As the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) looms over the world, the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory announced today the cancellation of major upcoming events and the banning of all travel for the next 30 days, and unveiled follow-up operations for the church in the coming days and weeks.
“Safety is of utmost importance for the church in Inter-America as well as the world church during this situation,” said Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America. As he briefed the division leaders, Henry noted that many adjustments will probably come as the situation develops.
One thing is clear, stated Henry:
“We want to follow all regulations and recommendations of the government regarding this pandemic, whether it be federal or local,” he said. That statement goes to all church leaders overseeing the church throughout the 24 major church regions in Inter-America, the president explained. “If the local government makes a decision, we must follow it. If you are ordered to be quarantined for two weeks, then you must obey.”
Henry reminded leaders to continue washing their hands, observe proper hygiene, and maintain the recommended social distancing.
“We are continuing to monitor any information that is shared by the World Health Organization, governments, and the General Conference.”
All travel is suspended for the next 30 days, he said. That goes for all traveling staff.
Most of the unions have reported that their large church events have been canceled, and evangelistic work continues to be carried on throughout small groups and smaller meetings, he said.
Leaders and staff will continue to work remotely from their homes as the IAD office will be closed until March 30, said Henry. “We are not closed for business. Our work will just be conducted outside of the office building,” he said.
“This is the time when we are called to be more creative in the way we do our business, so it is the opportunity for us to practice with our available technology in service of the mission,” said Henry.
Inter-America’s Mid-Year Executive Meetings and pre-meetings scheduled for May 4-7 will be held through the videoconferencing system set up throughout all 24 unions in the territory, announced Henry.
Upcoming IAD events canceled include:
Gamaliel Flórez, education director for the church in Inter-America, reported that many of the Adventist universities across the territory have closed for safety reasons under the recommendation of their country’s government.
The University of Montemorelos, an Adventist-operated medical institution overseen directly by the IAD, has been proactive in sharing precautionary measures, and has made available resources to help during the coronavirus situation, said Flórez. Others are moving to continue some classes through their online education system.
According to Flórez, many union education directors have reported closing schools for the next two to four weeks, or indefinitely.
“We are happy to report that our educational system has taken the appropriate measures regarding this situation and will continue to make the necessary adjustments for the school year,” Flórez said.
“Our Adventist hospitals in Inter-America have procedures in place regarding disasters and emergencies,” said Elie Honore, president of Adventist Health Services for Inter-America. Although many hospitals do not have testing kits for the coronavirus available yet, medical staff are recommending that anyone with flu-like symptoms or any suspicious symptoms take the appropriate measures, explained Honore.
“All our hospital administrators continue to follow the government recommendations and continue to share information on precautionary measures for persons to keep from further spreading the virus,” Honore said.
IAD administrators also met all union administrators through videoconference to update leaders on decisions regarding the world church’s GC session scheduled for this summer, precautionary measures in the field, and online meeting plans for the upcoming annual mid-year meetings scheduled for May.
Continuing God’s Work
As the days and weeks go by, more updates will be available to keep the church leadership and membership informed, said Henry. “The news can be stressing, but do not be depressed about what is happening in the world,” he said. “We are a people who believe in prophecy, and we need to lift up our eyes because Jesus is coming soon. We have hope to continue to do God’s work.”
Henry thanked union and institution leaders for being proactive in taking precautionary actions at this time.
“We ask that you continue with united efforts to protect the people of God and be examples in the community. Above all, let us not forget to share hope, now that it is most needed.”
“We are confident that God will continue guiding His church, and we continue moving forward, trusting that Jesus is with us, strengthening us with His righteous hand,” Henry said.