An interdenominational congregation in the southern Mexican jungle recently became a Seventh-day Adventist church, thanks to the committed work of a district pastor and a lay church member who kept visiting the isolated place and studying the Bible with local people.
The new church is in Nueva Unión village, a small community of about 500 residents a few meters from the border with Guatemala. Getting to Nueva Unión is not an easy task, as it involves a journey of more than five hours from the city of Palenque, Chiapas. Despite the challenges, every Saturday (Sabbath), a group of courageous members, led by Nuevo Orizaba district pastor Ricardo Rodríguez, covered the 25-mile (40-kilometer) journey to share the gospel message with that community. They enlisted the help of lay church member Vidal Pérez, who became friends with Antonio Estrada, leader of an interdenominational congregation there.
“We started to hold Bible studies in five homes, and then we met Antonio Estrada, who had been a leader of a congregation in Villa Unión for more than ten years,” Pérez said. “[Estrada] asked me questions and received the answers he needed. Very soon, he understood the truth about God’s law, eating regulations, and the Sabbath, as he saw that everything that we were sharing with him could be found in the Bible.”
After going through 20 lessons with Vidal, Estrada gathered his parishioners and shared what he had learned from the Bible studies with Adventists. He said he had long been on a quest to find the truth.
“I had asked God to send me someone to show me the truth,” Estrada recalled. “It took me more than a year to get to know this truth, but I had had a dream where I saw two people coming to visit me.”
After that, the members of the church agreed to hold an evangelistic series in the community, at the end of which Estrada, along with other members, decided to give their lives to Jesus and join the Adventist Church.
“I understood that the truth of the Sabbath is biblical and needs to be shared with others, so my congregation and I converted to Adventism after more than ten years of being part of our previous denomination,” Estrada said.
Former members of that interdenominational church, now Adventist members, and members who visited them for more than a year with the district pastor joined hands in painting and reconditioning the façade of their church with the logo that identifies Adventist churches in Chiapas. And now, eight more people are studying the Bible.
On November 9, the community gathered to celebrate the official launch ceremony of the new church. Estrada handed over the keys and documents of what was his church for more than ten years to regional Adventist Church leaders, in a historic moment for the church in that area.
Leaders in the Palenque Mission and the Chiapas Mexican Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church attended the ceremony, including union secretary José Luis Bouchot. During his message, Bouchot said he was excited about the progress and encouraged members to be a light in their community and reach the hearts of those who have not yet surrendered to Christ.
Rodríguez, who now leads the new congregation, acknowledged that the region has many challenges. “But we are happy and grateful to God,” he said, “because He uses us as instruments to fulfill His mission in this place, and because we have received the support we needed to share more of Jesus’ love.”
Palenque Mission president René Flores agreed. “We give honor and glory to God because mission does not stop, reaching even the most distant territories such as this one. We will continue working to bring hope to the farthest corners of our entire territory.”
Bouchot shared why he sees this development as a major event in the history of the Adventist Church in the region. According to him, it has not happened by chance. “This is a result of the full involvement of church members,” Bouchot said. “What has happened in this congregation is the manifestation of God’s guidance of His church through the Holy Spirit.”
He added that he felt deeply moved to witness the results of lay members’ commitment to reach to the ends of the earth. “It allowed me to feel once more that the power of God is real. He is the One to whom I have dedicated my life of service. God is good.”