For many of the delegates at this year’s General Conference Session in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, it was the first time they had seen so many Seventh-day Adventists from different parts of the world, witnessed how the world church leads business sessions, or had ever taken part in such diverse spiritual and musical segments.
For four young delegates from the Inter-American Division (IAD) delegation, the experience at GC session, June 6-11, 2022, changed their perspective and strengthened their commitment to fulfill the mission in the communities where they live.
‘Like a Dream Come True’
At 20, Zarith Méndez is one of the youngest delegates from the IAD after becoming the top territory-wide Bible competition winner of the quinquennium. “It’s like a dream come true,” Mendez said. She said she was impressed by the structure of every single meeting, the number of people, and seeing how orderly everything has been in every church business meeting.
“Seeing how everything is done in order, that every member’s voice and vote counts, how serious each point in the manual is, and affects the world church level, meant a lot for me to see,” Méndez said. “I think it’s very important and relevant for our church.
“I want to go back to my home church and share with them everything I’ve learned, and how the church functions at this level, and how it is advancing all around the world,” she said.
Méndez returned home to continue leading as Sabbath School director in the Eden District of churches in the Villa Rosario Municipality. She also assists with the Adventurers club and serves as a Master Guide advisor.
“I’ve seen how God has led my life and provided for me so that I can be part of what the church is doing for God not only in my city and country but through every corner of the world,” Méndez said.
Darnelle Pierre came from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She was appointed as a GC delegate representing the largest of the 24 unions in the IAD. She said being part of the Session all week opened up her mind as to how wide and inclusive is the movement of the worldwide Adventist Church.
“The diversity here has impressed me the most,” Pierre said. “The fact that we are all from different places of the world, but we are one church, a unified church, is amazing.”
Voting for every issue and point presented at Session has immediately moved her from being a spectator to an active member in the decision-making process that concerns the life of her church, she said.
“When I first came here, I wasn’t sure why God brought me here, but I’m so happy and feel so honored to be able to see the cultural diversity in the church and see firsthand how things move at this level,” she said. In the past, Pierre had the perception that the GC was such a high and hard-to-reach level that whatever church leaders at the GC said, the local church followed. “You hear that the world church is not divided and that we don’t have different opinions, but I was so shocked to see heated discussions the same as I’ve seen at our church board,” she said. “Just one issue can bring about so many opinions, so I was like, ‘I get it. We are all humans working to make the best decisions for the church.’ ”
At 23, Pierre is pursuing a degree in education and plans to pursue a master’s degree in educational psychology. She grew up in the church and currently leads the Pathfinder club at Auditorium de la Bible, one of the largest churches in Port-au-Prince. She is also a founding member of a large youth choir.
“I think the future of the church is promising,” she said.
Kevin Daniel Rodríguez, 24, traveled from his hometown in Ixhuatlán, in southeast Veracruz, Mexico, to get to GC Session. Right before Session began, he was selected by the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union to be part of the Nominating Committee. It was a surprise and an eye-opening experience, he said. To be part of the selected Nominating Committee from every world church division let him see the order, unity, and spirituality of many different Seventh-day Adventists.
“When you’re in your church, you learn how the church behaves and moves, the needs it has and the membership needs therein, but when you get to this high of a level of the church, you learn to appreciate the problems and challenges that the church has worldwide,” Rodríguez said. “The problems or challenges are very complex, but everyone is very open about them.”
Session was so diverse, with many people from Europe, Africa, Asia, with beautiful cultures, said Rodríguez, who is a Master Guide leader, small group leader, and youth director for his church district back home. “I can’t wait to go back and share everything I’ve learned here and encourage young people to continue to advance in the mission.”
More Inspired to Reach Others
Andy Paul traveled as a delegate from the island of Grenada, which is nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago. Taking part in the Session grounded him more in the mission of the church and helped him understand how the church moves and functions around the globe.
“It’s impressive to see how God is leading this movement,” Paul said. “The session has strengthened my faith because, where I am back home, we don’t get the impression of the larger work that is going on around the world,” he added. “When you hear reports from various parts of the world it gives you the assurance that things are advancing so rapidly in so many parts of the world.”
As a Bible worker in Moyah, a village in the Parish of St. Andrew, Paul is very clear on what is going to finish the work of spreading the gospel, starting in his country, in the numerous Caribbean islands, and beyond to the rest of the world. He has been giving Bible studies to dozens of people and held evangelistic campaigns in Grenada and throughout several Caribbean islands year after year.
A farmer and established beekeeper for more than 20 years, Paul, 41, also takes the time to educate youngsters about the importance of beekeeping. But he says his most meaningful accomplishment is leading people to accepting Jesus. Nearly 200 people have been baptized, thanks to his efforts as a Bible worker. Paul is one of the leading Bible workers in Grenada, church leaders from the Caribbean Union said.
“I’m so excited to come here to represent my church and see that my church is much bigger than my local church,” Paul said. “My faith is strengthened even more to work harder to go more into my community, because I know we are not finished until it is finished everywhere.”