May 19, 2022

Inter-American Division Is 100 Years Old

At celebration, leaders and members reflect on God’s providence, recommit to mission.

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the Inter-American Division (IAD) paused on May 11, 2022, to reflect on and celebrate God’s providence during the 100 years since the division was organized in May 1922.

The centennial celebration, one of many held this year, drew top leaders of the Adventist world church and IAD leaders, staff, and former workers to revisit the rich, mission-driven history in the IAD, highlight God’s blessings in church and institutional growth, review key fundamental pillars in the development of the vast territory, and reaffirm their commitment to carrying out the mission with greater dedication and drive.

Dozens of church leaders, department heads, staff, and their families took part in a three-and-a-half hour, live online celebration from IAD headquarters in Miami, Florida, United States.

The Gospel in Every Country

“For more than a hundred years God has caused the might of His Holy Spirit to blow upon us,” IAD president Elie Henry said, “which has galvanized our brothers and sisters to enter the villages, towns, and regions of Mexico, Central America, the northern part of South America, and all the Caribbean islands. Thank God, the gospel banner has been flying in every country in Inter-America.”

Henry added, “The message of salvation in Jesus has resounded in the homes and hearts of millions of young people, adults, and seniors who joined the church through evangelistic series, Bible studies, small groups, or home schools throughout the years.”

Much has happened in the IAD in the past hundred years. The region went from 7,500 members in 1922 to 3.7 million members today, spread out in 24 unions, 156 local conferences and missions, and more than 23,000 churches and congregations.

Ready for Jesus’ Coming

Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, praised the leaders and members of IAD for the region’s progress.

“Each one of us needs to put on God’s robe of righteousness, putting us in the right relationship with Him,” Wilson said. “Proclaim it wherever we are, especially in the cities and in rural areas.” Wilson encouraged listeners and viewers to leave footprints wherever they go, proclaiming the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, urging people to align themselves in union with Christ and accept the sign of loyalty — the seventh-day Sabbath, sharing hope in readiness of Jesus’ second coming.

Wilson was accompanied by fellow administrators Erton Köhler, executive secretary, and Paul Douglas, treasurer of the General Conference, on their first trip together to any division since Köhler and Douglas were elected in April 2021.

As he closed his message, Wilson appealed to those in attendance to stand in commitment to the Lord and dedicate their lives to sharing the last-day message of salvation.

Key Pillars in IAD

Themed “Celebrating God’s Providence and Affirming our Values,” the event had as a main focus to reflect on “where we came from, where we are today, and where we are going,” Balvin Braham, main organizer of the centennial celebration, said. It’s important that we recognize the 10 fundamental pillars of IAD in the past 100 years, he emphasized.

According to Braham, the key pillars include prayer and dependence on the Lord; study of the Word; guidance of the Spirit of Prophecy; proclamation of the gospel; visionary administrative leadership; effective departmental leadership; dedicated support staff; devoted pastoral care; passionate laity involvement; and strong fiscal management.

Tree Planting across IAD

The celebration included a special tree-planting ceremony, in which General Conference and IAD administrators planted a tree in commemoration of God’s blessings and unveiled a memorial plaque in a small garden in front of the IAD headquarters.

“It is a great privilege to participate in this amazing planting of the tree, which represents 100 years of God’s blessings upon the IAD,” Wilson said. “This tree represents life, growth, fruit, and it is symbolic of God’s intuition to continue to grow for the glory of God as it reaches every person in this vast territory.”

IAD’s 24 union leaders each also took part in the planting of a tree at their respective regional headquarters buildings.

Top administrators launched a virtual museum that showcases images, stories, biographies, video reports, and more in commemoration of IAD’s centennial history.

In addition, world division leaders sent special greetings during the centennial program.

Centennial Recognitions

Special plaques were awarded to church members aged 100 years and older, and also to local churches and organizations established for 100 years or more across the territory. Leaders also gave commemorative plaques for the church in Panama and Cuba, where the IAD was headquartered previously, from 1922 to 1941 and 1942 to 1945, respectively.

IAD leaders also highlighted the upcoming centennial celebrations and activities that will continue to commemorate the 100-year legacy of advancing the gospel throughout the territory.

Almeda Liedke, who worked at the IAD office between 1967 and 2014 and was among several retirees who attended the ceremony, shared her thoughts and impressions of working as a professional assistant when the office was located in Coral Gables, Florida. She saw the likes of C. L. Powers, Bender L. Archbold, George W. Brown, and Israel Leito, former IAD presidents, who each led the division through change and extraordinary church growth in each period.

No matter who the president was, no matter what changes were made, one thing remains the same, “the vision and purpose of our division, and that is the spreading of the gospel to every corner of Inter-America and the saving of souls,” Liedke said.

Continuing to Fulfill the Mission

Sharing the gospel truth with people in the IAD for the kingdom is precisely what moved so many pioneers in the past and what motivates leaders, pastors, and laypeople to continue in the commission to fulfill that mission, Henry said.

“Let us continue to stand firm in the pillars of the IAD, preaching to the world, staying in the Bible, and working diligently so that our mission as a church may be fulfilled,” he said.

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