The Inter-American Division (IAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is moving forward with the goal of planting 1,000 new churches among a variety of people groups and large population segments across the territory by October 2023.
The church planting movement, which is expected to see outreach impact among Muslim, Hindu, Chinese, indigenous, and upper-class communities, was officially launched during a special online workshop coined as IAD’s Global Mission Symposium, August 20-23, 2021.
“We need to focus on the unfinished task in our territory, which requires new approaches to inter-cultural mission that relates to people groups and population segments of one million in our cities,” Samuel Telemaque, director of Adventist Mission for IAD and main organizer of the symposium, said. It is different from traditional evangelism, one that takes time and a specialized approach in reaching many migrant groups with the love of Christ within IAD, a task that could take months and years, Telemaque explained.
Muslims, Hindus, Chinese and Indigenous People
The data shows that Muslims, Hindus, and Chinese account for approximately three million people in the IAD territory, plus 300,000 indigenous residents.
“This is a very challenging mission and is an opportunity for the church,” Telemaque said. “Our youth and church leaders need a new kind of engagement relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The symposium drew more than 700 Global Mission Pioneers, people who are trained and registered to witness for Christ in unentered areas and unreached populations. Currently, the IAD has 1,200 registered Global Mission Pioneers enlisted.
Bibi Persaud from Guyana shared her testimony during the symposium. “I grew up as a Muslim, in a Muslim family, and practiced Ramadan, did my fasting, prayers, went to a mosque, and obeyed all the rules,” she said. As a devout Muslim, she experienced Christ in a near-death experience when she lost her first child. Persaud said she desired to become a Christian based on that experience and her interactions with her Adventist neighbors, who showed kindness and hospitality, visiting her and praying with her at that crucial time in her life. She now witnesses to her Muslim friends, prays with them, and is an official Global Mission Pioneer who looks forward to establishing a house of prayer in her community.
For Clara (real name withheld), a Global Mission Pioneer in the South Colombian Union Conference, reaching Muslim women in her community became a passion. “God put that vision in my heart to work among them,” she said. Clara regularly connects and engages in local social and humanitarian organizations that help the Islamic communities. “I have learned while associating with the women, they are generous, have a good heart, are noble, humble, and they hear God through prayer,” Clara said. For five years, Clara has been living, praying, respecting, ministering, and even sometimes staying at home with them. “I tell them that I follow Jesus as my model to live by. I spend time with them, pray with them in their house of prayer, I call them on the phone, pray for them, for their health, and keep in constant communication,” Clara said.
Jaidath Visdash Arjun is from the Caribbean. He met his wife, who is a Christian, while still practicing Hinduism. “I was studying to be a Hindu leader,” Vidash said. “We married four years later, and I would drop her off at church and continue practicing my Hinduism.” He said that eventually, he began attending church and experienced Jesus in a personal way. His life was changed, and he now shows others what God has done in his life.
Bao Xiang, a young man living in a Chinese community in the Dominican Republic, said he saw his mother and father die. This had a strong impact on his life and that of his siblings. He met several people from the nearby Adventist Church who visited him and invited him to participate in Pathfinder clubs. “They would come every Sabbath afternoon, helping me and my sisters to grow spiritually and give us Bible studies about Jesus,” he said. Xiang is now studying to be a software engineer at Dominican Adventist University and continues to be supported by his Adventist church.
Embracing the Upper Class
Reaching the upper class is what Maria Hazoury has been focusing on for years. As a psychologist and family therapist working at the Banco Central of the Dominican Republic and wife to a government official, she was far removed from Christian teachings. But after studying the Bible, she joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In her job, she gives seminars and family therapy to employees and always points to Jesus and prays with them. She also leads a small group in her home, which includes government employees and members of her affluent community. “Everyone who has joined the group has been baptized and has been active in church,” Hazoury said. As a member of the Naco Adventist church in Santo Domingo, she continues to witness and invite others to learn about Jesus.
Learning from those who are currently witnessing and ministering among people groups is the key to planting 1,000 new churches, Telemaque said.
The symposium was the final phase of an ongoing training initiative that began several years ago for church administrators, pastors, and active church members. The IAD has already been strengthening Chinese Community Centers in Central America and the Caribbean and establishing houses of prayer and house churches among other people groups.
Strengthening the Church-Planting Movement
As the church-planting movement gains strength across the territory, Global Mission Pioneers will have the opportunity to mentor those who would also like to become a Global Mission Pioneer.
“No one should die before planting a church,” Telemaque said. “The greatest thing you can do in your life is to plant a church, being part of this movement to work with God and the power of the Holy Spirit to expand the kingdom of God.”