June 3, 2016

Number of Baptisms Reaches 97,344 in Rwanda

Update appended

The number of people baptized after a major evangelistic series in Rwanda has reached 97,344 and is expected to top 100,000 this weekend, a church leader said.

“We are witnessing the largest baptism in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said Duane McKey, a key coordinator of the May 13-28 meetings.

McKey noted that the goal of local church leaders had been 60,000 baptisms, or 30 people at each of the roughly 2,200 meeting sites across the African country.

“The prayer goal, however, was 100,000, and it is expected that goal will be reached by this weekend,” he said. “Praise God!”

Local church leaders had counted 95,890 baptisms by the end of the meetings on May 28, a figure that already dwarfed the previous record of 30,000 baptisms after a countrywide evangelistic series in Zimbabwe in May 2015. The Adventist Church had 720,000 members in Rwanda, a country of 11.8 million people, when the evangelistic meetings began.

Local leaders have credited the active involvement of many church members under a world church initiative known as Total Member Involvement for the high number of baptisms. Members and newly baptized members alike were asked to bring at least one person to Christ.

Evangelistic meetings coordinator Duane McKey, right, speaking with Hesron R. Byilingiro, president of the Adventist Church in Rwanda, and his wife near Lake Kivu last Sabbath. (Andrew McChesney / AR)

McKey, Adventist world church leader in charge of Total Member Involvement, told of a woman who was baptized on the first weekend of the meetings and was encouraged to bring one person to Christ during the second week.

“I guess she was hard of hearing,” McKey said. “So she brought four instead of one, and all four were baptized on the second Sabbath. That is Total Member Involvement at its best. This is a real miracle.”

Prayer played a key role in Rwanda, McKey said. A special emphasis was placed on prayer after Jerry Page, secretary of the Ministerial Association at the General Conference, and his wife, Janet Page, associate secretary, led a series of prayer seminars across Rwanda in February.

“Because of the focus on prayer the prayer goal was reached,” McKey said.

He said one Rwanda field president told him, “The General Conference taught us to pray.”

McKey said three elements of the meetings seemed especially blessed by God: the preaching by lay people, pastors, and guest evangelists at 2,227 sites simultaneously; resources provided by Adventist supporting ministry ASI; and a calendar-driven master plan.

“The members got more and more involved, and Total Member Involvement became a reality in Rwanda,” he said. “I believe that what happened in Rwanda is a model for the world church.”

ASI provided training and supplied more than 2,500 printed sermon books and DVD sermons.

The next major evangelistic series is planned for Romania in June 2017.

“I believe that Total Member Involvement has just begun,” McKey said.

Update on June 6:

The total number of baptisms from the evangelistic meetings remained at 97,344 on Monday, said Philip Baptiste, special assistant to the president of the East-Central Africa Division. He said the number might climb higher next weekend.

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