February 16, 2019

Inter-America Celebrates Annual Baptismal Ceremony in Jamaica

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America celebrated in Jamaica on February 9, 2019, as more than 8,000 people crowded the Montego Bay Convention Center and an outer court to worship and witness the results of intense evangelistic efforts and community-impact events across the island and other parts of the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory.

More than 200 new believers were baptized on site, and hundreds more joined the church across Jamaica and the Atlantic Caribbean islands, as well as parts of Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, organizers said.

The event, which was streamed online, was Inter-America’s annual baptismal celebration convention, coined as Lord Transform Me — an initiative that involves motivating every church member to pursue a transformation in Jesus through daily study of the Bible and a prayerful lifestyle, for total involvement in action plans and activities in sharing the gospel within their communities.

Focus on Wholistic Health

Balvin Braham, assistant to the IAD president for evangelism and the main organizer of the baptism event, praised the work of hundreds of leaders, local pastors, lay preachers, and active church members in the IAD, who undertook the work of spreading the gospel and engaged in social projects and health impact activities across dozens of communities.

The initiative’s focus in the first quarter of 2019 is wholistic health for personal and national transformation, Braham said. “As a church, we believe that we have a strong health message that speaks to the whole concept of healthy lifestyle and prevention, and we are able to utilize this valuable resource to make a significant difference in the lives of individuals, families, and society at large,” he said.

The annual territory-wide celebration was moved to an earlier date this year than its usual April time to coincide with the visit of Adventist world church leaders attending the 12th Global Leadership Summit, held February 4-10, 2019. The leadership summit focused on practicing good health. World leaders also joined local leaders in running a health expo for the public, where hundreds received free health screenings and medical services in Montego Bay.

World church leaders also took part in evangelistic campaigns in local churches across the Parish of St. James and other parts of western Jamaica. At the same time, 145 visiting evangelists from throughout Inter-America and North America preached in other parts of Jamaica and the Atlantic Caribbean Union, which is composed of The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos.

Conrad Pitkin of St. James praised the work of Seventh-day Adventists for ministering to the sick and showing the importance of good health. “I commend the commitment and unquestionable dedication of the members of your medical team during this venture [of the health expo],” he said.

Pitkin encouraged Adventists to continue to bring a positive change in helping Jamaicans become healthier and more productive to ensure a bright future in the nation.

Sabbath Spiritual Message

Adventist world church president Ted N. C. Wilson delivered the main spiritual message to the large congregation on Saturday (Sabbath), February 9.

Wilson tailored his message to the dozens of new believers who decided to be baptized and those still undecided. “This is the beginning of a new journey … a journey that doesn’t end with baptism but marks the beginning of mission service,” he said. “We are told in the Spirit of Prophecy that everyone who is baptized is born a missionary.”

During his message, Wilson challenged each person in the audience and the viewers online to make a difference in their communities. “Be of service to others, share your walk with Jesus with others, proclaim God’s love, His great law, and grace, the health message as a restorative message … pointing to Christ’s soon second coming,” he said.

Church Members Involved in Evangelism

Donna Brown took every word to heart as she listened to Wilson’s message before getting baptized. A 52-year-old single mother of seven, Brown recently decided to accept Jesus into her life for good. She had grown up in the church but left at 18 without ever being baptized. “The time was right,” Brown said. “I feel so proud to be here and see so many Seventh-day Adventists. It’s like I feel light like floating on clouds. I know that God cares for my family and me, and I want others to know how much Jesus means to me.”

Brown accepted Jesus thanks to the dedicated evangelistic efforts of Samuel Smiley, an automobile dealer in Kingston, Jamaica, who invites business colleagues and people in neighboring communities to study the Bible in his business establishment every Tuesday evening. Brown is one among many community members Smiley has brought into the church. Brown has been attending the Kencot Adventist Church in Kingston and is eager to take part in serving in the 600-hundred-member church.

It’s about getting total member involvement in the mission of the church, said Braham as he introduced active church members on stage, who reported on how they have been witnessing for Christ and leading new believers into living the gospel.

Education, Community Service, and Evangelism

IAD president Elie Henry praised the workers across the vast territory for being involved in the Lord Transform Me initiative that has led so many to share hope in their communities and yielded so many new believers. “Our goal is to have every member living prepared for the Second Coming,” he said.

Henry highlighted the three principal goals of the church in Inter-America during the next two years: first, education, developing knowledge and skills in specific areas to fulfill a specific mission; second, community service, being actively involved in doing outreach that addresses social needs of people to help improve their quality of life; and third, evangelism, sharing Christ and preparing for the second coming of Jesus.

Impact in Jamaica

The president of the Adventist Church in Jamaica, Everett Brown, reported during the live program on the various ministries of the church that collaborated to affect the lives of people in the nation.

“We sought to get all our members involved in the mission of the church in the role children, youth, women, men, and families play in the lives of the community in which the Adventist Church serves,” Brown said.

He added that church members embraced Mission 2019, which began in October 2018, taking part in more than 1,000 health outreach projects and expos throughout the 738 congregations across the islands, Northern Caribbean University, and Andrews Memorial Hospital.

The church has also partnered with the country’s Ministry of Health through its Jamaica Moves and Adopt-A-Clinic programs as it seeks to make Jamaica and Jamaicans healthier and more productive.

“Our goal is not only to respond to the needs of people but lead people to Jesus,” Brown said.

During January and February, 210 evangelistic campaigns were held throughout Jamaica, resulting in more than 2,807 baptisms up to February 9. More evangelistic campaigns will take place in the coming weeks, local church leaders said.

More than 140 evangelists from the IAD and North America preached during the week of February 2-9 at evangelistic campaigns throughout Jamaica and the Atlantic Caribbean islands. According to Braham, almost 23,000 new members have joined the church this year.

Church pastors and active members continue to work arduously as more evangelistic campaigns will take place in the coming weeks and months to reach persons with the message of the gospel, Braham said.

Church leaders expect baptismal figures to reach thousands more by the end of March. “We believe that the church is on course to achieve over 50,000 new members,” Braham said. That means more than 27,000 are expected to join the church during the next six weeks.

The IAD will hold next year’s Lord Transform Me Convention in Central America in April of 2020, with the principal site in Costa Rica.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.