Dozens of children were among the 82 persons baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica during special “Baptism of Praise” services, in which hundreds of church leaders and members gathered at the Falmouth Adventist church and other churches on September 29, 2018.
The event was part of a 12-month initiative in Jamaica and across the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory focused on celebrating the “Year of Children and Adolescents.” The theme for the day was “Healthy and Happy in Jesus.”
Representatives from the wider church organization were on hand to celebrate the day’s activities, which saw eleven children and three adults baptized at the main site in Falmouth. Among the leaders present was Linda Mei Lin Koh, children’s ministries director for the Adventist world church. Koh said she was impressed with the involvement of children in the church service in Jamaica.
The Division-wide program is expected to continue in the other unions of the IAD territory.
A Chance to Get Involved
“It’s really wonderful to see children being nurtured and to be given a chance to be involved in our ministry, and they are not bystanders just coming to Sabbath school, but they are involved regardless of their age,” Koh said. “I pray that God will give them more power that they are not afraid to share the gospel no matter how old or young they are.”
Koh remarked that total child involvement in the life of the church is essential in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, the church’s mandate described in the Bible book of Matthew, chapter 28.
In her address, Koh invited the Jamaica Union to participate in a special child evangelism fund, which was voted by the world church to assist with evangelism campaigns specifically geared for children.
Children and adolescent ministries director of the Inter-American Division Dinorah Rivera assured the children present that God is interested in their welfare.
“I want you to know that God is looking after you and that He has a plan for you,” Rivera said. She cautioned parents and the members of the church not to disregard the little ones, believing that they are too young or unable to be used by God. “Don’t belittle what God can do, and is interested in doing, for all the children,” she said.
“Do the best for our children, because they are not only our future but our present. So treat them with love and respect,” Rivera said.
Children Need to Be Happy
The children’s, family, and women’s ministries director for the Jamaica Union, Lorraine Vernal, used the occasion to remind members, church leaders, and representatives of Adventist schools that children need to be happy as well as healthy.
“Children cannot be happy if they don’t have reason to be happy in the homes, our churches, and our institutions because they are not being abused and they are not exposed to violence,” Vernal said.
“As a church, we must help our children and adolescents to know that they have rights, and they must not come to church feeling like someone is fondling them in the name of brotherly or sisterly love. If there is no other place that they feel safe, they should feel safe in the church.”
Church activities relating to and featuring children are essential to creating a happy atmosphere where children can develop and grow into productive members of society, Vernal said.
Vernal, who is a teacher and dispute resolution specialist, admonished adults to not speak to children and adolescents in any obscene language as this may affect them not only in the present but for a lifetime.
In April 2018, Vernal spoke at a child protection seminar in which she asserted that a child protection policy manual would be put in place to be used in Adventist churches, schools, and institutions. “A critical element of the policy is the screening of volunteers and workers who are responsible for the care of children,” she said.