After a long wait, Seventh-day Adventist members and visitors of the Colmenar Viejo Church in Spain celebrated a special Sabbath to officially inaugurate their congregation on May 20. The church is the first Adventist congregation in the town where Adventist-managed Safeliz Publishing House is based.
The new church’s birth and development resulted from a dream of the publishing house to have a presence through a congregation in Colmenar Viejo (pop. 48,600), a town that is part of Greater Madrid. Rather than just dreaming, however, Safeliz took an active part through its own donations and the seeking of funds from other Adventist organizations in the region and beyond to make the project come true.
A series of events happened during the development that, in the leaders’ minds, “was proof that God was leading [their] project,” they said.
Support From Across the Ocean
The inauguration coincided with evangelistic meetings taking place at the new church with guest speaker Erton Köhler, executive secretary for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was a meaningful moment for Köhler, who, in his previous position as president of the South American Division of the Adventist Church, oversaw the approval of a special assistance in support of this project.
“The South American Division gave us an amount that contributed to make our dream a reality,” Safeliz president Mario Martinelli said. “And we are glad that Pastor Erton can be here today to participate in this celebration.”
Martinelli asked Köhler why a church region so far away decided to support a project in another region.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a worldwide family,” Köhler said as way of an answer. “God organized us in regions so that we could somehow take care of a specific territory. But our family and our mission are global. And if there is a challenge somewhere in the world, the challenge is for everybody to tackle,” he emphasized.
A Long-held Dream
Since 2011, Safeliz Publishing House leaders have had the dream of planting an Adventist church in Colmenar Viejo.
“Given the fact that Safeliz distributes its publications in more than 130 countries and offers courses so the good news of the gospel reaches many places around the world, we couldn’t accept that in the very same town where the publishing house is located there were no Adventist congregations,” Martinelli said.
Business manager Sergio Mato agreed, explaining that they usually do business with local companies too. “We wanted to become a point of reference for them, and also to become a center of evangelism for Madrid’s northern suburbs.”
‘God Was Leading’
For years, Safeliz leaders considered several options, but for some reason, none of them came to fruition. “Even though we didn’t know it, however, God had another solution in mind,” Martinelli said.
In October 2019, they found a building that they thought they could rent to launch a congregation. When they checked with the owners, however, they were told that the building had been rented and that the rental agreement would not expire for another two years.
“It was a Friday when we got that answer,” Rubén Ferreira, one of the members in charge of the search committee, shared. “We felt so dejected. It was a very sad weekend.”
The next Monday, however, the owner of the building called.
“You won’t believe what happened,” the owner told Ferreira. “After you left on Friday, we got a certified letter from our tenants stating that they were terminating the rental agreement as of that very day!”
“We were so surprised!” Ferreira said. “From that moment on, we understood that God was behind our plans.”
After meeting the owners, they asked if they wouldn’t like to sell it instead of just renting it out. They agreed to sell it. “After a few days [during] which the owners appraised the building, they gave us an amount that was below its market value! At that moment, we felt certain once more that the Lord was leading.”
Martinelli said that when they presented the project to regional church leaders, the leaders supported it wholeheartedly. “Both the Inter-European Division and the Spanish Union helped us with some funds,” he said. “Other institutions across the region and beyond also assisted us, including the South American Division.”
A Postponed Inauguration
After remodelling the building, leaders planned the first special Sabbath meeting in the new church for March 21, 2020. But on March 14, just one week before, the Spanish government imposed a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic; moving around freely was forbidden and public meetings were cancelled.
That April 2020, the Spanish Union Conference of the Adventist Church appointed Sergio Martorell as the new church’s pastor, and members began to meet via Zoom. On May 22, it was established as a group with just six or seven families. But as the weeks and months went by, the congregation grew. Eventually, members went back to in-person meetings.
“Just like [the] prophet Samuel did, we also say, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us,’” Martorell said. “Church is not a building … it’s not a roof or the walls. People are the church. All of us who gather here are the church. And I am thankful to God for this church, currently with 80 baptized members. It is a small but very dynamic church. And a church focused on evangelism,” he said.