Sabbath Experience Inspires Friendship and Worship in Northern Brazil

Initiative invited Adventists to open their homes to welcome the day of rest together.

Heron Santana, South American Division, and Adventist Review
Sabbath Experience Inspires Friendship and Worship in Northern Brazil
Adventist families in northern Brazil were excited to share dinner with friends and teach them about the seventh-day Sabbath. [Photo: South American Division]

In the late afternoon of Friday, February 16, images began to circulate through some WhatsApp groups in northern Brazil. They were images of dinner tables being carefully set with special tablecloths and dining utensils. At the table, fruit, juices, and other delicacies stood out. Before long, at dusk, Seventh-day Adventist families opened the doors of their homes to welcome friends and guests to participate in a Sabbath welcome celebration that included friendship, fellowship, worship, and the joy of a shared dinner.

The movement, known as the Sabbath Experience, was created by the Women’s Ministries Department of the North Brazil Union Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which includes the northern states of Pará, Maranhão, and Amapá. Almost 16 million Brazilians live in this region, including about 351,000 Adventist church members.

The response to the initiative created excitement among many members’ acquaintances and led some of them to desire to study the Bible and learn more about the seventh-day Sabbath, organizers said. The initiative encouraged families to acquire the habit of setting a special table on Friday evenings, different from any other weekday.

A Regional Movement

In Imperatriz, Maranhão, South Maranhão Conference president Valmir Barros opened his home to receive a couple of friends. There were moments of singing, a devotional message, and a tasty dinner.

In western Pará, Adventist families placed cards at their table with messages about the importance of receiving and sharing the blessings of seventh-day rest and worship.

In Marituba, in Greater Belém, Pará, Northern Pará Conference president Wellington Almeida welcomed Wendell at his home. Wendell, a young man who has been studying the Bible with him, arrived with his girlfriend, Raquel. A couple, Vitor and Paloma, also attended and decided to study the Bible with Wellington and his wife, Rosalba.

For Marília Dantas, women’s ministries director for union mission, the Sabbath Experience helped members to gather with friends and create worship communities in their homes. “It’s interesting how Adventist families took care of the details, to the point of asking the guests about the type of food they would like, preparing the menu according to their preference, and setting the table in the best possible way,” Marília said.

Sharing and Welcoming

According to Marília, participation in this movement has led families to offer the kind of welcome that Jesus offers. “It is an experience that refers to caring and welcoming people just as Jesus did. He hugged people and ate with sinners,” she said. “The Sabbath Experience wants to replicate this welcome, this care for families.”

Marília’s words highlight the role of meals in building relationships and friendships, organizers said. Pastor and scholar Tim Chester argued in an essay titled “A Meal with Jesus” that food had a great impact on Jesus’ ministry. For Chester, the occasions when Jesus ate with people represent more than a metaphor. “They embody God’s grace and thus give shape to the community and the mission,” Chester wrote. “Jesus’ meals are a window into His message of grace and the way He defines community and mission.”

Experience Strengthens Bible Teaching

When analyzing the importance of receiving the Sabbath by sharing a meal with friends, North Brazil Union Mission president André Dantas noted that this experience links the message of the Sabbath with the commitment to teach the Bible to people. “The way the Adventists of Pará, Maranhão, and Amapá received the Sabbath in their family environment with friends, acting in a caring and impactful way with them, shows how much the [Adventist] Church is willing to study, live, and teach biblical truths,” he said.

The Sabbath Experience helped many people to understand the seventh day as a memorial for worship and rest, regional leaders emphasized. “Those were elements present in the homes and at the tables of Adventist members from Pará, Maranhão, and Amapá that Friday evening,” they said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.

Heron Santana, South American Division, and Adventist Review