The Inter-American Division (IAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church began the new year with consecration services praising God for His faithfulness and blessings during the decades since the region was officially organized in 1922.
The series of events, which kicked off the centennial celebrations of the next few months, was held on January 8, 2022, across the region.
The thanksgiving services saw leaders and members commit to solidifying their efforts of sharing the gospel in every country, island, city, town, and community.
In Southern Mexico
In Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico, more than 800 church leaders, pastors, laypersons, and young people gathered at the church’s convention center to pray, worship, and launch a slate of discipleship, evangelism, and community outreach events scheduled to take place in the months to come.
Elie Henry, IAD president, praised the dedicated work of faithful members in Chiapas and throughout the territory and pointed back to the early missionaries who passionately shared the gospel wherever they went.
“We have seen how God has blessed His work throughout Inter-America, from 8,000 members when the division was organized in 1922, to millions today,” Henry said. “This has been extraordinary growth, and we know that millions of people got to hear the Word of God thanks to His grace and the dedicated men and women who tirelessly spread the love of Jesus.”
From the day when the IAD was organized in May 1922 by official vote from the body of the Adventist world church at the time, the church’s headquarters was located in Panama from 1922 to 1943, Henry said. The division had to then move to Cuba (1943-1946), but soon after had to move to Miami, Florida, United States, where it remains today. “There were some turbulent times that the church went through, but God continued guiding the church, and we just want to reflect on how great God is,” Henry said.
Every church member needs to be involved in finishing the work of spreading the gospel across the region, he emphasized.
Reaching Every Corner
“I want the church to reach every corner of the territory to announce that Jesus is coming soon,” Henry said.
It was important for the territory to be organized as a division to better penetrate the vast region with the gospel, Henry noted. “It’s been more than 100 years since we have been preaching the gospel.”
For hundreds of pastors and lay members, doubling their evangelism efforts to reach every mountain peak, valley, and field in Chiapas will have to involve every one of its more than 270,000 church members, Ignacio Navarro, president of the Chiapas Mexican Union Conference (CMUC) of the Adventist Church, said. Leaders, department heads, and ministries directors met at the Adventist Church’s convention center, where each of the eight conferences in the CMUC territory committed to the task. The church has outlined initiatives for each quarter of the year: the first two quarters led by laity, the third quarter by women and children’s ministries, and the fourth by youth ministries.
“We want there to be a permanent evangelism program all year long,” Navarro said. “We want to involve every member and use every possible resource to assist in Bible studies and missionary impact days, using all technology and social media available to spread the gospel, as well as focus our financial resources on the fulfillment of the mission.”
The initiatives in Chiapas are only part of coordinated efforts throughout the unions, or major church regions, in Mexico, including the North, Inter-Oceanic, Central, and Southeast Mexican unions. This year will culminate in a nationwide evangelistic campaign to expand the church in the coming months.
Elsewhere across the IAD, churches took part in similar consecration services to praise God and solidify the mission initiatives across the territory.
In Haiti, administrators and local leaders celebrated the centennial by praising God for His providence and growth of the church since the Adventist message reached the northern part of the island in the 1890s.
Leaders inaugurated a brand-new temple on the spot where one of its first Adventist churches was organized in north Haiti. The dedication of the new Fournier Seventh-day Adventist Church saw more than 400 members and municipal leaders gather for a praise and worship ceremony on January 8, commemorating the building of the first church more than 106 years ago.
In Cuba, hundreds of leaders and members gathered to join centennial celebrations at the Adventist Church in El Cerro, in Havana, built more than 106 years ago. The congregation worshipped and praised God for sustaining and growing the church on the island and encouraged its members to share the message of hope more intently this year.
Leaders aim to reach more than 3,000 persons with the gospel message this year. “We normally baptize some 2,500 annually without a pandemic,” Anoldis Matos, personal ministries director for the church in Cuba, said. “This could be a challenge for us amid certain difficulties, but we believe that we can reach that goal with the Lord’s help.”
Church leaders in Guatemala celebrated with an online service focusing on God’s providence in the IAD and the church’s growth since 1894 in that Central American country. Leaders began with spiritual revival activities, engaging members in 10 days of prayer, 40 mornings of prayer, and holding leadership meetings. Pastors, church elders, and local leaders committed to training 50,000 members so they can reach at least one person for Jesus in 2022.
The comprehensive initiative is part of the local churches’ “100,000 Disciples for Jesus” initiative, among other evangelistic campaigns scheduled in the coming months.
In the West Venezuela Union of the Adventist Church, more than 1,200 members gathered in Valencia, in Carabobo State, to celebrate the IAD’s centennial and launch its I Will Go mission initiatives. The church is seeking to involve more than 171,000 members across the region this year.
Leaders plan to bolster small group ministries, strengthen evangelistic projects through social media, and ensure that each project is mission-driven.
Church leaders in Jamaica also joined in the centennial celebration of the day, challenging its more than 330,000 church members to focus on making more disciples in a year filled with dozens of evangelistic campaigns across the island. Two dozen members attended the Kencot Adventist church in Kingston to worship, praise, and pray during the livestreamed Sabbath service.
Other major regions and islands joined in the start of centennial commemorative celebrations this year.
The Inter-American Division oversees the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the French Antilles, as well as Colombia and Venezuela. The IAD and its organizations look after thousands of churches and hundreds of schools, universities, hospitals, and clinics.
Uriel Castellanos, Auguste Richner, Dayamí Rodríguez, Gustavo Menéndez, Moisés Aponte, and Nigel Coke contributed to this report.