, South American Division
Seventh-day Adventist leaders did something unusual in South America last Sabbath: They hosted a special event to thank dozens of non-Adventist political and business leaders for assisting the church in countless ways.
But then something even more unusual happened that stunned the Adventist leaders: The invited guests turned the tables on their hosts by heaping praise on them and the Adventist Church. One even asked to be baptized.
“I want to thank you for praying for me and my family,” guest Eduardo Sabo Paes, a prominent lawyer and ombudsman for Brazil’s federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, said during the “More Than Business” event held at the headquarters of the church’s South American Division in Brasilia.
“I am grateful for what this church does,” he said during the portion of the meeting that Adventist leaders had set aside to thank him for providing legal assistance to the division.
Sabo Paes, a guest of the division’s legal counsel, Luigi Braga, joined more than 100 financial, insurance, health-care, and other leaders in applauding the church at the gathering in the division’s auditorium on April 2. All guests have a business partnership or some other relationship with people in the division’s headquarters.
“Our goal had been to pull back the curtain on the division, with which they only had a working relationship,” said the division’s treasurer, Marlon Lopes, who was clearly surprised by the outcome.
During the 2 ½-hour event, division president Erton Köhler explained in detail how the Adventist Church operates worldwide. He underscored that the three pillars supporting the church are its message, structure, and mission.
“We want you to see us not as an institution but as a church,” he told the guests. “We believe that people are happy when they address their lives fully, that is to say when they are concerned about their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.”
Igor Moraes, an independent real estate agent from Brasilia, acknowledged that he had not understood the Adventist Church’s structure before the meeting, even though he had engaged in business with the division for several years.
“I knew it was a big organization, but I had no idea of the whole picture,” he said.
The guests heard that the Adventist Church was established with 3,500 members in 1863 but now has millions of members in 13 church divisions around the world. (Two days after the event, the church announced that membership had reached 19.1 million people worshipping in more than 80,000 local churches worldwide as of the end of 2015.)
The guests also heard about the church’s work in healthcare, education, and various humanitarian programs. The hosts explained that the church’s two-fold mission is to fulfill Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28:19-20 to preach the gospel and make disciples of all people, and to proclaim the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 that Jesus is coming soon.
Köhler stressed that this life cannot be a person’s only goal, and he read 1 Corinthians 15:19, which says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (NIV).
Andrews Study Bibles were distributed to all guests.
Several guests said the biblical passages shared during the gathering had touched their hearts. Marketing executive Rinaldo Feitosa, who had some familiarity with the Adventist message from watching the church-run Novo Tempo TV channel, declared to the group that he wished to be baptized.
Church leaders are already talking about hosting similar events in the other seven countries of the South American Division and perhaps in other regions of the world.
“Our guests were very impressed,” said Jabson Magalhães, president of the South American branch of the church’s insurance company Adventist Risk Management. “They assured us that it would be a pleasure for them to join us whenever they are invited again.”