The lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have not prevented the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Argentina from moving forward, regional church leaders recently reported.
Almost one-fifth of Adventist pastors in Argentina have been infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Out of 193 pastors, 33 of them, or 17 percent, were infected and recovered from COVID-19, Argentina Union Conference secretary Gabriel Cevasco reported to Adventist leaders of the territory in a virtual session of the Executive Board in early May 2021. Twenty-four staff members working at church offices across the region were also infected, he added. One pastor died.
“Pastor David Flores, someone much appreciated by the churches wherever he pastored, was serving in the city of Bahia Blanca,” Cevasco said. Flores died on May 5, 2021. Adventist leaders held a special session of remembrance during the board session, when they thanked God for Flores’s faithful service and legacy to the church. Leaders also prayed for Flores’s wife, Esther, and his daughters, Cevasco reported.
A Dire Situation
Beginning May 24, Argentina went into a new, strict lockdown after record-high daily and weekly cases of infected people in the weeks leading up to it, according to sources tracking the pandemic. The country has reported new highs in the number of people infected and continues to break records. According to the World Health Organization and other entities, as of May 24, more than 8 percent of the population of Argentina has already been diagnosed with COVID-19, for a total of almost 3.5 million cases. Almost 75,000 people have died.
During the union’s online session in early May, Adventist leaders heard a report of the two major Adventist hospitals in the country. Leaders of River Plate Adventist Sanitarium and Hospital and Belgrano Adventist Sanitarium reported the efforts of their staff to provide the best possible care to COVID-19 patients under dire circumstances. As of early May, their intensive care units were reporting close to 100-percent occupancy rates.
Adventist leaders took an action to thank dedicated health-care workers, as well as Adventist teachers who continue to deliver Christian education across the 105 schools in the country.
A Church Moving Forward
Bearing the brunt of the pandemic, however, hasn’t stopped the church from sharing hope and helping others to study the Bible and get to know God better, church leaders said. On March 14, 2020, in-person meetings were halted, but pastors and members adapted rapidly to online services and Zoom-mediated meetings. Small groups continued meeting as allowed by local authorities.
“For months, church buildings remained closed in most of the country,” Cevasco reported. “However, the Lord held His church through the efforts of all those committed to mission and discipleship,” he said.
Under the motto “A Voice of Hope,” the church organized to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of its members and their communities. “Amid an ongoing crisis, we could witness how God and His Spirit kept working, to work on people’s hearts and convict them,” Cevasco said.
Cevasco reported that since the beginning of the pandemic and even under strict lockdowns for extended periods, the church welcomed 2,405 new members in 2020 and another 707 in the early months of 2021.
Darío Caviglione, Adventist Church president in Argentina, encouraged leaders to keep pressing forward beyond current circumstances. “We must continue to fulfill the mission of preaching the gospel,” he said. Caviglione shared with leaders about a baptism held in a public square in Buenos Aires earlier in May. “It was an innovative and unprecedented event,” he said, “but something that is in line with the need of reaching people even during the pandemic.”
The Adventist Church in Argentina has also set up a program to discover the current state of church members across the territory, placing a special emphasis on reclaiming members who are not connected or don’t attend church regularly. A previous study had revealed that only 59 percent of current members attend church regularly. More than 40 percent of members are disconnected from their local congregations or unaccounted for.
Church leaders said there are now plans to reclaim those members who have become inactive for various reasons. “The initiative includes prayer and visitation to meet their spiritual needs and support them,” Cevasco reported.
For the rest of 2021, Adventist leaders in Argentina have renewed their commitment to keeping active in the mission of sharing the gospel and providing a helping hand despite the lingering pandemic and other challenges. Under the motto “A Living Church,” Adventist leaders and members are refocusing on supporting and serving their communities through outreach and mission activities in which every member can participate.
The Argentina Union Conference board session in early May closed with three baptisms in three different cities that were broadcast live on Zoom.