Senator Lorena Ríos Cuéllar of Colombia recently awarded a special recognition to the Seventh-day Adventist Church from the country’s Senate Committee for the spiritual, social, and humanitarian contribution of the church throughout its 100 years of existence in Bogotá, the capital city.
Ríos presented the award to Álvaro Niño, president of the South Colombian Union of the Adventist Church, during a special ceremony that drew thousands of church members at the Bolivar Plaza on February 11.
The special gathering in Bogotá had been planned for November as the church ended its centennial initiatives and outreach activities held throughout 2022, but because of political setbacks the culminating event at the city’s main plaza took place in February, church leaders said.
More than 12,000 church members marched through the main streets of the capital holding banners promoting health, family values, and religious liberty, and distributed promotional literature to onlookers and businesses, inviting them to gather at the Bolivar Plaza, where dozens of impact activities had been held throughout the centennial celebrations over the previous year.
“We are here as the Seventh-day Adventist Church with two very specific, very special purposes: first, to recognize and proclaim God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of our lives,” Niño said. “Second, to show to the world through this event that we believe in the Bible, in the Word of God as the only rule of faith and practice of the believers … that His Word guides us in our personal experience as a religious community, and that we are committed to proclaiming its principles.”
Niño stated that the Senate’s recognition of the Adventist Church is historic after that South American nation has kept in its Constitution the Roman Catholic religion as the state religion for 200 years.
“This is historic and important for the Adventist Church because it makes the existence of a non-Catholic religious organization visible, recognizing its contribution to the social fabric and well-being of citizens in the spiritual life, humanitarian aid, and social impact through educational and health institutions,” he said. In addition, Niño said, in the past the Adventist Church was seen as a sect but is now recognized as a highly organized and structured church, a historic church offering valuable spiritual and social work to the nation.
The Adventist Church has been present in Colombia for 127 years but only for 100 years in Bogotá, church leaders said.
Launch of First Adventist Radio Station in Bogotá
The event also saw a special inauguration ceremony of the Esperanza Colombia Radio 96.3 FM station, which was acquired in 2022 thanks to the support of Adventist World Radio (AWR). The station reaches 14 million people in Bogotá and the metropolitan region.
Duane McKey, president of AWR, spoke to the large gathering before he cut the ribbon.
“By cutting the ribbon, this station is being inaugurated in the city of Bogotá, trusting that many people in the city will be blessed and will receive hope in Christ Jesus,” McKey said. “Adventist World Radio has more than 1,800 stations around the world, and this new station is very special, because it was not supposed to reach all of Bogotá, but the signal is very strong, and we are very excited about it.”
Long-standing Members Recognized
South Colombian Union leaders praised the work of church members in the hundreds of churches organized in conferences that have seen much church growth. In addition, church leaders honored the work of committed laypeople who were significant in the growth of the church in Bogotá, including Fernando Taborda, 82, Maria Alcira Martínez, 82, Misael Blanco, 98, and Leonilde Díaz, 101.
Diaz, who was unable to attend the ceremony, said via video that her missionary work had touched more than 100 persons for Jesus. “I continue to be firm in the Lord, and with God’s help, I will continue in the gospel until the day that God calls me to rest,” she said.
The past year saw church members involved in numerous social impact activities including health expos, blood drives, sports activities, cycling teams promoting the “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative, and planting of trees, as well as children’s and youth activities, distributing literature, praying for people, and many acts of kindness.
The South Colombian Union has nearly 146,000 church members worshiping in 1,118 churches and congregations. The union oversees six conferences and four missions and dozens of primary and secondary schools.