More than 21,000 new believers joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church during a two-week wrap-up evangelistic series that swept through the Dominican Republic, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, March 25-April 9, 2022. Crowds gathered in large churches, auditoriums, sports fields, and outdoor stadiums, while some watched online the conclusion of evangelism efforts across the region.
“Don’t Give Up, There Is Still Hope” was the resounding message heard throughout the seven countries by the keynote speaker, Inter-American personal ministries director Melchor Ferreyra, who reminded viewers and listeners every evening that through difficult times, God is near.
“God has the power to help you face the ‘giants’ that come your way,” Ferreyra said. “Life does not end when you fall, it ends when you give up, so you must make a decision that even through the difficult circumstances you must choose to be happy in the name of Jesus, learn to trust Him, and commit to Him.”
The key is to cling to the hope that Jesus is coming back for us, Ferreyra said as he closed the series during his message in Guatemala City on April 9, 2022. “There is hope that Jesus is coming soon, and He will sustain us through His Holy Spirit in moments of struggle.”
Ferreyra’s message touched the hearts of 200 believers who traveled from throughout Guatemala City to be baptized at the El Progreso Adventist School auditorium.
New Members in Guatemala
Fifty-one-year-old Silvia Avila from the Minerva pastoral district in Guatemala City clung to every word Ferreyra said as he addressed the new believers during his final altar call. She stood in her light-blue robe with her 11-year-old daughter Lucia and her 32-year-old son Jose Avila, also dressed for baptism. With tears in her eyes and struggling with health issues, Avila committed her life to Jesus.
David García, his wife and three sons didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get baptized after studying the Bible in a small group in their hometown of Ciudad Quetzal, in San Juan Sacatepequez, a municipal district of Guatemala City. With a big smile on his face, Garcia was plunged into the cool waters of the small pool and afterward embraced his family.
After listening to the church’s Union Radiostation, Guillermo Noj Mendoza, 64, who lost his sight 12 years ago, said he wanted to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He had accepted the Christian faith years ago, but after studying the Bible for six months with Baudilio Herrera, a layperson, Noj Mendoza traveled from his hometown of Villa Nueva, a municipal district in the southern part of Guatemala City, to get baptized.
Noj Mendoza said he was convinced of the Sabbath day rest and wants Jesus to use him to “lead my family and others to the gospel,” he said. “I may be blind, but I see things that others may not see, and I want to share the goodness of Jesus in my life.”
Like Avila, García, and Noj Mendoza, hundreds were baptized not only during the last two weeks of the evangelistic series but ever since the intense evangelism efforts began in January 2021, Guenther García, president of the Adventist Church in Guatemala, reported.
“This evangelistic series has been something that brought back the joy of the mission to our members,” García said. He explained that evangelistic efforts jumpstarted thousands of church members to share the gospel after the restrictions of the pandemic the past two years. “Evangelism has never stopped, for we held many evangelism meetings online because of the pandemic, but now, through this, there is renewed enthusiasm and commitment to preaching,” he said.
Thousands Reached in El Salvador
In El Salvador, the two nights of the evangelistic meetings resulted in hundreds of baptisms, Abel Pacheco, president of the Adventist Church in El Salvador, said.
“We had thousands of people who wanted to witness the evening series. Some even traveled eight hours,” he said. Each of the evenings saw more than 4,500 people at the soccer field of the church’s training school in San Juan Opico, in San Salvador, El Salvador. More than 2,000 new members joined the church in El Salvador, thanks to the evangelistic efforts that began in January.
Wilfredo Shoto, a small-business owner from El Paisnal in San Salvador, said he didn’t want to be so angry and impulsive anymore and felt the need to study the Bible. When he read about the Sabbath as the true day of worship, he quickly found out that the Adventist Church worshiped on Saturdays. Shoto searched for the closest Adventist church and, together with his wife, Nelly, met a church member who invited them to follow the online series. “That’s where we needed to get baptized,” Shoto said. Both were baptized on April 5, and their daughter Alyson said she wanted to be next in studying the Bible.
Sixty-year-old Jose Ríos, who has battled alcoholism, was among the hundreds who were baptized on April 6 in San Salvador. His life took a turn when two members of the Adventist Church invited him to study the Bible after Ríos robbed them. Rios was so moved that he committed to changing his life and made the decision to follow Jesus. He was among the hundreds in the soccer field.
Efforts in Other Countries
There’s no doubt the church is committed to furthering the mission of spreading the gospel, Adán Ramos, president of the Adventist Church in Honduras, said.
“Times are not so easy to win souls like before the pandemic,” he said. “However, to see a willing church preparing to work for the Lord is very impressive.” Ramos reported that so far this year, 1,902 believers have been baptized.
In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the series was an enormous blessing, local leaders said. In the two days of the series held in those countries at the end of March, more than 950 persons were baptized, Ricardo Marin, president of the South Central American Union, reported. Radio and television channels transmitted the online series.
“The series encouraged and unified so many of our leaders and members in prayer,” Marin said. More than 4,200 new believers have been baptized into the Adventist Church since efforts began this year, he added.
The evangelistic series also made stops in Colon and Panama City, Panama, on March 28 and 29 and had a great impact, José De Gracia, president of the Adventist Church in Panama, said. Church members got involved in mission for months, something that resulted in 3,446 baptisms.
Shanedis Jaramillo, 13, and her sister Shaedis, 11, were among those baptized on March. They both decided to get baptized in their Pathfinder uniforms. Both had been studying the Bible with club leaders for weeks. When they heard that the evangelistic series was coming to their city, they felt they needed to give their hearts to Jesus. They were baptized together at Metropolitan Adventist School in Panama City.
In the Dominican Republic, where the evangelistic series was held March 25-27, crowds gathered inside and outside two Adventist churches in San Cristobal, part of Santo Domingo. The series was carried on the church’s Radio Amanecer station across the entire country and its social media platforms.
Since the evangelism efforts began in January, more than 4,170 persons have joined the church, Paulino Puello, president of the Adventist Church in the Dominican Republic, said. “Our members are so dedicated to the missionary work that they have brought new strength and a renewed commitment to sharing the gospel wherever they are.”
Constant in Mission
“God continues to save those who each day are joining the church, and we say amen to that,” IAD president Elie Henry said as he thanked everyone involved in the evangelistic drive at the closing of the series from Guatemala. “Keep firm and constant in the work of the Lord Jesus, knowing that your work is not in vain,” he said.
The “Don’t Give Up, There Is Still Hope” evangelistic series became the second regional evangelistic series throughout the IAD. A third regional evangelistic series is taking place in French-speaking territories April 3-16. A third online series for the Spanish-speaking territory in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Venezuela is also taking place this week, as well as Mexico’s upcoming evangelistic regional series this summer.
Miqueas Fortunato, Gustavo Menéndez, Fabricio Rivera, and Kayc James contributed to this report.