastor. When the meeting took place, she received some books and decided to delve into the biblical beliefs of Adventists.
“I started studying even more, just by myself,” Mateus said. She did this on purpose, she said, because she didn’t want any person to influence her. Day after day, Mateus discovered new teachings in the Bible, which she then shared with her congregation.
When the pandemic came, and in the midst of other situations that worried her, she called the Adventist pastor she had met before. She directly asked him, “Would the Adventist Church accept my group too?” Mateus was delighted to find out that they would be welcomed at the Adventist Church.
Cleber Acels, a church elder from another Adventist congregation, was sent to support them. Previously, he had been praying for opportunities to study the Bible with someone. Eventually, Mateus and 32 other people were baptized, and the church even changed its name.
A Network Created to Save
A few years earlier, Mateus’s sister Andréia Faria was part of the same group founded by Mateus, but she had drifted away. One day, Faria decided to visit Mateus, who had already switched her membership to the Adventist Church, to find out about the teachings her sister and others had discovered. Eventually, Faria began to study the Bible with Mateus and was baptized on November 5, 2022, during the South American Division (SAD) Year-End Meetings (YEM) in Brasilia, Brazil.
The annual business meetings of the church organization in South America (SAD-YEM) this year brought together administrators, district pastors, and member volunteers to discuss initiatives to strengthen specific areas of mission. The meetings also revealed the growth and challenges of the denomination on several fronts and produced strategies that will help more people get to know Christ. The four focus areas for the 2022-2025 period are Sabbath School and Small Groups; Bible Studies; New Generations; and Ministry of Elders.
“Our goal is to have one million church members giving Bible studies,” SAD personal ministries director Herbert Boger said. “Giving Bible studies is a project born in heaven, and God only needs one thing: an available human being.”
With a Bible study guide reworked in Spanish and a new one in Portuguese, discipleship is now a core part of the journey toward Bible literacy. The goal is for the student to understand that it is necessary to teach others about Jesus. Thus, when someone is baptized, the plan is that the person who brought the new member to Jesus will form, with him or her, a missionary pair so that someone else can get to know about Jesus.
That’s exactly what church member Eduardo Dueñas did. He went through a period of discouragement and even considered leaving the Adventist Church. An invitation to attend a seminar helped him to understand that in addition to studying the Bible, he needed to share his knowledge with others. His local church pastor encouraged him to give Bible studies to other people and participate in Project 100.
Project 100, an initiative run by the Adventist Church in southern Peru, has encouraged each pastoral district to have at least 100 Bible instructors. “I began to study the Bible with some of my neighbors,” Dueñas said. “I soon realized that my spiritual life was improving significantly.”
Sabina Torres is one of the people he studied with. A nurse, she became interested after seeing that Marco Estrada, her neighbor, had a life transformation after meeting Jesus. He had been homeless, had been involved in crime, and was addicted to alcohol and other drugs. But Dueñas got interested in him and showed him that his life could be substantially different.
Today, Dueñas and Estrada are a missionary pair, and Torres decided to be baptized thanks to their influence. During the 2022 SAD-YEM, Torres said that she now knows she needs to give Bible studies to others, including her co-workers and family members, and that she has already become part of a missionary pair to make that happen.
SAD president Stanley Arco said it is essential for Adventist church members to get involved and give Bible studies. Prayer is also key. “We need to pray to the Lord that He will show the people to whom we are going to give Bible studies,” Arco said after baptizing Torres. “We need to practice this and invite others to do the same.”